Albert Einstein theorized that energy cannot be created or destroyed; it only changes from one form to another. In physics, this became known as the Law of the Conservation of Energy. Many a philosopher, historian, and author also observed that, because human nature remains constant, history often repeats itself (or, as Mark Twain wrote more poetically, it at least rhymes). Even children's movies remind us of the circle of life which moves us all.
As children, we learn of repetitive tales that are as old as time and as certain as the sun will rise. These tales are bittersweet, strange, and teach us which behaviors are wrong. We are reminded to learn from past mistakes, and that we can change. But, more wondrous than any ancient mystery, the most significant, unsolved mystery of the universe must undoubtedly be why we do not change when history teaches we are wrong. Amazingly, not only do we refuse to learn but the more things change, the more they stay the same.
We live in the greatest of times: the technology age. We're close to transhumanism, for God's sake. Yet our humanity remains in a primitive state. We perfect our technology with passion and diligence, yet stagnate (dare I say regress?) our philosophy with detachment and disinterest.
Why? A thousand times: why?
Evil is always sold in the name of "best" intentions
Recommended by a friend, I recently watched the movie Australia, which includes an undercurrent theme about a most heinous period in the country's history. For 70 years, Australian governments removed children from their families purportedly in the name of child protection and their best interests. Later, we learned this was really propaganda and the true nature of the child removal policies was much more diabolical. Unlike other abominable government actions that have never been legally overturned (and are expected to re-occur), the Australian government finally apologized for its despicable behavior 40 years later.
But, even amongst proffered apologies and changed policies, like Einstein's theory of energy, the terrifying ideology of severing precious parent-child relationships is conserved over time. Given how much shameful history the world has supporting discrimination and removing children from fit parents, you'd think our humanity would have evolved.
Fat chance. Call it reverse Darwinism: survival of the inept.
In what future generations can only describe as idiocracy, governments all over the world continue their outlandish policies in the name of child protection, currently propagandized as the "best interest of the child," a legal term even law professors acknowledge "can become twisted." The similarities are striking when you compare the Stolen Generations, as the Australian government's immoral actions are called, with the issues facing today's fathers' rights movement.
As I considered how the movie dramatized the horror parents and their children experience when the government severs their relationships, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to analyze the Stolen Generations Wikipedia entry for similarities with the fathers' rights movement. After weeks of research, I must be honest: it was a depressing experience that left me feeling quite hopeless.
Fathers might be great parents, but they suck at politics
I guess it's true: if you want to hide something, hide it in plain sight.
With statistics from the US Census openly stating 84.4% of all custodial parents are mothers and proportions are statistically unchanged over the years, you'd think a legal challenge asserting child custody laws are administered in a discriminatory manner would be a slam dunk. But this isn't about legality, as history is rife with courts enabling and sanctioning discrimination. Jim Crow laws that legally sanctioned black and white drinking fountains, black and white schools, etc. Laws against women's suffrage, which legally prevented women from voting. All considered perfectly legal during their days by even a country's highest court.
Morally reprehensible and disgusting, wouldn't you say?
Meanwhile, feminists fabricate and fight for false statistics like women "earn only about 77 cents for every dollar earned by men," which even the Department of Labor and Government Accountability Office acknowledge are a bunch of statistical hooey. (To their credit, some feminists have acknowledged the nonsensical discrimination claims given the evidence.) In other words, this issue isn't about laws that are clearly discriminatory against fathers. The masses don't care about discrimination - only the aggrieved care. This is about politics.
And, when it comes to politics, as a discriminated but non-protected class, fathers suck.
The fathers' rights movement has been completely ineffective at convincing politicians of the destructive nature of removing children from good parents, and even less effective at getting them to acknowledge the policies as pure discrimination and a human rights issue. Many fathers challenged the discrimination and constitutionality of child custody laws as whimsical, biased judicial discretion, to which even judges admit they "maintain a firm belief in biologically driven gender differences in parenting abilities and openly admit that this belief may affect their decisions." The legal challenges were ignored.
I can just hear the judges speaking in chambers about the constitutional challenges: "Tell us something we don't know. (Laughing.) Denied! Next case!" Meanwhile, these judges fuel custody battles which only can be described as absurd. Don't believe me? Quoting from Fury at ruling in custody battle: "A MOTHER found by the Family Court to be violent, untruthful, lacking moral values and responsible for the psychological and emotional abuse of her children has been given custody of them. The father, deemed "principled" and with "much to offer his children", has been effectively banned from seeing his daughters." I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.
So it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, as one law professor put it: "By sending a distinct message to divorced fathers that they are not essential to the raising of children beyond supplying a percentage of their paychecks to the mother of their children, and perhaps a couple of hours a week of "visitation" with their children, the state has encouraged divorced fathers to abandon true fatherhood. Yet, society looks on with bewilderment and disdain when divorced fathers fade from a meaningful relationship with their children."
You don't say?
Reading and hearing the stories of these fathers, it's clear they haven't turned their backs on their children, even if the relationships appear to fade, and even if their children have rejected them. They don't know what else to do. With the guilt of failure overflowing in their voices, they cry "I've tried EVERYTHING!" As if fighting in the courts isn't physically, emotionally, and financially draining enough, the children they love dearly are turned against them. Children are vulnerable to psychological manipulation at any age but, when you relegate a father to a less than important non-parent (which is the only truthful way to define "non-custodial") and limit his time with his children, obviously children are going to align their loyalties with their mothers. You don't need a psychology degree or "scholarly consensus" to understand this is abusive to children. It's common sense. And once they've been alienated from you, it's not difficult to understand how hard it would be to reverse (especially with limited "visitation"). The damage is done and the repairs are prevented.
These fathers, who were heartbroken enough when their time and responsibilities were removed solely because of their gender, now have to watch - defenselessly - as their children are turned against them. I call that outright torture. Still they persevere, grasping at whatever crumbs their children will toss their way. Sometimes seeing his children turned against him is so unbearable for a father that he runs for safety, if only for a reprieve. One father described the pain as a tank driving across his chest that prevented him from even taking a single breath. In the name of self-preservation, you can't expect anyone to tolerate that forever. He continued: "But if only I could hear my baby scream in glee just one more time as she runs to me with open arms - 'Daaaa-ddddy!'"
Fathers' lives would be easier had you severed their arms instead of the relationships with their children. At least then their children could still hug them, even if fathers couldn't hug back.
Some turned their pain into rage, driving into the political sphere, if only to gain a few more crumbs. However, even as fathers attempted to make very minimal political inroads to spend more time with their children, feminist organizations issued resolutions to oppress fathers' rights groups as their success "will be harmful to all women." Is it bad literary style to repeat the term morally reprehensible and disgusting?
Perhaps the reason fathers suck at politics is because you don't get the sense they're trying to achieve legal history. They don't want anything to do with politics. Politics are unimportant. The relationships with their children are what matters. Their sole purpose of those legal challenges was only to be an equally active and responsible part of their children's lives. But, without political lobbying strength, their pleas and tears remain hidden.
"If you have tears, prepare to shed them now"
After reading the Wikipedia-styled analysis below, you won't find it difficult to understand why marriage rates are the lowest they've ever been in history (and you especially won't be surprised why the steep 60% drop began in 1970). Society's message to fathers, scripted by family law attorneys and feminists, is crystal clear: you're not valued or wanted, so stop your complaining and struggling.
Based on my research, most fathers desperately want to be fathers, but the government and their ex-wives/ex-girlfriends either won't let them or make it damn-near impossible. Asking cui bono, at least one reason - perhaps the key reason - is blindingly obvious: if fathers won their fight, the entire basis of family law would be completely undermined and attorneys would lose billions. (The irony of the Newspeak term "family law," a domain which is almost entirely about the separation and destruction of the family, doesn't even raise an eyebrow with most people.) Of course, there's also this (aka federal "incentive payments" that reward billions to states), which leads to ridiculousness like this and this.
How politics do try to mimic the laws of physics, even though there's nothing scientific about political science.
If it was your children, and judges kicked you out of their lives because they didn't like you, your gender, or your decisions, wouldn't you fight to get them back? I've spoken previously of integrity to values. Fathers fighting to be equal and active participants in their children's lives is demonstrable of that principle. Lawyers drafting arbitrary laws that encourage strife to increase attorneys' fees is not. Is it bad literary style to repeat the term morally reprehensible and disgusting?
To all the fathers who are about to read this analysis, I apologize in advance for the traumatic memories I'm about to stir. I know that love is blind to gender. I haven't any doubt most of you were innocent and your love for your children, and their love for you, were the weapons used against you. I know you cry when no one is looking. Hurting you further is not my intent and, unfortunately, empathy is difficult to truly feel without experience. You and your children have been devastated enough already; but, if the study of the Stolen Generations is any guide, your persecution isn't even close to being over.
