The “Stolen” Generation?
As I write, Catholic expectations are rising by the day with the impending arrival of the Holy Father and the start of World Youth Day in Sydney. Watching the excitement build I recalled my favourite Tommy Cooper gag: A man walked into the doctors. The doctor said: "I haven't seen you for a long time." The man replied: "I know, I've been ill."
Like Europe, America, Canada, New Zealand and almost every other Western outpost, we haven't seen a faithful, dynamic Catholicism in Australia for a long time, and that is because the local Church here, too, is ill. Still, never mind. We've got another papal visit and a youth festival organised by conservative prelates to set things right. Again. Whenever a new WYD commences and Catholic youth assemble en masse, we watch with open mouths and closed minds and for a few days willingly believe the "New Springtime/New Pentecost" hype.
Unless, of course, you read Christian Order! In which case you're likely to have a more realistic and rounded view of these things. So I safely leave others to contribute a deeper analysis of our WYD and all its ramifications. (I only add to their deliberations, for what it is worth, that the WYD Cross and Icon came through our rural neck of the woods on Friday night and afterwards they had a barbecue to celebrate its leaving. This was Friday in Lent!)
Anyway, this article, instead, will concentrate on a socio-political controversy surrounding Australia's treatment of its indigenous people: the so-called "stolen generation" of Aboriginal children taken into care by Australian authorities in decades past, allegedly on a whim or with little cause. Having worked closely with Aborigines for many years in a professional capacity, I am intimately familiar with the truth behind this urban legend which may be of interest to CO readers beyond our shores.
Apart from nudging by the Editor, what also prompted me to set down the more complex truth about this secular myth was the real and ongoing spiritual maltreatment of the Aboriginals by way of "inculturation". This was introduced on cue at the very outset of WYD when Aborigines danced a corroboree at Sydney airport to welcome the arrival of the WYD Cross. Such media friendly gestures smack not only of political correctness and tokenism, but also ecclesiastical condescension, as if Aboriginals (or Africans) are incapable of advancing beyond the soul-deadening naturalism of pagan rituals in matters of Catholic faith.
In this respect, the otherwise harmless corroboree alluded to the relentless push for the incorporation into the liturgy of Australian symbols (e.g. gumnuts and brightly coloured parrots on chasubles) and Aboriginal 'spirituality' (e.g. the Aboriginal smoking ceremony used in place of incense). We can expect more such demeaning nonsense during WYD. And based on past experience, despite Pope Benedict's aesthetic liturgical sense, it will likely raise its monstrous head at the papal Mass in some form.
This kind of patronising sellout of indigenous people has been fiercely condemned by Father Peter Joseph, Chancellor of the Maronite Diocese of Australia, who studied with many Africans in Rome during his seminary days. "A lot of inculturation is totally artificial, totally European and totally imperialistic," he says. "Europeans, now embarassed about their own European Catholic culture, go to the Africans [Aborigines] and tell them, in condescending terms, how they are to be true to their African [Aboriginal] culture." In this way, inculturation is falsely viewed as "an end in itself, a thing directly and consciously to be aimed at."
True inculturation, on the other hand, is merely "a side effect of living the Gospel where you are," explained Fr Joseph. This results in the relationship between priests and people and the mode of doing things developing naturally and bearing the characteristics of indigenous nations and tribes. [The Latin Mass, Summer 2000]
Thus, liturgical and spiritual inculturation as practiced in Australia simply cheats and misleads the Aborigines, abandoning them to the paganism of their ancestral practices and beliefs. In 1998, it was reported that Bishop Putney even supported the concept of a "pilgrimage to Uluru [formerly Ayers Rock] - the world's largest monolith and a focus of indigenous spirituality - near Alice Springs". He stated that "the whole people of Australia could make the same spiritual journey" i.e. a journey back to paganism, since Uluru is the home of the Rainbow Serpent! As someone asked at the time: "Has the bishop forgotten that Satan has power? That if the serpent is invited, he will come?" As we shall see, he has certainly visited Aboriginal communities in the form of diabolic behaviour which such pagan belief engenders.
This local abdication of the Church's salvific mission represents a veritable stealing away of a generation of indigenous souls from the saving liberty of Christ. At very best, the corrupting combination of false inculturation and heretical clergy means that the catechetical understanding of 'Catholic' Aboriginals simply mirrors the abject ignorance of their white Australian brothers and sisters in the Faith, with both parties left prey to the seduction of false religions and their false gods.
It merely confirms, of course, that the bogus 'spirit of Vatican II' does not discriminate between colour, culture or race. It blows where it wills, wrecking indiscriminately and using the pliable Novus Ordo Missae as its primary tool. This is especially so where inculturation is concerned: the Novus Ordo accommodating the most extreme forms of liturgical inculturation with a facility impossible even to conceive under the Old Mass.
