Stolen Generations survivors have had their trauma acknowledged and apologies have been made. Despite this, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children continue to be overrepresented in out-of-home care, causing additional trauma for these families and communities.
As part of ANZSOG’s support for the Analysis & Policy Observatory’s First Peoples & Public Policy Collection, we are running a series of articles highlighting items from the collection with relevance to contemporary policy issues. Carissa Lee Godwin, Editor of the Collection, looks at Make Healing Happen, the latest report from The Healing Foundation.
The Healing Foundation is an organisation that provides a platform for the voices and experiences of Stolen Generations survivors. Their latest report provides in-depth insight into the experiences of Stolen Generations survivors and the extent and complexity of their contemporary needs as they grow older. It presents demographic data about where Stolen Generations survivors and their families live and considers the impact of forced removal on their descendants.
To inform this report, the Healing Foundation commissioned two pieces of research. Qualitative analysis was conducted of publications that documented the contemporary experiences of Stolen Generations survivors since 2007 (comprising the second part of this report). This was complemented by statistical analyses by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) of Stolen Generations survivors and their families. Although it is possible to estimate current numbers of Stolen Generations survivors, Make Healing Happen confirms that the exact numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children forcibly removed from their families will never be known.
In 2018-19 there were an estimated 33,600 Stolen Generations survivors nationally, with about one-in-five of all living Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples born before 1972 having been removed from their families. In Western Australia, a third of the surviving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population born before 1972 were removed as children. Nationally, more than one third of adult Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are descended from the Stolen Generations. Make Healing Happen also found the following.
As Stolen Generations survivors have requested, and the Bringing them Home report states, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples must be able to exercise self-determination in relation to policies and decisions that affect them. This means working in active collaboration when services and policies are being determined. The report also identified the need for reparations for Stolen Generations survivors as urgent and crucial in all the reviewed documents that discussed the issue.
The report identifies three urgent action areas:
Healing is fundamental to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples reaching their full personal, cultural, social, educational and economic potential, as well as restoring wellbeing, culture, strength of spirit, and family connections. Effective ways to support healing include facilitating reconnections with respective cultures, restoring safe and enduring relationships, and supporting communities to create and lead change in a self-determined way. The Healing Foundation has found that practices such as Yarning Circles have been beneficial to Stolen Generations survivors.
The report also calls attention to urgent matters such as Stolen Generations survivors aged 50 and over requiring additional support in health and aged care services. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people need to consistently be involved in the development of policies and decisions that affect them and their communities. However, it can’t be ignored that the best way for Stolen Generations survivors, and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families to heal, is to learn from the past and keep their children safe with family. Importantly, the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care and juvenile detention needs to be addressed, avoiding further trauma for generations to come.