I typically try to end my scribblings on a positive note, wanting readers to walk away feeling good. (After all, who wants to share or upvote an article that makes them depressed?) But I'm somewhat at a loss given everything fathers have tried.
It's clear that trying to get a high court to rule these laws morally and legally wrong has about as much chance as a snowball in hell. These are not the Brown v. Board of Education justices who understood discrimination is wrong and actually had courage to do the right thing. The current US Supreme Court is made up of has-beens with corrupt ideologies who are frothing at the mouth to encourage tyranny (e.g., Kelo v. City of New London), sanction discrimination (e.g., Grutter v. Bollinger), and ignore civil rights (e.g., Hedges v. Obama). Today's US Supreme Court is the leading example of artificial justice, and their decisions are as arbitrary as the lower courts (with more flowery language). Give up looking for justice in the kangaroo courts. They haven't been courts of justice for ages.
I haven't any doubt that, someday, history will reflect upon the monstrous discrimination from which fathers and their children suffered, acknowledging how lives and hearts were ripped apart, just as with Australia, or slavery, or segregation, or the suppression of women's rights. But I don't expect that to be of much comfort. It doesn't help make-up for lost time or fix parental alienation. It doesn't help get back your children or help them understand the truth about why their fathers weren't around. It takes an independent thinking kid to get through the sabotage, brainwashing, and crap they are taught (if they are even taught at all). Kids aren't brought up as independent thinkers anymore.
I suspect I'm not doing a very good job being positive or cheering you up.
How about this? Perhaps fathers should once again push for the Uniform Parental Rights Enforcement and Protection Act. It seems like an ideal solution to the problem. Not too comforting either, I suppose, given it's already been tried. Then why suggest it? Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, that's why. tl/dr: The US Supreme Court won't stand in the way of voters who decide to prohibit discrimination and preferential treatment. Michigan voters banned affirmative action in state colleges and universities. Others sued, claiming the ban violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, but they lost. So I suggest this: amass all your resources from all over the world into one, highly focused proposition in one state to get UPREPA passed. Put everything you've got into that single campaign. If it passes, the rest of the states - and the world - will follow.
If that fails, the only comfort left I can offer is the same one you offer your children when they are depressed (assuming you even get to see them): "this, too, shall pass." But I acknowledge such a glib comment is insincere; for I know the circle of life suggests otherwise.
Call it the Law of the Conservation of Politics.
The Stolen Generations (also known as Stolen children) were the children of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent who were removed from their families by the Australian Federal and State government agencies and church missions, under acts of their respective parliaments. The removals occurred in the period between approximately 1909 and 1969, although in some places children were still being taken until the 1970s.
Documentary evidence, such as newspaper articles and reports to parliamentary committees, suggest a range of rationales. Motivations evident include child protection, beliefs that given their catastrophic population decline after white contact that Aboriginal people would die out, and a fear of miscegenation by full-blooded Aboriginal people.
The Stolen Generations (also known as Stolen children) were the children around the world who were removed from their fathers by the Federal and State government agencies, under acts of their respective legislative bodies. Although the practice of removing children from good parents dates back to the early 1800s, the common occurrences of the present-day - the removal of children primarily from fathers - began around 1960 and continues today.
Documentary evidence, such as newspaper articles and reports to legislative committees, suggest a range of rationales. Motivations evident include child protection and feminist beliefs that maternal custody for children is in the child's best interest. The legal profession also cites other "[f]actors contributing to the shift to female favoritism include "the industrial revolution, the women's rights movement, and changes in the field of psychology."
- 1 Emergence of the child removal policy
- 2 The policy in practice
- 3 Social impact on members of the Stolen Generations
- 4 Public awareness and recognition
- 5 Australian federal parliament apology
- 6 Legal status and compensation
- 7 Historical debates over the Stolen Generations
- 8 Films and books
- 9 Notable persons
- 10 Comparisons
Emergence of the child removal policy
One view suggests that the motivation and purpose of the laws providing for the removal of Aboriginal children from their parents was child protection, with government policy makers and officials responding to an observed need to provide protection for neglected, abused or abandoned mixed-descent children. An example of the abandonment of mixed race children in the 1920s is given in a report by Walter Baldwin Spencer that many mixed-descent children born during construction of The Ghan railway were abandoned at early ages with no one to provide for them. This incident and others spurred the need for state action to provide for and protect such children.
Other 19th- and early 20th-century contemporaneous documents indicate that the policy of removing Aboriginal children from their parents related to different beliefs: that given the catastrophic population decline of Aboriginal people after white contact that they would die out, that the full-blood tribal Aboriginal population would be unable to sustain itself, and was doomed to inevitable extinction.
This supposed that the civilisation of northern Europeans was superior to that of Aborigines, based on comparative technological advancement. Some adherents to these beliefs considered any proliferation of mixed-descent children (labelled half-castes, 'crossbreeds', quadroons and octoroons) to be a threat to the nature and stability of the prevailing civilisation, or to a perceived racial or civilisational "heritage". For example, in the 1930s, the Northern Territory Protector of Natives, Dr. Cecil Cook, perceived the continuing rise in numbers of "half-caste" children as a problem. His proposed solution was:
Generally by the fifth and invariably by the sixth generation, all native characteristics of the Australian Aborigine are eradicated. The problem of our half-castes will quickly be eliminated by the complete disappearance of the black race, and the swift submergence of their progeny in the white.
Eliminate in future the full-blood and the white and one common blend will remain. Eliminate the full blood and permit the white admixture and eventually the race will become white.
But the context of the whole article indicates that Mr Neville was referring only to some perceived problem at the time in multiple physical colours of skin in a society. The wider point he was making was that there were members of society that were being let down by the European community and Aboriginal communities and there is no reason why the European community should fear assimilation and were morally bound to provide for the disadvantaged.
Emergence of the child removal policy
One view suggests that the motivation and purpose of the laws providing for the removal of children from their fathers was child protection, with government policy makers and officials responding to a theoretical need to provide protection for children who were not neglected, abused, or abandoned. According to the US government, the basis for intervention that spurred the need for state action to provide for and protect such children is potential "child maltreatment [which] is grounded in the concept of parens patriae - a legal term that asserts the government's role in protecting the interests of children and intervening when parents fail to provide proper care."
The parens patriae doctrine evolved to become a policy for removing children from their fathers related to different beliefs: "that the community, in addition to the parent, has a strong interest in the care and nurturing of children, who represent the future of the community," specious child abuse allegations based solely upon a mother's unproven claims (the majority of which are determined to be unfounded according to Judge Richard Huttner, New York City Family Court), that all children are in danger during divorce without state intervention, and the blanket assertion that the best interests of children must be protected.
This supposed that government judges and mothers were superior to the joint decision-making responsibilities of both mother and father prior to divorce, which contradicts just about all of the scientific research and even the government's own research. Some adherents to these beliefs considered any proliferation of equality in time allocation and decision-making regarding children to be a threat to the nature and stability of children, "harmful to all women," and an indication that the father had a mental disease. For example, Judge Richard Huttner stated in the November 18, 1985 New York Magazine article The Fathers Also Rise:
"You have never seen a bigger pain in the ass than the father who wants to get involved; he can be repulsive. He wants to meet the kid at three o'clock, take the kid out to dinner during the week, have the kid on his own birthday, talk to the kid on the phone every evening, go to every open school night, take the kid away for a whole weekend so they can be alone together. This type of father is pathological."
The legal profession - especially bar associations - has been extremely protective of the parens patriae doctrine, and divorce laws - especially the "best interest" standard - in general, constantly blocking potential changes to laws that would presume equality absent proven criminal abuse or neglect, even as they attempt to sell the public the opposite message - that they do "not oppose joint custody." However, attorneys and law professors acknowledge the whimsical nature of the laws: "[t]he best interests standard necessarily invites the judge to rely on his or her own values and biases to decide the case in whatever way the judge thinks best. Even the most basic factors are left for the judge to figure out." According to activists, the laws foster high attorneys' fees (generating $50 billion a year and growing) because they encourage fighting.
The policy in practice
The earliest introduction of child removal to legislation is recorded in the Victorian Aboriginal Protection Act 1869. The Central Board for the Protection of Aborigines had been advocating such powers since 1860, and the passage of the Act gave the colony of Victoria a wide suite of powers over Aboriginal and 'half-caste' persons, including the forcible removal of children, especially 'at risk' girls. By 1950, similar policies and legislation had been adopted by other states and territories.