In this respect we return, as ever, to the traditional liturgy which alone protects us from heresies and secularising fads, a fact well understood by more than a few indigenous Australians who recall its sacrificial beauty despite all the postconciliar sacrilege to which they, like us, have been subjected. On television in the late 1990s, an old Aboriginal woman was interviewed for her reaction after an "Aboriginal Mass": "Oh, yeah, it was all right, I s'pose," she said. "But you can't beat the old Latin Mass." Amen.
Liberal gravy train
When we speak of a "lost generation" of postconciliar Catholics, therefore, we can surely include a stolen generation of Aboriginal souls. In any event, this spiritual theft is certainly more real than the physical but fraudulent reference to the "stolen generation" of Aboriginals so beloved of the liberal-Left and its Modernist allies in the Church.
Notorious clergy like Fr Frank Bennan S.J. have pushed this fraud along with every other left-wing Aboriginal bandwagon for years: preferring to agitate for meaningless empty symbols - "Sorry Days", "Reconciliation Days" and "Bridge Walks" - instead of addressing the realities of Aboriginal disadavantage brought about by destructive social-engineering which isolated indigenous Australians in remote areas with no prospect of achieving self-sustaining economies. At the same time, welfare handouts introduced by the socialist Labor government in the 1970s robbed the Aborigines of incentive and the prospect of a meaningful life, stripping away notions of mutual obligation and responsibility inherent in Australian society.
In the middle of it all, another campaign inspired by Labor resulted in the misguided and farcical 1992 Mabo decision on Aboriginal land rights. Australian High Court judges with a Catholic background rejected precedent to conclude that native title to land could not have been extinguished by the British annexation and settlement of eastern Australia. Presented as a paeon to "equality" and "justice", it is, in fact, "diabolic disorientation" on steroids! Apart from annulling at a stroke the entire history of conquest and annexation since time began, the decision is completely meaningless in the context of the Aboriginal notion of "ownership", either of property or possessions, which is both indefinite and indefinable. It was, however, a major victory for extreme multicultural-cum-Aboriginal rights activists like Fr Brennan. His father, Sir Gerard Brennan, was one of the High Court judges who voted for Mabo and his son has since spent his life on the lecture circuit extolling the imbecilic idea of handing over 80% of Australia to Aborigines, haranguing listeners about the legal and political implications of Aboriginal land claims.
In 1998, during a talk to 400 Catholics at one Queensland parish, Fr Brennan recalled and mocked the words of a farmer who had once suggested to him that he should be in "a presbytery praying" instead of promoting Aboriginal claims. He also remarked that it was interesting (perhaps "ironical" and "scandalous" were better words) that legal/political questions at the meeting were being directed to him, a priest, while spiritual questions were being answered by the well-paid "Aboriginal reconciliation educator", who handled questions from the pagan Dream-time perspective.
As a measure of the divisiveness and threat to Australian property owners introduced by the Mabo decision, several speakers at that particular parish meeting thanked the Gubbi Gubbi people for their hospitality: "Gubbi Gubbi 'people' are laying Aboriginal land claims to thousands of kilometres of land in this region," wrote one parishioner reporting on the event. "The land of our parish is part of that claim. the Gubbi Gubbi people, 'the traditional owner', were thanked properly for allowing us to meet in this new church on their territory"! [Fidelity, Dec. 1998]
On top of the complicity in pagan beliefs, this is the indigenous socio-political obsession which has diverted ecclesiastical attention from society-dissolving attacks on the Australian family and human life by the pro-death lobby. But it has also left the genuinely damaging Aboriginal policies and tribal practices unchallenged.
As a rule of thumb, one rightly assumes that whatever line secular or ecclesial Left-wing white liberals like Fr Brennan are pushing, the exact opposite is true 95 per cent of the time. And since false ideas have dire consequences, the liberals invariably harm and ruin the very people/institution/society they purport to help. Forever playing the race card and pursuing their diversity agenda, pushing 'positive discrimination' and radical multiculturalism everywhere - except where it affects them - the Left, as an English journalist recently put it, are the new colonialists; patronising, condescending, full of pious self-regard. And never more so than in this case. The Brennans of the world and the black activists raised up around them - snout-in-trough urban Aborigines controlling government grants and dysfunctional Aboriginal land councils which run remote communities as socialist enterprises (with honourable exceptions) - jealously guard their own fiefdoms while fostering a sense of victimhood and grievance among the indigenous population. The resultant dependency culture keeps the whole gravy train on the rails.
