Bringing them home: The 'Stolen Children' report

Bringing them home: The 'Stolen Children' report



This Report was previously published on Thursday 20 July, 2000, on the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission's web site. It has since then disappeared from the said website.

The report is reproduced here because of its importance to the NCHR and to the English-speaking visitors to our web site


Background to the Inquiry


The National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families was established in May 1995 in response to efforts made by key Indigenous agencies and communities. They were concerned that the general public's ignorance of the history of forcible removal was hindering the recognition of the needs of its victims and their families and the provision of services.


A key turning point was the 1994 Going Home Conference in Darwin. Representatives from every state and territory met to share experiences, to bring to light the history and its effects in each jurisdiction and to devise strategies to meet the needs of those children and their families who survive.


On 11 May 1995, the then Attorney-General, Michael Lavarch MP, referred the issue of past and present practices of separation of Indigenous children from their families to the Commission. The Inquiry looked at four main issues or "terms of reference".


The first was to examine the past and continuing effects of separation of individuals, families and communities. The Inquiry relied upon Indigenous and non-Indigenous individuals, government and non-government organisations to participate by making submissions or giving evidence to the Inquiry.


The second was to identify what should be done in response, which could entail recommendations to change laws, policies and practices, to re-unite families and otherwise deal with losses caused by separation.


The third was to find justification for, and nature of, any compensation for those affected by separation.


The last looked at current laws, policies and practices affecting the placement and care of Indigenous children. This included looking into the welfare and juvenile justice systems, and advising on any changes in the light of the principles of self-determination.


The Inquiry undertook an extensive program of hearings in every capital city and in many  regional and smaller centres. The first hearings took place on 4 December 1995 on Flinders Island with the last round of hearings ending on 3 October 1996 in Sydney.

Places visited were:


New South Wales - Redfern, Campbelltown, Nowra, Sydney, Grafton, Dubbo, Broken Hill and Wilcannia.


Australian Capital Territory - Canberra.


Victoria - Melbourne, Lake Tyers, Bairnsdale, Morwell, Ballarat, Geelong, Framlingham, Portland, Mildura, Swan Hill and Echuca.


Queensland - Brisbane, Rockhampton, Palm Island, Townsville, Cairns and Thursday Island.


South Australia - Adelaide, Coober Pedy, Glossop, Murray Bridge, Port Lincoln, Ceduna, Raukkan, Mount Gambier, Port Augusta and Berri.


Western Australia - Perth, Halls Creek, Broome, Bunbury, and Katunning.


Northern Territory - Darwin and Alice Springs.


Tasmania - Hobart, Flinders Island, Cape Barren Island, Wybalenna, Launceston and Burnie.


Public evidence was taken from Indigenous organisations and individuals, state and territory government representatives, church representatives, other non-government agencies, former mission and government employees and individual members of the community. Confidential evidence was taken in private from Indigenous people affected by forcible and from adoptive and foster parents. Many people and organisations made                      written submissions to the Inquiry, including many who also gave oral evidence.


There were 777 submissions received which included:


535 Indigenous individual and group submissions;

49 church submissions;

7 government submissions; and 500 confidential submissions.



Bringing them home: The 'Stolen Children' report

’Missing’- A transcript of an Australian Broadcasting Corporation documentary
By Kirstin Garrett

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