You are here: HomeHistoryWho are the Stolen generations

The Stolen Generations

The removal of Aboriginal children in New South Wales 1883 to 1969



White people have never been able to leave Aborigines alone. Children particularly have suffered. Missionaries, teachers, government officials have believed that the best way to make black people behave like white people was to get hold of the children who
had not yet learned Aboriginal lifeways. They thought that children’s minds were like a kind of blackboard on which the European secrets could be written. This article is about what happened to those Aboriginal children in New South Wales who were taken away from their parents, either living on government reserves and stations, by government legislation, and put in the care of the whites. It is the story of the attempt to ‘breed out’ the Aboriginal race. It is the story of attempted genocide. Genocide does not simply mean the extermination of people by violence but may include any means at all. At the height of the policy of separating Aboriginal people from their parents the Aborigines Welfare Board meant to do just that. The 1921 Report of the Board stated that ‘the continuation of this policy of dissociating the children from camp life must eventually solve the Aboriginal problem’. ‘The Aboriginal problem’ meant Aboriginal people who could not, or chose not to, live as white people wanted them to do. The 1926 Report put the Board’s intentions even more clearly: when children were placed in a ‘first class private home’, the superior standard of life would ‘pave the way for the absorption of these people into the general population’. At the same time, Aboriginal adults, who could not be sent away, were driven from reserves or from the outskirts of country towns. Adult Aboriginal resistance proved too strong for the Board, for those adults either came back after a time, or went to live outside another town. But the children could not return until they were eighteen. Some were taken so young that they did not remember where they had come from or even who their parents were. Many of these children did not, and could not, return to their families.