Shifting the blame
This vicious circle exasperates many thoughtful blacks, especially its inculcating a 'victim mentality' into Aboriginal life, which serves the white liberal purpose while lining the pockets of black activists and their families. Legendary Australian Rules footballer Graham Farmer (MBE) and leading Rugby player Wendell Sailor are among these dissident black voices. In his autobiography, Crossing Over , Sailor hit out against the obsession with seeking out racism where it simply doesn't exist, especially in the rough and tumble of Australian sport:
"I've copped my share of racist insults on the field over the years but I always saw this as part of the game, and gave as good as I got... that's in the heat of the moment and that's where it ends... I don't condone racism, real racism, but I believe black sportspeople can get paranoid about the subject. ... What good does it do black Australians if we keep blaming other people for what's wrong with our lives? There is racism in Australia... but I also know that there's less here than in just about every other country I can think of. The more people talk about racism in Australia, the more they look for issues, the worse off indigenous Australians are. Instead of saying they deserve this or that, Aborigines would be better off getting out and working for what they want in life. Black people in Australia have to look forward. If they keep trying to drag up the past, they will find themselves left behind."
Indeed, far from racist, Australian taxpayers have watched helplessly over several decades as untold billions of tax dollars generously aimed at helping our 455,000 indigenous peoples have been squandered in socialist-inspired welfare handouts without any positive outcomes. Instead, that money has been used to entrench a radical multiculturalism where nothing is right or wrong and all cultures are equal, never mind that some erode basic freedoms while tolerating the most shocking violence. The liberal-Left backlash meted out to anybody mentioning this inconvenient truth and challenging politically correct ideology has meant the turning of a blind-eye to the ever deepening criminality and strife afflicting Aboriginal communities everywhere, for fear of being smeared as "racist" by the 'PC Police'.
Aboriginal women and children, in particular, have suffered as a result of the complicity of the Australian Establishment in multicultural madness; left at the mercy of violent Aboriginal men answerable only to pagan "tribal law" and the punishment determined by tribal elders. In A Fatal Conjunction: Two Laws, Two Cultures [The Federation Press, 2004] postgraduate student Joan Kimm traces the sorry history of a legal system that has allowed, indeed encouraged, Aborigines charged with violent crimes to plead cultural defences in mitigation. She talks of cases where indigenous women have been stabbed or sliced or beaten with wood or rocks or iron bars and their male perpetrators have claimed, with some success, it is merely "righteous" or "moral" violence aimed at disciplining wayward women according to tribal law.
Others say tribal law is "bulldust" law - fabricated to exonerate Aborigines, usually men, from their violent crimes. Although women, too, get in on the act. In September 2003, a 32-year-old Aboriginal woman from a remote community in Kununurra, Western Australia, stabbed her defacto husband in each thigh after she saw him have sex with another woman. She claimed she was inflicting traditional punishment for infidelity. Her husband was so drunk, he was defenceless. He died. The remorseful woman got a suspended sentence, allowing her to walk free, after the tribal punishment to be meted out to her by the Ringer Soak community was taken into consideration. Commenting on the decision, a journalist concluded: "The message is powerful: violence is unofficially tolerated if culture permits it." (British readers will see the obvious comparison with Islamic "honour killings", forced marriages and the rise of a parallel Sharia law in the UK.)
To detract attention from this endemic Aboriginal problem, there is still no hesitation in laying blame when violence can be sheeted home, even indirectly, to non-indigenous people. In her book, Joan Kimm points out that between 1 January 1980 and 31 May 1989, more indigenous women died at the hands of indigenous men than all Aboriginal deaths in police custody. While fierce reaction follows the discovery of dead Aborigines in police cells, the reason for which they were incarcerated (and their vulnerability to suicide in such a closed environment due to their primitive 'spirituality') is rarely mentioned.
Just as WYD euphoria masks the dire predicament of the Australian Church, therefore, the Aboriginal "message stick" which accompanied the WYD Cross and Icon across the country evoked a warm and peaceful image veiling the nightmarish reality of Aboriginal life. Pursuing their Rousseauian myth of the "noble savage", the social-engineering hippies of the 1970s Labor era cultivated the pagan element of Aboriginal culture instead of controlling and civilising it, with disastrous results.
Take a December 2004 report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare on injury death rates among indigenous Australians. It makes for dreadful reading. The rate of death by injury for Aborigines is between two and three times as high as for other Australians. They are twice as likely to commit suicide and three times as likely to die in a car accident. Aboriginal men are seven times more likely to be murdered than other Australian men, and for women the number is 11 times. These appalling figures came a year after the Productivity Commission showed Aborigines die 20 years earlier than non-indigenous Australians and are 15 times more likely to be in jail.
It all reached a head in June 2007 when then Prime Minister John Howard was forced to intervene with a radical government plan to tackle a situation he described as "akin to a national emergency." Soon after his announcement, soldiers and police moved into the most crisis-stricken communities. True to their pro-death abortion advocacy, however, the liberal-Left wailed, preferring to defend their failed but lucrative multicultural ideology than save lives. Aboriginal women and children, on the other hand, were relieved. False reports described people fleeing in fear of the soldiers and police. But a long-time social worker at the Mutitjulu community saw no such panic. "They aren't frightened of the police and the army, and they're not running off to the sand hills," she said. "I don't think many women will have any problem with having extra police around." For good reason!