The child removal legislation resulted in widespread removal of children from their parents and exercise of sundry guardianship powers by Aboriginal protectors over Aborigines up to the age of 16 or 21. Policemen or other agents of the state (such as 'Aboriginal Protection Officers') were given the power to locate and transfer babies and children of mixed descent from their mothers or families or communities into institutions. In these Australian states and territories, half-caste institutions (both government and missionary) were established in the early decades of the 20th century for the reception of these separated children. Examples of such institutions include Moore River Native Settlement in Western Australia, Doomadgee Aboriginal Mission in Queensland, Ebenezer Mission in Victoria and Wellington Valley Mission in New South Wales.
The exact number of children removed is unknown, and disputed within a large range. The Bringing Them Home Report is often quoted as saying that "at least 100,000" children were removed from their parents, but this figure is arrived at by multiplying the Aboriginal population in 1994 (303,000), by the report's maximum estimate of "one in three". This is not something done in the actual report which stated "between one in three and one in ten" which referred only to children. The real figures are difficult to establish, given differing populations over a long period of time, different policies at different times in different states, and incomplete records. Australian historian Robert Manne suggests "approximately 20,000 to 25,000" were removed between 1910 and 1970, based on the Australian Bureau of Statistics report of 1994. Other writers, such as Keith Windschuttle, have argued for a much lower figure.
The Bringing Them Home Report stated:
Nationally we can conclude with confidence that between one in three and one in ten Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families and communities in the period from approximately 1910 until 1970. In certain regions and in certain periods the figure was undoubtedly much greater than one in ten. In that time not one family has escaped the effects of forcible removal (confirmed by representatives of the Queensland and WA Governments in evidence to the Inquiry). Most families have been affected, in one or more generations, by the forcible removal of one or more children.
The report closely examined the distinctions between "forcible removal", "removal under threat or duress", "official deception", "uninformed voluntary release", and "voluntary release". The evidence indicated that in a large number of cases children were brutally and forcibly removed from their parent or parents, possibly even from the hospital shortly after their birth. Aboriginal Protection Officers often made the judgement on removal. In some cases, families were required to sign legal documents to relinquish care to the state. In Western Australia, the Aborigines Act 1905 removed the legal guardianship of Aboriginal parents and made their children all legal wards of the state, so no parental permission was required.
In 1915, in New South Wales, the Aborigines Protection Amending Act 1915 gave the Aborigines' Protection Board authority to remove Aboriginal children "without having to establish in court that they were neglected"; it was alleged by Professor Peter Read that Board members sometimes wrote simply "For being Aboriginal" as the explanation when recording a removal, however the number of files bearing such a comment appear to be on the order of either one or two with two others bearing only the word "Aboriginal". At the time, some members of Parliament objected to the amendment; one member stated it enabled the board to "steal the child away from its parents", and at least two members argued that the amendment would result in children being subjected to unpaid labour tantamount to "slavery".
In 1911, the Chief Protector of Aborigines in South Australia, William Garnet South, reportedly "lobbied for the power to remove Aboriginal children without a court hearing because the courts sometimes refused to accept that the children were neglected or destitute". South argued that "all children of mixed descent should be treated as neglected". His lobbying reportedly played a part in the enactment of the Aborigines Act 1911; this made him the legal guardian of every Aboriginal child in South Australia, including so-called "half-castes".
The Bringing Them Home report also identified instances of official misrepresentation and deception, such as when caring and able parents were incorrectly described by Aboriginal Protection Officers as not being able to properly provide for their children, or when parents were told by government officials that their children had died, even though this was not the case. One first hand account referring to events in 1935 stated:
I was at the post office with my Mum and Auntie [and cousin]. They put us in the police ute and said they were taking us to Broome. They put the mums in there as well. But when we'd gone [about ten miles (16 km)] they stopped, and threw the mothers out of the car. We jumped on our mothers' backs, crying, trying not to be left behind. But the policemen pulled us off and threw us back in the car. They pushed the mothers away and drove off, while our mothers were chasing the car, running and crying after us. We were screaming in the back of that car. When we got to Broome they put me and my cousin in the Broome lock-up. We were only ten years old. We were in the lock-up for two days waiting for the boat to Perth.
The report discovered that removed children were, in most cases, placed into institutional facilities operated by religious or charitable organisations, although a significant number, particularly females, were "fostered" out. Children taken to such places were frequently punished if caught speaking local indigenous languages, and the intention was specifically to prevent them being socialised in Aboriginal cultures, and raise the boys as agricultural labourers and the girls as domestic servants. Many Europeans at the time worked in similar occupations.
A common aspect of the removals was the failure by these institutions to keep records of the actual parentage of the child, or such details as the date or place of birth. As is stated in the report:
… the physical infrastructure of missions, government institutions and children's homes was often very poor and resources were insufficient to improve them or to keep the children adequately clothed, fed and sheltered.
The report said that among the 502 inquiry witnesses, 17% of female witnesses and 7.7% of male witnesses reported experiencing a sexual assault while in an institution, at work, or with a foster or adoptive family.
The policy in practice
The earliest introduction of child removal legislation discriminatory against fathers varies based on jurisdiction. For example, mothers were granted sole custody of children under age 7 in the United Kingdom in 1839; the language was later replaced in 1873 to increase the age to 16. In the United States, the tender years doctrine persisted for more than 100 years, the legal framework under which "every custody dispute between parents begins with the presumption that maternal custody is best for the child. The father then has the burden of disproving the presumption by meeting the prevailing standard of rebuttal. If he fails, which typically happens, the mother is awarded custody."
In 1965, the Uniform Law Commission, a spin-off of the American Bar Association, drafted marriage and divorce laws to serve as a "model" for states to enact. As a result, the wording of the tender years doctrine was replaced in 1970 with the "best interest" presumption, formalized in the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act (UMDA). Similar policies and legislation have been adopted across all states. Not paradoxically, "[t]he 1970s phase of the women's movement is generally credited with bringing feminist ideals to the forefront of the American culture," and "women sought divorce in record numbers."
The child removal legislation resulted in widespread removal of children from their fathers and partial or total elimination of fathers' guardianship powers. Policemen or other agents of the state were given the power to prevent fathers from visiting with their children or exercising their ability to parent.
The exact number of children removed is unknown and disputed within a large range. In the US, and despite changes to language from the tender years doctrine to the "best interest" standard, according to the US Census, the discriminatory effects of the presumption continues, whereby 84.4% of all custodial parents are mothers, leaving only 1 out of 6 (15.6%) of custodial parents as fathers. The US Census makes clear the proportions are statistically unchanged over the years (e.g., according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) Advance Report of Final Divorce Statistics for 1989 and 1990, which acknowledges the "strong legal presumptions and traditions that favor the mother as the custodial parent," mothers receive custody in 72% of cases, fathers receive custody in 9% of cases, and joint custody is declared in 16% of cases). In fact, an earlier US Census report indicated 37.9% of fathers hadn't any access to or "visitation" rights for their children. When child support was ordered, mothers were "awarded" child support in 89.8% of the cases, while fathers received child support in 10.2% of cases.
The Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act gave the judges authority to remove children from fathers "without having to establish in court that they were neglected." Thousands of judges sometimes wrote simply "It is in this court's judgment that the child's best interests are served by the mother being awarded custody" as the explanation when recording a removal; however, the number of files bearing such a comment appear to be in the tens of millions. Almost always, fathers objected to the UMDA and, specifically, the "best interest" standard, stating it enabled the courts to "steal the child away from its parents."
In the UK, according to The Centre for Social Justice, "lone parent families are increasing by more than 20,000 a year" and top two million.
Many reports by fathers also identified instances of official misrepresentation and deception, such as when caring and able fathers were incorrectly described by mothers, Guardians ad litem, and psychologists as not being able to properly provide for their children, or when fathers were told by government officials, mothers, psychologists, and attorneys that their children didn't want to see them, even though this was not the case.
Other than the US Census statistics, no other formal government inquiry or report has been initiated into the clear-cut discrimination against fathers.
Social impact on members of the Stolen Generations
The social impacts of forced removal have been measured and found to be quite severe. Although the stated aim of the "resocialisation" programme was to improve the integration of Aboriginal people into modern society, a study conducted in Melbourne and cited in the official report found that there was no tangible improvement in the social position of "removed" Aborigines as compared to "non-removed", particularly in the areas of employment and post-secondary education.
Most notably, the study indicated that removed Aboriginal people were actually less likely to have completed a secondary education, three times as likely to have acquired a police record and were twice as likely to use illicit drugs. The only notable advantage "removed" Aboriginal people possessed was a higher average income, which the report noted was most likely due to the increased urbanisation of removed individuals, and hence greater access to welfare payments than for Aboriginal people living in remote communities.
