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The Sufferings Of A Stolen Generation

2108 words - 9 pages


‘Given the history of the European colonisation of Australia, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are wary of white institutions and social welfare’ (Chenoweth & McAuliffe 2012, p.274). Identify and discuss one or two of the historical events that have impacted on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and how the effects can be seen today.

This paper aims to discuss how the assimilation policy and forced separation of Indigenous children from their families and culture has affected the mental health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. A significant undertone of the assimilation policy is racial ...view middle of the document...

76). The Indigenous race was devalued and considered barbaric and irrelevant to the modern European settlers (Haebich 2001, p.75), which ‘according’ to the colonial mindset, required significant improvement and rescuing; the British settlers simply believed that their race and modern lifestyle was superior to the habitual Indigenous ways (Armitage 1995). Assimilation policies were enforced, primarily aiming to abolish and breed out the Aboriginal culture (HREOC 1997; Robinson & Paten 2008, p.501). These policies resulted in displacement, removal of children, institutionalisation and discrimination (Browne-Yung, Ziersch, Baum & Gallaher 2013, p.21). Aboriginal children were targeted, as they were considered to be more controllable, amenable and susceptible to assimilation than Aboriginal adults (Robinson & Paten 2008, p.502).

It is argued that the forced removal of children was ‘in their best interests’ (Atkinson 2005, p.76) and while there may have been some beneficial intent initially, the removed children suffered inhumane and discriminatory mistreatment once placed in out-of-home care (HREOC 1997). Majority of the Aboriginal children were placed into government institutions, while others were adopted or fostered by white families (Silburn, Zubrick, Lawrence, Mitrou et al. 2006, p.10). The living conditions in the institutions were often very harsh and controlled (HREOC 1997). Aboriginal children experienced contempt and denigration of their Aboriginality; they were not permitted to speak their languages and many were told that their families had rejected them or that their families were dead (HREOC 1997). Any cultural expression from the children was punished and censored with brutal beatings (Petchkovsky et al. 2004, p.2). A significant number of the children separated from their families reported experiencing emotional, physical and sexual abuse (HREOC 1997) which was predominantly perpetrated by staff or the older children (Atkinson 2005, p.82). Breaches of regulations and statutory obligations left many children malnourished, ill-clothed and poorly educated (Atkinson 2005, p.74).

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people subjected to the forced separation and assimilation policies suffered severe psychological consequences (Petchkovsky et al. 2004), which significantly contributes to their poor mental health today (Koolmatrie & Williams 2000, p.158). Many indigenous people suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which is caused from ‘exposure to a threatening event/s (threatened death or serious injury, or physical integrity of self or other). Response must be intense fear, helplessness or horror’ (Petchkovsky et al. 2004, p.4). As discussed, many Aboriginal children were victims of severe punishment, abuse and violence causing them to fear for their lives, which likely resulted in the development PTSD (Petchkovsky et al. 2004). The Aboriginal culture was continuously denigrated and...

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