The Howard response came a week after the publication of the Little Children Are Sacred report, revealing rampant sexual abuse of Aboriginal children in the Northern Territory, home to 12% of Australia's indigenous population. The report revealed the horrors regularly inflicted on many of the Territory's 23,000 Aboriginal children. It told of babies being raped, young children acting out scenes from pornographic movies, teenagers selling themselves for food and drugs. It warned that unless swift action was taken, "real disaster faces Australia within a generation."
Since alcohol fuels much of the violent chaos poisoning Aboriginal life, the Howard intervention used constitutional powers to leapfrog the Territory government and ban it, for an initial period, in about 60 communities. A radical welfare revolution was also, finally, introduced: the docking of welfare cheques if children miss too much school, and the quarantining of some government payments to ensure they're spent on food rather than drugs and alcohol. Hard-core pornography is also banned and health checks are to be carried out on all children. Howard also sought to have traditional Aboriginal law removed as a mitigating factor in criminal sentencing.
Predictably, the Left moaned about the possible loss of civil rights in the ban on alcohol and the introduction of curfews. But a few years earlier, no less a figure than Warren Mundine, then vice-president (now national president) of the Australian Labor Party and a leading Aboriginal activist, had called on Labor to embrace Howard's interventionist approach. "I think the [conservative Howard Government] is taking the right direction," he told The Australian newspaper. "What I say to Kim [Beazley, then Labor leader] is what is human rights abuse? Isn't a man flogging his wife with a stick human rights abuse? What about these poor women? When a person is beating his wife up, I don't want to hear about things impinging on his rights. People who say it is paternalistic don't understand. People are stuck and trapped and they need a drastic and radical change." This mirrored Howard's comment at the time that "The most important civil liberty is to stay alive, and unless people are given the opportunity to do so, you can't really start even talking about civil liberties."
Mundine claimed that some of his fellow Aboriginal leaders who had attacked him were not interested in allowing more indigenous people to accumulate wealth. A typical socialist trait. Nor could they have been too concerned about their people acquiring better health. The first indigenous community to sign up for a "shared responsibility" agreement under the Howard reforms which Mundine supported was the remote community of Mulan in Western Australia, which saw them agree to ensure their children shower daily and attend to other health issues in exchange for the Government installing fuel bowsers. This simple measure rapidly reduced the incidence of blinding trachoma by some 60 per cent. Trachoma is spread from person to person by flies and other forms of contact. Only the pro-death abortionist mindset of the civil libertarian Left would bemoan such a deal. As one exasperated newspaper columnist wrote: "If washing helps save eyesight, it should be taught and if the community wants to emphasise the importance of washing through some deal, all the better."
At least the gravity of the situation as described in the Little Children Are Sacred report has vanquished the hardcore Labor Left for the time being. Even leading radical black activist and former Catholic priest Pat Dodson has changed his tune, saying that new policies based on a concept of "mutual obligation" are compatible with traditional Aboriginal culture, including the notion of "curfew". The newly elected Labor government is pursuing the policies introduced by the Howard Government which were backed by straight-thinking Aboriginals like Warren Mundine. Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin announced that the police-military intervention against Northern Territory indigenous townships and camps will be expanded, with slight variations. She also outlined plans to extend the "quarantining", or partial seizure, of welfare payments from the Northern Territory to Western Australia, and introduce new means for overturning communal land title to make way for private ownership.
Soft response to old news
Whether Aboriginal culture will adapt to these changes, especially the utterly foreign concept of "private ownership", and whether acrimonious factions within the ever turbulent Labor Party itself will give the new policies a chance, remains to be seen. But at least it is a start to overcoming the prevailing "welfare dependence" behind the "despair and hopelessness". A move away from no-strings-attached welfare towards self-help, zero-tolerance of violence and substance abuse, partnerships with government and business, a Council of high-achieving Aborigines to help think through the new solutions, mutual obligation and scholarships to enable Aboriginal youngsters to board in elite schools - these are all positive steps.
Nonetheless, that the authorities have just suddenly realised that the remote communities have a problem strikes this writer as tragi-comic in the extreme. Yes, the police and army have been called in to sort out the alcohol and petrol sniffing and drugs (hard and soft). And they are going to sort out the child abuse which occurs in these communities. But this has been known to those of us officially and intimately acquainted with Aboriginal communities and reported in at least one independent Australian journal, News Weekly, for decades. The mainstream media have simply lacked the moral courage to address the matter truthfully, consistently and loudly. And let me say that the government response still does not reflect or adequately address the true depth of the crisis, which flows from Aboriginal culture itself and the pagan beliefs which give rise to their practices and customs.