On the other hand, "removed" children were often those deemed "at risk" in the first place. Less doubtful is the negative social & psychological impact of being separated from their families and extended families, an implication now generally recognised, but not well understood by authorities at the time.
By around the age of 18 the children were released from government control and where it was available were sometimes allowed to view their government file. According to the testimony of one Aboriginal person:
I was requested to attend at the Sunshine Welfare Offices, where they formerly (sic) discharged me from State wardship. It took the Senior Welfare Officer a mere 20 minutes to come clean, and tell me everything that my heart had always wanted to know...that I was of 'Aboriginal descent', that I had a Natural mother, father, three brothers and a sister, who were alive...He placed in front of me 368 pages of my file, together with letters, photos and birthday cards. He informed me that my surname would change back to my Mother's maiden name of Angus.
The Bringing Them Home report condemned the policy of disconnecting children from their "cultural heritage". Said one witness to the commission:
I've got everything that could be reasonably expected: a good home environment, education, stuff like that, but that's all material stuff. It's all the non-material stuff that I didn't have — the lineage… You know, you've just come out of nowhere; there you are.
On the other hand, some Aboriginal people do not condemn the government's past actions, as they see that part of their intention was to offer opportunities for education and an eventual job. According to the testimony of one Aboriginal person:
I guess the government didn't mean it as something bad but our mothers weren't treated as people having feelings…Who can imagine what a mother went through? But you have to learn to forgive.
I was put in a mission dormitory when I was eight, nine. I cried for two nights, then I was right with the rest of those kids. We weren't stolen; our family was there. It was a good system. Or a better system than now. At least my generation learnt to read and write properly.
Social impact on members of the Stolen Generations
The social impacts of children growing up without their fathers has been measured and found to be quite severe. Although the stated aim of the "best interest" standard was to care and nurture children, study after study find that children without fathers are suffering terribly and, in many cases, the absence of a biological father contributes to increased risk of child maltreatment. For example:
- According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, "[c]hildren living in female-headed families with no spouse present had a poverty rate of 47.6 percent, over four times the rate of children in married-couple families (10.9 percent)."
- According to Partnership Instability and Child Well-Being, published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, children born to single mothers show higher levels of aggressive behavior than children born to married mothers.
- According to the CDC report Infant Mortality Statistics from the 1998 Period Linked Birth/Infant Death Data Set, infant mortality rates are 1.8 times higher for infants of unmarried mothers than for married mothers.
- According to Father Absence and Youth Incarceration, published in the Journal of Research on Adolescence, even after controlling for income, youths in father-absent households had significantly higher odds of incarceration than those in mother-father families. Youths who never had a father in the household experienced the highest odds.
- According to Differences in Empathy Between Offender and Nonoffender Youth, published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, a study of 109 juvenile offenders indicated that family structure significantly predicts delinquency.
- According to The Childhood Living Arrangements of Children and the Characteristics of Their Marriages, published in the Journal of Family Issues, being raised by a single mother raises the risk of teen pregnancy, marrying with less than a high school degree, and forming a marriage where both partners have less than a high school degree.
- According to CPS Involvement in Families with Social Fathers, published by the Bendheim-Thoman Center for Research on Child Wellbeing, Princeton University and Columbia Population Research Center, Columbia University, in many cases, the absence of a biological father contributes to increased risk of child maltreatment. The results suggest that Child Protective Services (CPS) agencies have some justification in viewing the presence of a social father as increasing children's risk of abuse and neglect. It is believed that in families with a non-biological (social) father figure, there is a higher risk of abuse and neglect to children, despite the social father living in the household or only dating the mother.
- According to The Community Context of Family Structure and Adolescent Drug Use, published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, even after controlling for community context, there is significantly more drug use among children who do not live with their mother and father.
- According to the US Department of Education report Fathers' and Mothers' Involvement in Their Children's Schools by Family Type and Resident Status, father involvement in schools is associated with the higher likelihood of a student getting mostly As. This was true for fathers in biological parent families, for stepfathers, and for fathers heading single-parent families.
Public awareness and recognition
Historian Professor Peter Read, at the time at the Australian National University, was the first to use the phrase 'stolen generation'. It was used by him first as a title for a magazine article which was followed by a book, The Stolen Generations (1981). Widespread awareness of the Stolen Generations, and the practices which created it, only began to enter the public arena in the late 1980s through the efforts of Aboriginal and white activists, artists and musicians (Archie Roach's "Took the Children Away" and Midnight Oil's "The Dead Heart" being examples of the latter). The extensive public interest in the Mabo case had the side effect of throwing the media spotlight on all issues related to Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders in Australia, and most notably the Stolen Generations.
In early 1995 Rob Riley of the Aboriginal Legal Service published Telling Our Story which brought to the public attention the effect of past government policies that saw thousands of Aboriginal children removed from their families and reared in missions, orphanages, reserves and white foster homes.
The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families commenced in May 1995, presided over by Sir Ronald Wilson, the president of the (Australian) Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission, and Mick Dodson, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner at the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC). During the ensuing 17 months, the Inquiry visited every state and Territory in Australia, heard testimony from 535 Aboriginal Australians, and received submissions of evidence from over 600 more. In April 1997 the official Bringing Them Home Report was released.
Between the commissioning of the National Inquiry and the release of the final report in 1997, the conservative government of John Howard had replaced the Keating government. Howard was quoted as saying "Australians of this generation should not be required to accept guilt and blame for past actions and policies."
As a result of the report, formal apologies were tabled and passed in the state parliaments of Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales, and also in the parliament of the Northern Territory. On 26 May 1998 the first "National Sorry Day" was held, and reconciliation events were held nationally, and attended by over a million people. As public pressure continued to increase, Howard drafted a motion of "deep and sincere regret over the removal of Aboriginal children from their parents" which was passed by the federal parliament in August 1999. Howard went on to say that the Stolen Generation represented "...the most blemished chapter in the history of this country."
In July 2000, the issue of the Stolen Generation came before the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva who heavily criticised the Howard government for its manner of attempting to resolve the issues related to the Stolen Generation. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination concluded its discussion of Australia's 12th report by acknowledging "the measures taken to facilitate family reunion and to improve counselling and family support services for the victims", but expressed concern "that the Commonwealth Government does not support a formal national apology and that it considers inappropriate the provision of monetary compensation for those forcibly and unjustifiably separated from their families, on the grounds that such practices were sanctioned by law at the time and were intended to 'assist the people whom they affected'." and recommended "that the State party consider the need to address appropriately the extraordinary harm inflicted by these racially discriminatory practices".
Global media attention turned again to the Stolen Generations issue during the Sydney 2000 Summer Olympics. A large "Aboriginal tent city" was established on the grounds of Sydney University to bring attention to Aboriginal issues in general. The Aboriginal athlete Cathy Freeman (who was chosen to light the Olympic flame and went on to win the gold medal in the 400 metre sprint) disclosed in interviews that her own grandmother was a victim of forced removal. The internationally successful rock group Midnight Oil obtained worldwide media interest when they performed at the Olympic closing ceremony wearing black sweatsuits with the word "SORRY" emblazoned across them.
Prior to the Sydney Olympics a mockumentary called The Games was broadcast on ABC TV. In the episode shown on 3 July 2000 the actor John Howard made a recording "for international release" of an apology to the Stolen Generation, ostensibly on behalf of the Australian people.
In 2000, Phillip Knightley summed up the Stolen Generations in these terms:
This cannot be over-emphasized—the Australian government literally kidnapped these children from their parents as a matter of policy. White welfare officers, often supported by police, would descend on Aboriginal camps, round up all the children, separate the ones with light-coloured skin, bundle them into trucks and take them away. If their parents protested they were held at bay by police.
Public awareness and recognition
The modern fathers' rights movement in the US emerged with the founding of Divorce Racket Busters in California in 1960 to protest California's divorce laws, which they claimed discriminated against men in alimony, child support settlements, and in a presumption of maternal custody. The group expanded into other states, changing its name to Divorce Reform in 1961. With the increase in divorce rates in the 1960s and 1970s, more local grassroots men's organizations grew up devoted to divorce reform, and by the 1980s, there were a total of more than 200 fathers' rights groups active in almost every state. These groups focused their actions on what they viewed as gender discrimination in family law by engaging in political activities such as lobbying state legislatures, filing class action suits, picketing courthouses, and monitoring judges' decisions through "court watches." The 1990s saw the emergence of new and larger organizations such as the National Fatherhood Initiative and the American Coalition of Fathers and Children. Several unsuccessful efforts were made to found a national organization to which local organizations could belong. As a result, the movement remains mainly a loose coalition of local groups.