To begin with the government is concentrating its efforts on what we (the professionals) would call the "soft" communities. No mention of Walungaroo, Warburton, Giles, Arionga and myriad communities that are really struggling. The main ones targeted appear to be Hermansburg, Yundemmu, Uluru and Mt Liebig.
Mt Liebig in the Northern Territory was regarded as the best run community in the region, and had a very strong council. Unfortunately, the mount was solid copper, and while I was at nearby Kintore, the Rio Tinto mining giant moved in and was attempting to acquire the land. The community resisted. And now the governnment is going to take over the land from the community on the pretext of stamping out child abuse (excuse my scepticism!).
Interestingly, the communities mentioned by the government were also run by the Lutheran Church. I have problems with these types of denominations, but one thing they do is stamp very heavily on cultural practices such as child abuse. Berndt & Berndt wrote a number of studies on this. They found that what we call "child abuse" was common among the native communities and was widely practiced. I remember going to a corroboree in Carnarvon, North Western Australian, and reporting the practice of a child's hymen being broken with a song stick, as part of the initiation, by a very old elder. So what is going to happen when they find out the practice has not stopped? This remains politically correct multicultural ground.
And again, in 1998, while at Kintore, 550 km west of Alice Springs, two girls had accidently stumbled on "Mens Ground". They were taken to Balgoo Station approx 1000 kms north of Kintore, on the Big Walkabout, and on the way there they were "lost". At least that was what was reported. But all the people knew that they were killed. God knows how, nobody questioned the elders.
With this new crackdown, therefore, the people are worried, and have every right to be, because if the government is serious about attacking the problem then there will be children removed from some parents. This has suddenly become news, yet this is precisely what we faced in 1968 in what fallaciously became known as the "stolen generation"
Just as the spurious reporting which surrounds Aboriginal deaths in custody has distracted from the sins and deficiencies of the Aborigines themselves and speciously sought to lay them on white Australians, myths like the "stolen generation" have also been developed to shift the blame and sustain the 'victim culture' condemned by genuinely progressive Aboriginals. Nor has adopting tougher Aboriginal policies than its Labor predecessors stopped the new Labor government from supporting this fraud. One of its first acts early this year was a formal national apology to the Aboriginal "stolen generation" by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, a Blair clone who thrives on all the usual gesture politics surrounding 'gay' rights, climate change and multiculturalism.
This typically empty apology was televised and more than 100 members of the "stolen generation" were invited to Canberra for the event. There was no mention, of course, about those Aboriginal leaders like Dame Lois (Lowitja) O'Donoghue who, presented with the official record of her youth, finally admitted several years ago that, in fact, she was not "stolen" at all. Nor was there so much as a nod to dutiful government officials and the unflagging generosity, charity and goodwill of ordinary Australians towards their indigenous compatriots via their taxes and their corporal works of mercy, such as the rescue of Aboriginal children simply abandoned by their mothers outside settlements. Nor anything about the need for a conversion of hearts and minds among the Aboriginal people for abusing and killing their women and children. Nor any hint of a reciprocal Aboriginal "sorry" for clearly vindictive acts involving the destruction of countless new homes provided for them over the years, such as one entire estate, Burnt Bridge in Kempsey, NSW, which I viewed in disbelief several years ago: every house totally trashed, like a scene of devastation from a war zone.
On the contrary, and true to form, many Aboriginal leaders revelled in the televised gesture and then criticised the government for ruling out compensation for any of the surviving "victims"! And so within days of the grand "apology" the first compensation claim from the "stolen generation" was lodged in Melbourne.
On that basis, it looks as if this enduring myth could prove yet another expensive multicultural exercise for the hapless Aussie taxpayer. But it is the image it projects of Australia which is the greatest travesty. After Prime Minister John Howard banned the Australian cricket team from touring Zimbabwe last year, calling Mugabe a "grubby dictator" whose regime behaved "like the Gestapo", Mugabe's Information Minister shot back that "Australia is one of the worst human rights violators in this whole world. Look what they have done to the Aborigines." He might be the spokesman for a megalomaniac Marxist boss without a shred of credibility, but it's an insulting and not uncommon charge: one as historically illiterate as the misrepresentation of England's role in the slave trade which turned the anniversary of its pioneering anti-slavery law into an orgy of breast-beating.
Moreover, the concept of "stolen children" can be applied very widely indeed. Consider the history of the UK as recounted in works such as Lost Children of the Empire by Phillip Bean & Joy Melville. In 1698 five hundred boys from Scotland were shipped to America. In 1835 it became practice to send children to the colonies with or without parental consent, if they were deemed to be vagrants or criminals. So in that period 700 children were shipped to America from West Ham and to the Cape Colony. From 1914 to 1920, 80,000 children were shipped to Canada. 1923: 918 to Western Australia. 1924: 872 to New South Wales. Between 1925-1983 under the Big Brother scheme 12,500 were moved to Australia. 1938-39: 114 to Tardun Mission, Western Australia. The Dreadnought Scheme in 1946 saw 4,500 young men aged 15-19 shipped to NSW. Between 1938-41 & 1947 Fairbridge Farm accepted five hundred. And in the years 1938-1942 & 1950 the Christian Brothers at Clontarf, WA, accepted 280 Maltese children.
On this basis, it might be argued that the total number of "stolen children" from the UK totals 96,384.
However, speaking with the benefit of professional insider knowledge on the fraudulent "stolen generation" Down Under, I can certify that if the Aboriginal people have been sold out by the Church through false inculturation and endemic Modernism, they were not likewise betrayed by secular authorities when it came to caring for their children, tragic exceptions notwithstanding.
Certainly, prior to 1960, incidents as depicted in the movie Rabbit Proof Fence , about three young aboriginal sisters removed from their home in 1931 who finally walked 1,500 miles back to their community, did occur, to the detriment of the Department of Native Welfare. But even in those days, action was taken for the most part with the very best of intentions i.e. to care for the mixed-raced children. These were taken from their parents and moved to the missions in order to provide the food, clothing, medical care and education or trade they could not get at home, and also because they were not accepted by the Aboriginals, who simply neglected them. The remoteness of the communities often necessitated the sending of such children to distant towns, precisely as it did for remote white children sent to boarding school. Getting home to visit was a problem for everyone.
In the post-1960 era, earlier mistakes were rectified and lessons learnt were applied. Let me explain.
I was employed by the Department of Native Welfare in Western Australia from June 1969 until its devolution in 1971, when this Department became The Department of Community Welfare [DCW]. I continued working for the DCW for a further 14 years, then moved to the Department of Health as the Senior Counsellor of the AIDS unit at Royal Perth Hospital for a further 15 years, retiring in 1996.
I was posted to Mullewa, 500 km north of Perth (100 km out of Geraldton) as the District Officer. The Aboriginal population in the town at that time was approximately 200 but the district (station country) had considerably more than this, probably 1500-2000, fluctuating with tribal movements.
As the field officer with the Department, I was given very broad and extensive powers, as a "Protector of the Aborigines". I was expected to monitor the safety of families and children in my district, which covered 480 sq. km.
No Aboriginal could be brought before the court without an officer of the Department being present, if none were available then the court would be held over until a departmental representative was present. I was expected to do 15 patrols a year to ascertain the number of Aborigines in my District, and that their well-being was as to be expected. This generally meant that food, shelter, and schooling was being attended to as per the departmental regulations.
The first thing I became aware of was the strong tie to the land, and to station managers or owners. The stations were their homes and in many cases, three or four generations of families were living there. I was taken by one resident, Cinderella Snowball, and she pointed out the creek where she was born 70 years previously. Her family were all at the station.
Most stations had better accommodation than that provided by the DCW on the town 'reserve' and they had access to the station store where they obtained supplies. Meat was often provided free by the station, or they were able to hunt kangaroo, as the stations regarded the "roo" as a menace.
The family unit was generally intact except when schooling interrupted the year. Schooling was a problem for most of the people (white as well as black) since the nearest school was at Mullewa, over 400 km away, on unsealed and often ungraded roads or tracks. Much of the schooling was done over the radio, on "School of the Air" or at the discretion of the station manager's wife, depending on events happening at the station. Sometimes the wife was up repairing a mill head.
When I arrived at Mullewa, the town had a primary school, a Catholic school at Tardun Mission 50 km south of the town, run by the Pallotine Fathers.
Tardun could accept Aboriginal children as boarders, only if the parents (in most cases impossible) or the State subsidized them.
To get a child subsidized by the State generally meant committing the child as a Ward of the State, a very complicated procedure. This constituted a report by the Field Officer on the benefit of this action to the child, and a separate report from the female Field Officer on the parent's circumstances, the benefit of committal to the child and the family.
These reports then went to the divisional office to be vetted and then they were sent on to Perth to be approved. As this was involving State funds nothing was done until this approval was given. These actions were always done at the end of a school year, as approvals always took several weeks. If, however, the child was in danger, then they were placed in safe custody and Perth advised the action taken to speed up the consent for financial assistance to the foster parents.
When the approval came through it was then necessary to convene a court hearing at the local court, and a Magistrate made the order of committal. These orders were usually instructions on what happens to the child when all the conditions set down by the Department were met.
Parents were then advised to put their child on the next mail truck to coincide with the start of the school year. Once the children were approved as Wards of the State, the parents had to sign a paper giving the Department permission to place the child in foster care or boarding placement at the mission. This was always done and severe reprimands were issued if you strayed from 'procedures'. The Department had guidelines for everything and these Manuals became your bible. You lived by them.