In the US, many unsuccessful effort were made to change the laws to remove arbitrary, whimsical judicial discretion that is the basis of all "best interest" language. The most active of these efforts was led by Robert Muchnick, director of the (defunct) Center for Children's Justice in 2000. Activists were encouraged to press legislatures to enact the Uniform Parental Rights Enforcement and Protection Act (UPREPA). Additionally, activists were encouraged to petition for judicial impeachments against family law judges.
In the UK, fathers had a bit more success generating public awareness; however, it was short-lived. Founded in 2002, Fathers 4 Justice aimed to gain public and parliamentary support for changes in UK legislation on fathers' rights, mainly using stunts and protests, often conducted in costume. The group was referred to as a "Dads Army" by the BBC, and their primary publicity was generated during its first 3 years of operation. Fathers 4 Justice claimed in their Blueprint for Family Law in the 21st Century that "100 children every day lose all or partial contact with a natural parent" and that, for 40 of those children, the "parent/child relationship will be completely severed" within 2 years. The group's primary goal, shared parenting, was rejected by the government.
Widespread awareness of what government statistics prove to be blatant discrimination against fathers and their relationships with their children, and the practices which created it, continues to be largely hampered.
Many activists summed up the Stolen Generations in these terms:
This cannot be over-emphasized - governments literally kidnapped these children from their good fathers as a matter of policy. Mothers and welfare officers, often supported by police, would descend on family homes, round up all the children, bundle them into cars and take them away, sometimes even out of state or country. Or the fathers were removed from the family home. If their fathers protested, they were held at bay by police.
Australian federal parliament apology
On 11 December 2007, the newly installed Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, announced that an apology would be made to Indigenous Australians, the wording of which would be decided in consultation with Aboriginal leaders. On 27 January 2008, Rudd announced that the apology would be made on or soon after the first day of parliament in Canberra, on 12 February. The date was later set to 13 February, when it was ultimately issued.
Stances on the proposed apology
For more than a decade since the Bringing Them Home report on forced separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children was handed to Liberal prime minister, John Howard, he and his conservative coalition colleagues consistently rejected calls for a formal government apology (though coalition government members stated that they were personally sorry for the outcomes of the policy). The main reasons put forward for the rejection were concerns that a formal apology could be construed as an admission of deliberate wrongdoing, rather than reflect on the claimed original "well intentioned aim of Child Protection". It was also suggested that the government would admit liability in any duty-of-care legal proceedings (by admission that there was deliberate wrongdoing)
The announcement of an apology by the new Labor prime minister led to a split reaction from the Liberal Party whose leader Brendan Nelson initially said that an apology would risk encouraging a "culture of guilt" in Australia. However, other senior Liberals expressed support for an apology, e.g., Malcolm Turnbull, Peter Costello, Bill Heffernan and former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Fraser. Former Liberal minister Judi Moylan said: "I think as a nation we owe an apology. We shouldn't be thinking about it as an individual apology — it's an apology that is coming from the nation state because it was governments that did these things."
Nelson himself later declared he supported the apology. Following a party meeting, the Liberal Party as a whole expressed its support for an apology, which thereby achieved bipartisan consensus. Brendan Nelson stated: "I, on behalf of the Coalition, of the alternative government of Australia, are [sic] providing in-principle support for the offer of an apology to the forcibly removed generations of Aboriginal children."
Lyn Austin, chairwoman of Stolen Generations Victoria, stated her view on why she believed an apology was necessary, recalling her experiences as a stolen child:
I thought I was being taken just for a few days. I can recall seeing my mother standing on the side of the road with her head in her hands, crying, and me in the black FJ Holden wondering why she was so upset. A few hundred words can't fix this all but it's an important start and it's a beginning[...] I see myself as that little girl, crying myself to sleep at night, crying and wishing I could go home to my family. Everything's gone, the loss of your culture, the loss of your family, all these things have a big impact.
The text of the apology did not make reference to compensation to Aboriginal people as a whole or to members of the Stolen Generations specifically.
- Today we honour the Indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history.
- We reflect on their past mistreatment.
- We reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who were Stolen Generations – this blemished chapter in our national history.
- The time has now come for the nation to turn a new page, a new page in Australia's history by righting the wrongs of the past and so moving forward with confidence to the future.
- We apologise for the laws and policies of successive Parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians.
- We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country.
- For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.
- To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry.
- And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.
- We the Parliament of Australia respectfully request that this apology be received in the spirit in which it is offered as part of the healing of the nation.
- For the future we take heart; resolving that this new page in the history of our great continent can now be written.
- We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians.
- A future where this Parliament resolves that the injustices of the past must never, never happen again.
- A future where we harness the determination of all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to close the gap that lies between us in life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity.
- A future where we embrace the possibility of new solutions to enduring problems where old approaches have failed.
- A future based on mutual respect, mutual resolve and mutual responsibility.
- A future where all Australians, whatever their origins, are truly equal partners, with equal opportunities and with an equal stake in shaping the next chapter in the history of this great country, Australia.
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Rudd followed the apology with a 20-minute speech to the house about the need for the apology, which was widely applauded among both Indigenous Australians and the non-indigenous general public.
Opposition leader's parliamentary reply and reaction
The Leader of the Opposition Brendan Nelson then also delivered a 20-minute speech, which while apparently endorsing the apology, appeared to include a significant qualification. In his speech Nelson made reference to the 'under-policing' of child welfare in aboriginal communities, as well as a host of social ills blighting the lives of aborigines.
The Alice Springs Crown Prosecutor Nanette Rogers with great courage revealed to the nation in 2006 the case of a four-year-old girl drowned while being raped by a teenager who had been sniffing petrol. She told us of the two children – one a baby – sexually assaulted by two men while their mothers were off drinking alcohol. Another baby was stabbed by a man trying to kill her mother.
Nelson's speech was considered controversial and received mixed reactions. Thousands of people who had gathered in Canberra and Melbourne turned their backs on the screens displaying Nelson giving his speech, while in Perth people booed and jeered until the screen was eventually switched off. In Parliament House's Great Hall elements of the audience began a slow clap, with some finally turning their backs. There were similar reactions and walk-outs in Sydney and elsewhere.
After the ceremony the House of Representatives unanimously adopted the proposed motion, although six members of Nelson's opposition caucus — Don Randall, Sophie Mirabella, Dennis Jensen, Wilson Tuckey, Luke Simpkins and Alby Schultz — made themselves absent in protest at the apology.
Later that day, a motion for an apology in identical terms was considered by the Senate. The Leader of the Greens, Senator Bob Brown, attempted to amend the motion to have it include words committing parliament to offering compensation to those who suffered loss under past indigenous policies, but was opposed by all the other parties. The original motion was passed unanimously.
Reference in Pecan Summer
The final part of the indigenous opera Pecan Summer by Deborah Cheetham, which premiered in Mooroopna in October 2010, is set at Federation Square, in Melbourne, on the day of Kevin Rudd's apology, and quotes some of his words.
While governments have since apologized for many discriminatory laws, policies, and historical wrongs over the years (e.g., see Canada, Peru, Australia, US, US, US, New Zealand, Germany, South Africa, Japan, Brazil), not one country has yet to acknowledge its discriminatory practices against fathers or issue an apology.
Legal status and compensation
The legal circumstances regarding the Stolen Generations remain unclear. Although some compensation claims are pending, it is not possible for a court to rule on behalf of plaintiffs simply because they were removed, as, at the time, such removals were authorised under Australian law. Australian federal and state governments' statute law and associated regulations provided for the removal from their birth families and communities of mixed-race Aboriginal children, or those who appeared mixed.
The apology is not expected to have any legal impact on claims for compensation.
Legal status and compensation
The legal circumstances regarding the Stolen Generations remain ignored. Although many constitutional challenges and lawsuits were pursued, all were unsuccessful. All cases that reached a country's high court were ignored and dismissed. The government's power to exercise judicial discretion to discriminate against fathers remains unhampered.
Cubillo and Gunner
In the Federal Court of Australia cases of Cubillo and Gunner, their claims failed. The presiding judge, Justice Maurice O'Loughlin, noted in his summary judgment that he was not ruling that there would never be valid cases for compensation with regard to the Stolen Generations, only that in these two specific cases he could not find evidence of illegal conduct by the officials involved. Investigations revealed that Cubillo, aged eight years, was removed from a remote station in 1947 when her father went missing and her mother and grandmother were dead. Gunner, it turned out, had been sent to Alice Springs to get an education with the consent of his mother.
On 1 August 2007, in a decision in the Supreme Court of South Australia by Justice Thomas Gray, Bruce Trevorrow, a member of the Stolen Generation, was awarded $775,000 compensation. The SA government announced that it would pay the compensation awarded to Trevorrow but at the same time, seek to review in the High Court to clarify the court's findings of law and fact.
Trevorrow did not have long to celebrate his victory in the courts. He died in Victoria on 20 June 2008, at the age of 51, less than a year after the court decision.
The West Australian newspaper reported Trevorrow's story as follows:
Mr. Trevorrow was separated from his mother in December 1957 after he was admitted to Adelaide's Children's Hospital with gastroenteritis. More than six months later, his mother wrote to the state's Aboriginal Protection Board, which had fostered him out, asking when she could have her son back. "I am writing to ask if you would let me know how Bruce is and how long before I can have him back home," she wrote in July 1958. "I have not forgot I got a baby in there". The Court was told the board lied to her, writing her son was "making good progress" and that the doctors still needed him for treatment.
(See Bringing them Home, Appendix 6 for a listing and interpretation of South Australian acts regarding 'Aborigines' and Bringing them home education module regarding relevant South Australian law and policy.)
In the US, both state and federal cases were pursued on various grounds, primarily around civil rights violations, up to the US Supreme Court. All except Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow, which was only indirectly about parental rights, were denied certiorari. (In Newdow's case, the US Supreme Court held the father, as a noncustodial parent, did not have standing to bring the suit on his daughter's behalf.) Example constitutional challenges included Galluzzo v. Court of Common Pleas of Ohio, Champaign County, Muchnick v. State of Colorado (not filed with US Supreme Court; see also Litigation), Stillman v. State of Colorado (see also Stillman v. Colorado Litigation), Eichinger v. Eichinger, Lovett v Lovett, and federal class action suits in almost all US states (see also Raising out-of-the-box equal protection and related arguments in child custody cases - 41 class actions have been filed). As a starting point, multiple legal challenges used a template abundant in constitutional precedent called Grassfire written by Robert Muchnick. The federal class action lawsuits used their own templates, such as the main complaint.
According to The Constitutional Rights of Non-Custodial Parents, published in the Hofstra Law Review:
...the broad view that emerges from this litigation, in varied contexts, is that parents are not constitutionally entitled to a co-equal role in raising their children following separation or divorce. The state, in this view, retains considerable discretion to allocate parental authority and access following dissolution, including giving one parent a superior and dominant child-rearing role, without having to prove extraordinary or compelling grounds.
...a survey of court decisions across a range of topics shows considerable reluctance to recognize constitutional rights on the part of non-custodial parents. In part, the poor success rate may reflect, as Nancy Dowd has suggested, entrenched stereotypes that denigrate and discount the parenting interests of fathers.
Ironically, the only case that made limited headway for fathers was a mother's constitutional challenge to Georgia's child support laws. Georgia issued a sweeping decision in the case of Georgia Department of Human Resources ex rel. Reddick v. Sweat, declaring the Georgia child support guidelines void and unconstitutional as a violation of due process, equal protection, the right of privacy (the right of parents to raise their children as they see fit), and a violation of the Georgia constitution which prohibits the taking of property. Some of the arguments were similar to, or exactly as, the unacknowledged arguments fathers were making. The Georgia Supreme Court reversed the lower court's decision, writing the trial court employed "incorrect constitutional standards" and "unsound constitutional analyses" (see also The Constitutionality of Child Support Guidelines Redux). The US Supreme Court denied certiorari.
Nomenclature and debates over the use of "stolen"
Terms such as "stolen" were used in the context of taking children from their families – the Hon P. McGarry, a member of the Parliament of New South Wales, objected to the Aborigines Protection Amending Act 1915 which then enabled the Aborigines' Protection Board to remove Aboriginal children from their parents without having to establish that they were in any way neglected or mistreated; McGarry described the policy as "steal[ing] the child away from its parents".
In 1924, in the Adelaide Sun an article stated "The word 'stole' may sound a bit far-fetched but by the time we have told the story of the heart-broken Aboriginal mother we are sure the word will not be considered out of place."
Indigenous Australians in most jurisdictions were "protected", effectively being wards of the State. The protection was done through each jurisdiction's Aboriginal Protection Board; in Victoria and Western Australia these boards were also responsible for applying what were known as Half-Caste Acts.
More recent usage was Peter Read's 1981 publication of The Stolen Generations: The Removal of Aboriginal Children in New South Wales 1883 to 1969. The 1997 publication of Bringing Them Home – Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families brought broader awareness of the Stolen Generations. The acceptance of the term in Australia is illustrated by 13 February 2008 formal apology to the Stolen Generations, led by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, and passed by both houses of the Parliament of Australia. Previous apologies had been offered by State and Territory governments in the period 1997–2001.
There remains opposition to acceptance of the validity of the term "Stolen Generations". This was illustrated by the former Prime Minister John Howard refusing to apologise and the then Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, John Herron controversially disputing the usage in April 2000. Others who dispute the validity of the term include: Peter Howson, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in 1971–72 and Keith Windschuttle. Others argue against these critics, responding to Windschuttle in particular.
Despite the lengthy and detailed findings set out in the Bringing Them Home report, the nature and extent of the removals documented in the report have been debated and disputed within Australia, with some commentators questioning the findings and asserting that the Stolen Generations has been exaggerated. Sir Ronald Wilson, former President of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission and a Commissioner on the Inquiry, has stated that none of the more than 500 witnesses who appeared before the Inquiry were cross-examined. This failure to cross-examine has been the basis of criticism by the anthropologist Ron Brunton as well as by the centre-right Liberal Party Federal Government, which was in power at the time that the report, commissioned by the previous Labor Party Government, was delivered.
An Australian Federal Government submission has questioned the conduct of the Commission which produced the report, arguing that the Commission failed to critically appraise or test the claims on which it based the report and fails to distinguish between those separated from their families "with and without consent, and with and without good reason". Not only has the number of children removed from their parents been questioned (critics often quote the ten percent estimate, which they say does not constitute a 'generation'), but also the intent and effects of the government policy.
Keith Windschuttle argued in his 2009 book, The Fabrication of Aboriginal History, Volume Three: The Stolen Generations 1881-2008, that "not only is the charge of genocide unwarranted, but so is the term 'Stolen Generations'. Aboriginal Children were never removed from their families in order to put an end to Aboriginality or, indeed, to serve any improper government policy or program. The small numbers of Aboriginal child removals in the twentieth century were almost all based on traditional grounds of child welfare."
In April 2000, controversy stirred when the then Aboriginal Affairs Minister in the conservative Howard Government, John Herron, tabled a report in the Australian Parliament that questioned whether or not there had been "Stolen Generations", on the semantic distinction that as "only 10% of Aboriginal children" had been removed, they did not constitute an entire "generation". The report received media attention and there were protests. Dr Herron apologised for the "understandable offence taken by some people" as a result of his comments, although he refused to alter the report as it had been tabled.
The term "generation" was first used by historian Peter Reed. Robert Manne has stated that when people refer to the "generation that lost their lives in the First World War", we don't mean 50 per cent or 90 per cent of young people, but use it as a metaphor for a collective experience. Similarly, the Aboriginal community use the term to describe their collective suffering.
Nomenclature and debates over the use of "stolen"
Terms such as "stolen" and "fathers' rights" were used in the context of taking children from their fathers. Distraught fathers objected to all "best interest" laws which enabled the government and agencies to remove children from their fathers without having to establish that the children were in any way neglected or mistreated. Many fathers described the policy as "steal[ing] the child away from its parents."
Feminists disagree, arguing the fathers' rights movement is "hostile to mothers" and a "legal standard of equal-access parenting would be bad news for mothers and children." They claim fathers arguing for equal custody and rights are using "twisted logic" and "ulterior motives." Ignoring government statistics and without providing evidence, feminists assert it is "more difficult to determine exactly how mothers and fathers are making out in family court, since the disposition of child custody laws varies from state to state and records are usually sealed." Surprisingly, while admitting there "are a number of family court judges who do believe that mothers are inherently better parents than fathers, made clear by the thousands of court cases where the outcome clearly favors the female parent for little reason other than her gender," feminists claim it's a great time to be a dad and that fatherly "gains are largely to the credit of the feminist movement." [Ed. - You can't make this stuff up.]
Overall, feminists claim the pursuit of equality laws for fathers regarding their children is a "serious threat to women's rights." The feminist organization NOW recommended "Abolish the tendency to assume joint custody is always in the best interests of the child. This is a false presumption with no support in reality... Sole custody [should] default to the primary caregiver at separation."