Sometimes situations occurred where the child's safety was at risk and these were placed in emergency accommodation until the above procedures were put in place, or until the home situation improved. It always intrigued me that people assumed that, if you felt a child was in danger, you just stepped in and grabbed the child, Not so. There were established steps to be followed and woe betide if you stepped outside the guidelines.
As "Protector of the Aborigines" my principle duty was to care for the people entrusted to me, and I believe 80-90 per cent of the Field Officers who worked with Aborigines were of the same ilk.
In 1969, the conditions of the Aborigines in the towns were deplorable and the first task was to try to improve the lot of the townspeople. I was zealous enough to believe this could be done.
Problem No. 1: In 1966 legislation was presented to the Western Australian Parliament to introduce drinking rights for Aboriginals. This went to a referendum and produced the following figures:
437,823 electors enrolled voted: in favour - 319,823; not in favour - 75,282; informal - 10,561; Total - 405,666.
(An analysis of the country vote would be very interesting.)
In 1967 most areas of the state had drinking rights in conjunction with equal pay rights awarded in 1962. This rang the death knell for Aboriginal families on the stations. Men flocked to the towns and when their money ran out they stayed in the town on "welfare". By 1969 the reserve in Mullewa had swelled to 400 and as that was over the maximum reserve limit. The rest moved in with "rellies" (relatives). When this, too, became intolerable, they moved to Geraldton.
The stations were desperate for workers, but simply could not pay inflated wages which would have included the person's family as well, so they employed single men or women, white or black. The families who had been born on the properties found themselves evicted and also heading for the towns, putting enormous strain on already stretched resources.
The added complication was that tribes were being thrust together after centuries apart, and old enemies found themselves next to each other in a crowded reserve. Great! When they were on the stations they were apart and learned to stay that way. But the white man, in his wisdom, treated them all the same, and they were not the same.
Problem No 2: As the people moved into towns, this created resentment among the local people (black as well as white) who saw the accommodation rents increase and jobs disappear. Mullewa was a railway town, built to ship out wheat and wool to Geraldton. Accommodation was scarce and jobs fewer still.
Aboriginal affairs (Native Welfare) were to "blame", and it was our job to fix it! If we had had our way we could have, would have, reversed the decision as we all knew the problem.
Unfortunately, the problem was the "goody-goodies" in the city, who had no idea what, or even where, the problems were, and cared less - as long as their feeling of righteousness was satisfied, and providing they were not asked to sort out the mess they created. We were not given any extra funds to cope with the problem; we could not even get enough money to fix a leaky faucet and therefore fixed it ourselves.
Most of the 'fixing' was done ad-hoc and much of it on the initiative of the various Field Officers, which ate into family or personal time. Divorce among Field Officers was common.
Children in towns were at a loose end and often came in contact with the law. They were then sent to remand centres in the 'big city' and suddenly confronted with TV, radio and other offenders. This usually meant that if they came 'home' they were soon off again to savour the delights of the city. Were these the "stolen children?"
And let me give another example of how people in the cities have no idea what life is like in the "bush" (i.e. rural/country areas) yet continually express their opinions about what should be done.
I was the District Officer in Kalgoorlie and received a report that a severely handicapped wheelchair bound boy of thirteen, living in a Perth hostel, had made a request through his carers that he wanted to return to his home at Cundalee.
Cundalee, a Lutheran mission, was my jurisdiction and approximately 480 kms west of Kalgoorlie. The boy had severe multiple-sclerosis but a deposition of people wanted him to return home. His parents were out at Victoria Springs, 150 kms north of the trans-Australia railway line. I could have written the report from my desk recommending he stay where he is since the nearest medical services were in Kalgoorlie, nearly 600 kms from his parents.
However, procedures had to be followed so out to Cundalee I went. I found his parents at Victoria Springs after a two day drive through the WA bush. They were staggered when I advised them why I was there. They lived in a bush camp, Mulga branches over a strained down tree. The nearest water was Victoria Springs which dried up periodically, and then they moved camp. The next nearest water hole was about 50 kms away and in summer, as it was at the time, the daytime temperature climbed to 50+ degrees. There were no roads way out there, just a track.
The Mission people were horrified that there was even a suggestion of the boy being moved from Perth let alone moved out there. The parents had not seen the child since he was born in Kalgoorlie. If the boy had been born in the bush in the condition he was, he would have been left on an ant hill, because that's how the desert people lived.
I took several photos of the camp and of his parents, who were very nervous, as they don't like their image being taken. I sent these with a full report to my divisional superintendent and received a commendation for my efforts. We heard no more from the city. But did he also become a "stolen child". I think not!