Some commentators such as Sir Ronald Wilson have alleged that the Stolen Generations was nothing less than a case of attempted genocide, because it was widely believed at the time that the policy would cause Aborigines to die out. In its 12th report to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination the Australian Government denied that this was a breach of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
Robert Manne argues that the expressed views of government bureaucrats, such as A.O. Neville, to merge the Aboriginal race into the white population by means of "breeding out the colour", and therefore eventually resulting in the former being "forgotten", bore strong similarities to the views of the Nazis in 1930s Nazi Germany. Manne points out that, though the term 'genocide' had not yet entered the English language, the policies of Neville and others were termed by some contemporaries as the 'die out' or 'breed out' policy, giving an indication of their proposed intent. Nevertheless, he also states that it is now "generally acknowledged" by academics that the authors of the Bringing Them Home report were wrong to argue that Australian authorities had committed genocide by removing indigenous children from their families, because assimilation has never been regarded in law as equivalent to genocide.
Conservative Australian historian Keith Windschuttle contends that no genocide has ever taken place in Australia. He concedes there were "obnoxious" attempts to "breed out" Aboriginality in Western Australia and the Northern Territory but says those policies concentrated on intermarriage, not child removal, and were undercut by the ineptitude of the bureaucrats involved.
Paul Bartrop, co-author of The Dictionary of Genocide with US scholar Samuel Totten, rejects the use of the word genocide to describe Australian colonial history in general, but says the use of the term can be "sustained relatively easily" when describing the Stolen Generations. Dr Bartrop, who wrote the entry in the dictionary entitled "Australia, Genocide in:", said he used the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, as cited by Ronald Wilson in his 1997 Bringing Them Home report, as the benchmark for the use of the term genocide.
Historian Inga Clendinnen suggests that the term genocide rests on the question of intentionality. "There's not much doubt, with great murderous performances that were typically called genocide, that they were deliberate and intentional," she argues. "Beyond that, it always gets very murky."
Some commentators have alleged that the Stolen Generations was nothing less than a case of attempted genocide, because some believe that discriminating against fathers would cause all fathers to commit suicide and die out.
According to National Posts's Barbara Kay, "[m]en are six times as likely as women to commit suicide within the first two years after a separation: That they kill themselves from despair rather than their ex-wives for revenge is, ironically, a tragically eloquent rebuttal to the feminist credo that men are inherently dangerous to women." CNN's Jack Cafferty disagrees with that statistic, referencing "one sociologist who studies family structure and suicide rates says divorced men are almost 40 percent more likely to commit suicide."
Although there have been many fathers who committed or attempted suicide as a result of losing their children (e.g., Israel, US - North Carolina, US - New York, Canada, US - Illinois, US - California, US - Indiana, US - Pennsylvania, US - New Jersey, Canada, US - California, US - Kentucky, US - Florida, US - Tennessee, US - Nebraska, US - California, 50+ more fathers from all over the world), the allegations of genocide remain disputed.
Films and books
Lousy Little Sixpence
This 1983 documentary was the first film to deal with the Stolen Generations. Directed and produced by Alec Morgan, it won several international and Australian awards. Despite this, it took two years for the government-run Australian Broadcasting Corporation to be convinced to broadcast it. It is now standard fare in educational institutions, and has been highly influential, including on the Australian Prime Minister's apology to the Stolen Generations, more than a quarter of a century after the film's release.
The 2002 Australian film Rabbit-Proof Fence, directed by Phillip Noyce was based on the book Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington Garimara. It concerns the author's mother and two other mixed-race Aboriginal girls who ran away from Moore River Native Settlement, north of Perth, to return to their Aboriginal families, by following a rabbit-proof fence. In a subsequent interview with the ABC, Doris recalled her removal from her mother at age three or four, arriving at the settlement in 1931. She was not reunited with her mother until she was 25 and, until that time, she believed that her mother had given her away. When they were reunited, Doris was unable to speak her native language and had been taught to regard Indigenous culture as evil.
The principal persona of Melanie Hogan's film Kanyini, Bob Randall, is an elder of the Yankunytjatjara people and one of the listed traditional owners of Uluru. He was taken away from his mother as a child. He remained at the government reservation until he was 20, working at various jobs, including as a carpenter, stockman and crocodile hunter. He helped establish the Adelaide Community College and lectured on Aboriginal cultures. He served as the director of the Northern Australia Legal Aid Service and established Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander centres at the Australian National University, University of Canberra and University of Wollongong. He was named 'Indigenous Person of the Year' in 1999 and inducted into the Northern Territory musical hall of fame for songs such as "Brown Skin Baby," "Red Sun" and "Black Moon" (about the Coniston massacre). He is also the author of two books: his autobiography Songman and a children's book, Tracker Tjginji.
Bryce Courtenay's novel Jessica tells in the history a case brought in a New South Wales court against the Aboriginal Protection Board challenging the Aboriginal Protection Act of 1909 in order to return two children from Cootamundra Domestic Training Home for Aboriginal Girls to the Aboriginal mother.
Aboriginal artist and author Sally Morgan has written several novels documenting the lives of herself and her family members, featuring intimate portrayals of the impact of forced removal on individuals, their families and communities, although Sally herself was not a stolen child. Her first, My Place, involves her quest to uncover her Aboriginal heritage which had previously been denied by her family, who insisted "as a survival mechanism" that they were of Indian extraction.
- My Place (Fremantle: Fremantle Arts Centre Press. first published 1987) ISBN 1-86368-278-3.
- Sally's story (Fremantle: Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 1990.) edited by Barbara Ker Wilson ('My Place' for young readers, part 1. For children.) ISBN 0-949206-78-4.
- Arthur Corunna's story (Narkaling Productions, 1995) edited by Barbara Ker Wilson ('My Place' for young readers, part 2. For children.) ISBN 0-949206-77-6.
- Mother and daughter: The story of Daisy and Glady's Corunna (Narkaling Productions, 1994) Edited by Barbara Ker Wilson ('My Place' for young readers, part 3. For children.) ISBN 0-949206-79-2.
- Wanamurraganya, the story of Jack McPhee (Narkaling Productions, 1990) ISBN 0-949206-99-7.
Stolen by Jane Harrison
Stolen is a play by Australian playwright Jane Harrison. It tells the story of five indigenous people who dealt with the issues for forceful removal by the Australian government.
Stolen tells the story of five fictional Aboriginal children by the names of Sandy, Ruby, Jimmy, Anne, and Shirley.
- Sandy has spent his entire life on the run, never having a set home to live in. Stolen tracks his quest for a place to be, a place where he doesn't have keep hiding from the government (even though they are no longer after him), and a place he can call home.
- Ruby was forced to work as a domestic from a young age and was sent insane by the constant pressure forced upon her by her white masters. She spends a lot of her time mumbling to herself, whilst her family desperately try to help her.
- Jimmy was separated from his mother at a very young age, and she spent her entire life looking for him. He spent a lot of time in prison and, on the day he finally got out, he was told about his mother's search. As he went to meet her, she died, and he committed suicide in anger.
- Anne was removed from her family and placed in a Caucasian family's home. She was materially happy in this home, a lot happier than many of the other characters, but when her indigenous family tried to meet her, she was caught in crossfire between her two "families".
- Shirley was removed from her parents and had her children removed from her. She only felt relief, safety, and comfort when her granddaughter was born and not removed.
Benang by Kim Scott
Benang is Indigenous Australian Kim Scott's second novel. Benang in about forced assimilation and finding how one can return to their own culture. The novel presents how difficult it is to form a working history of a population who had been historically uprooted from their past.
- Benang follows Harley, a young man who has gone through the process of "breeding out the colour", as he pieces together his family history through documentation, such as photograph and his grandfather's notes, as well as memories and experiences.
- Harley and his family have undergone a process of colonial scientific experimentation called "breeding of the colour" which separated individuals from their indigenous families and origins.
Films and books
Evelyn is a 2002 drama film, loosely based on the true story of Desmond Doyle and his fight in the Irish courts (December, 1955) to be reunited with his children. The film stars Sophie Vavasseur in the title role, Pierce Brosnan as her father and Aidan Quinn, Julianna Margulies, and Stephen Rea as supporters to Doyle's case. The film had a limited release in the United States, starting on December 13, 2002 and was later followed by the United Kingdom release on March 21, 2003.
Kramer vs. Kramer
Kramer vs. Kramer is a 1979 American drama film adapted by Robert Benton from the novel by Avery Corman, and directed by Benton. The film tells the story of a married couple's divorce and its impact on everyone involved, including the couple's young son. It received five Academy Awards in 1980 in the categories of Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actress.
In the movie, Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman are living in Manhattan and have a young son. One day, Streep heads out of town with no forwarding address. Hoffman raises his son for a few years, gives up his job, and totally reorganizes life to be a single parent. Streep then comes back and says "I'm home and I want our son." They litigate and she gains custody because she is the mother.
Mrs. Doubtfire is a 1993 American comedy film starring Robin Williams (who also served as co-producer) and Sally Field and based on the novel Alias Madame Doubtfire by Anne Fine. It was directed by Chris Columbus and distributed by 20th Century Fox. It won the Academy Award for Best Makeup. The film was placed 67th in the American Film Institute's 100 Years, 100 Laughs: America's Funniest Movies, a list of the 100 funniest movies of the 20th century, and was also rated No. 40 on Bravo's 100 Funniest Movies of All Time. The original music score was composed by Howard Shore.
In the movie, Daniel Hilard goes trough a divorce with his wife. She does better than him; therefore, the judge gives him the usual custody arrangements family courts grant fathers: custodial visits every other weekend. Hilard cannot stand to see his kids that rarely. As his wife seeks a nanny, Hilard takes care of the competition (by falsifying the phone number posted in his wife's ad) and applies for the job as "Mrs Doubtfire," a strongly principled woman with supposedly tons of experience as a nanny in England. At their next custody hearing, despite Daniel demonstrating he has a job and a suitable home, and his personal explanation for his disguised behavior, the judge is disturbed by his recent "unorthodox" behavior and considers him to have an insanity issue. For that reason, the judge grants Miranda full custody of the children, with Daniel limited to supervised visitation once a week. The ruling leaves Daniel heartbroken.
Both a book and a movie, 2014 Divorce Corp. takes aim at the premise that "[m]ore money flows through the family courts, and into the hands of courthouse insiders, than in all other court systems in America combined - over $50 billion a year and growing. Through extensive research and interviews with the nation's top divorce lawyers, mediators, judges, politicians, litigants and journalists, DIVORCE CORP. uncovers how children are torn from their homes, unlicensed custody evaluators extort money, and abusive judges play god with people's lives while enriching their friends. This explosive documentary reveals the family courts as unregulated, extra-constitutional fiefdoms. Rather than assist victims of domestic crimes, these courts often precipitate them. And rather than help parents and children move on, as they are mandated to do, these courts - and their associates - drag out cases for years, sometimes decades, ultimately resulting in a rash of social ills, including home foreclosure, bankruptcy, suicide and violence. Solutions to the crisis are sought out in countries where divorce is handled in a more holistic manner."
A Father's Rights
According to writer William Fain, A Father's Rights is based upon a real life story. It depicts the situation of an unwed father and his child's struggle with the legal system predominant in American society today. It is meant to expose the system that treats children differently across the world and to help gain equal rights for children, even if the child is born out of wedlock.
Romeo Misses A Payment
Directed by father Angelo Lobo, 2013 Romeo Misses A Payment exposes the wide-ranging devastation of the American divorce industry, including the complicated world of divorce and child custody through dozens of interviews with parents, attorneys, judges, and law officers on all sides of the issue. The movie showcases the inequities involving child custody among low-income groups and how the system perpetuates a "one parent household" to the very children that need support the most.
Zchut Avot (Father's Rights)
The 2011 Israeli documentary Zchut Avot prompted Knesset debates about the rights of men to be together with their children. The movie follows four fathers from different sectors of Israeli society - one of Russian background, one of Yemenite background, one a secular Israeli, and one who attended a yeshiva.
- Debra Hocking, co-chair, Stolen Generations Alliance.
- Ken Colbung, political activist and leader.
- Katherine Mary Clutterbuck (Sister Kate).
- Belinda Dann, born as Quinlyn Warrakoo, forced name change to Belinda Boyd. Deceased at 107 years of age making her the longest lived member of the stolen generation.
- Polly Farmer, Australian rules footballer.
- Sue Gordon, retired Perth Children's Court magistrate.
- Helen Moran, co-chair of National Sorry Day Committee.
- A. O. Neville, W.A Protector Of Aborigines from 1915–45 and advocate of the removal of children.
- May O'Brien, W.A. educator and author.
- Doris Pilkington Garimara, author of Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence.
- Bob Randall, Indigenous Australian of the Year.
- Rob Riley (deceased), CEO of the Aboriginal Legal Service 1990–1995, author of Telling Our Story which instigated the National Inquiry into Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families.
- Archie Roach, musician.
- The late Ruby Hunter, musician.
- Cedric Wyatt, Chief Executive Officer of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in WA.
- Bill Simon Author of "Back on the Block"; Redfern worker
- Deborah Cheetham Aboriginal soprano, actor, composer and playwright
- Matt O'Connor - Matt O'Connor is a political activist, designer, author, and entrepreneur. He is the founder and leader of Fathers 4 Justice.
- Robert Muchnick - Robert Muchnick was the director of the Center for Children's Justice, a political advocacy organization encouraging constitutional challenges against US state divorce laws using a template called Grassfire.
- Barb Johnson - Barb Johnson, a litigator and member of the fathers' rights movement, unsuccessfully ran for governor of Massachusetts in 2002 on a platform of court reform, the need for judicial accountability - particularly in the family law courts - and the abolition of judicial and quasi-judicial immunity. She was later disbarred for what she described as political reasons and for educating fathers about the improper assessment of guardian ad litem fees by Massachusetts family court judges. She attempted to create judicial accountability and abolish judicial immunity through her lawsuit against the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers for acts of defamation and intentional interference with prospective advantageous business relationships associated with her disbarment. In 2009, she published a whistleblowing book - Behind the Black Robes: Failed Justice - containing anecdotes showing some of the courts' tricks and traps for the unwary parties fighting to find justice.
- John Murtari - John Murtari was arrested frequently for caulking "I love Dom. Senator Clinton Please Help Us" and similar messages on the sidewalk of the Hanley Federal Building in Syracuse, NY. Murtari tried unsuccessfully for years to meet with Senator Hillary Clinton, who maintained offices in the building. He previously held a 6-month long hunger strike in jail.
- Warren Farrell - Warren Farrell is an American educator, activist, and author of seven books on men's and women's issues. He came to prominence in the 1970s as a leading male thinker championing the cause of second wave feminism and served on the New York City Board of the National Organization for Women. However, when NOW took policy positions that Farrell regarded as anti-male and anti-father, he continued supporting the expansion of women's options while adding what he felt was missing about boys, men, and fathers.
- Stephen Baskerville - Stephen Baskerville is an American scholar of political science and is described by Paul Craig Roberts as a leading authority on divorce, child custody, and the family court system.
- Glenn Sacks - Glenn Sacks is an American men's and fathers' issues columnist and media spokesperson.
- Richard Gardner - Richard Gardner was an American psychiatrist known for proposing the hypothesis of parental alienation syndrome (PAS) in 1985.
- Bob Geldof - Bob Geldof is an Irish singer-songwriter, author, occasional actor, and political activist. A single father, Geldof has also been outspoken for the fathers' rights movement.
- Phyllis Schlafly - Phyllis Schlafly is an American constitutional lawyer, conservative activist, author, and founder of the Eagle Forum. She is known for her staunch social and political conservatism, her opposition to modern feminism, and for her campaign against the proposed Equal Rights Amendment.
- Christina Hoff Sommers - Christina Hoff Sommers is an American author and former philosophy professor who is known for her critique of late 20th century feminism and her writings about feminism in contemporary American culture. Her most widely discussed books are Who Stole Feminism? How Women Have Betrayed Women and The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men. Although her critics refer to her as anti-feminist, Sommers thinks of herself as an equity feminist who faults contemporary feminism for "its irrational hostility to men, its recklessness with facts and statistics, and its inability to take seriously the possibility that the sexes are equal - but different."
- Wendy McElroy - Wendy McElroy is a Canadian individualist anarchist and individualist feminist. She was a co-founder along with Carl Watner and George H. Smith of The Voluntaryist magazine in 1982 and writes often about fathers' rights.
- Barbara Kay - Barbara Kay is a columnist with the National Post and writes often about fathers' rights.
The White Stolen Generations
The white stolen generations are so-called to distinguish them from the indigenous stolen generations. It is estimated that around 450,000 Australian born non-Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families from the 1930s to 1982. This number includes 250,000 babies born to unmarried mothers that were forcibly removed. The mothers were often drugged, tied to beds or told their babies had died. Many hospitals engaged in what is now known as institutionalised baby farming, whereby those children deemed "inferior" were taken and adopted into the middle class.
Organisations such as the Apology Alliance and Adoption Loss Adult Support have actively campaigned for a parliamentary apology similar to that given for the [Aboriginal] Stolen Generations. In 2001, then treasurer of NSW Michael Egan made a statement of public acknowledgment in the NSW Parliament. In October 2010, West Australian Premier, Colin Barnett delivered a parliamentary apology on behalf of state institutions involved in the aggressive adoption practices. Prime minister Julia Gillard made a personal public apology.
The Stolen Generations (also known as Stolen children) were the children of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent who were removed from their families by the Australian Federal and State government agencies and church missions, under acts of their respective parliaments.