Problem No. 3: Another major problem in the country was that of drunken parents and in many cases uncles and aunts. This made the children's existence at home dangerous, and if the Field Officer did not act early enough to put them in a place of safety, many times it proved fatal.
I had an instance of a family of five children on a reserve near Mullewa where the two oldest girls had been sexually abused by the uncle. The 13-year-old was pregnant so the abuse was real, not imagined. (I was told I had imagined it by a Psychologist from Perth). I had to remove all five children at the request of the mother and place them out of harms way, south of Perth. This meant committing them all to the State as 'Wards' and moving them away from the community. More "stolen children". Meanwhile, the mother went off with the uncle.
Again, in Kalgoorlie in the 1970s, a couple came over from South Australia, the woman having picked up her sister's six-month-old baby, using the child to get money for drink, which they did. Having left the pub they threw the babe over a fence. The baby's screams attracted attention (she had a broken arm and a number of broken ribs). She was rushed to hospital and I was called to find the parents! It transpired that the (real) mother had left South Australia for the Northern Territory. The sister and her partner were arrested and then released as the child was "in care". I eventually traced the mother and under escort took the child to Darwin.
In my 15 years as a Field Officer, these were not rare occurrences. I wonder how other officers react when they hear the cry "stolen children". In most cases - and I mean 90% of the cases with which I dealt - the procedures with regard to removing a child and placement of that child were all covered by extensive research and report writing. A child removed and placed without following procedures provoked a severe reprimand from the Divisional HQ, as well as months of reports explaining the urgency, or your reasons. Not an easy task.
These reminisces are just a few of the incidents that occurred in my 20 years working with Aboriginal people and communities. My observations over that period were that the urban Aboriginal had become corrupted by the wrong elements of the white European society; inasmuch as they believe that someone 'owes' them, and they are not looking into themselves to see what they owe society.
The recent (very) belated government awakening and action will need to change this destructive mentality and its culture of victimhood and blame. To help achieve this, perhaps someone should unearth the Field Officer journals, since they contain meticulously recorded information (presumably of the type which changed Dame Lois O'Donoghue's mind) showing up the "stolen generation" for the convenient fabrication that it is.
There is also another aspect important to understanding the financial waste and self-inflicted Aboriginal wounds. Many individuals who were educated in the 'system' suddenly became spokesmen for 'their' people and 'experts' on assimilation. Two such men spring immediately to mind, one of whom, as far as I am aware, could still be alive. His behaviour in the community where he lives (or lived) is legendary for all the wrong reasons. He is a white man turned 'native' and he exploited all the benefits of an elder in the community, getting as much as possible from the government of the day despite the protests of the officers attached to the region. In any other organization he would be regarded as a despot and a criminal. But under his rules he used the collective spirit of the Aborigines to his advantage.
In 1970, the Council of Aboriginal Affairs was established and one of its first tasks was to send five Aborigines to the USA to tour various cities and give lectures on Aboriginal problems to the schools. They spoke to Black American leaders and talked to participants of the Black Panther movement, the Black Muslim movement and others. They returned appalled but impressed and set about organizing Black Power cells in Australia. These are still in existence but hopefully ineffective.
The money expended on these jaunts, and many others since, could have been better spent on Aboriginal health. Two of the five sent to the US were Jack Davis and Monty Walga. I know that another two plus Monty spent some time in Gaddafi's Libya, at Government expense, researching various 'projects'.
I am certain that there were many acts of injustice done to Aborigines in the early days of the colony in Western Australia, just as there were many acts committed against the colonists. But we should bear in mind that as early as 1688 - one hundred years before the arrival of the first English settlers - explorer William Dampier wrote a report on the outlook of Aborigines when he stopped to seek their assistance during his voyage down the WA coast. He described them as starving and emaciated; already run down as a people. The situation has changed little since that report. Although, without doubt, alcohol exacerbated their predicament, especially in terms of domestic violence.
In the end, of course, only the liberating tenets of Our Lord Jesus Christ can transform Aboriginal life and solve the otherwise intractable problems at its socio-spiritual core, as many Aborigines who have benefited from the Catholic missions in particular readily admit. The loving and selfless care afforded elderly Aborigines by Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity, for instance. Predictably, however, voices in praise of the missions are ignored or muted by the liberal-Left media, who take care to hide the social and spiritual healing so many indigenous Catholic converts enjoyed before the inculturated Modernist onslaught.
To finish on a lighter note:
I worked in a Desert Community for several months, 700 kms west of Alice Springs, as the town clerk. Nothing much had changed. We were desperately short of money and I was restricting expenditure. The chairman (a full blood Aboriginal) came to me and asked what was the problem. I explained that the government allocation to the community was running out. He said, "The money comes from Canberra, don't it." I concurred. So, he said, "Get them to print some more". Logical isn't it.