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Australia's Stolen Generation

Grade 7 | Informative | Source-Based

Source Lexile®: 1190L-1220L

Learning Standards





Prompt: Investigate information surrounding the Stolen Generations in Australia. First, read two secondary sources (“The Stolen Generations” and “Australia Apologizes to Aborigines”). Then, watch a primary source interview titled “Telling Our Stories: Our Stolen Generations (Lorraine Peeters).” After reviewing these sources, write an essay in which you explain why National Sorry Day is important to Australians. Include evidence from each source to support your ideas.





Source 1

The Stolen Generations (Secondary Source)



What are the Stolen Generations? 


  1. From 1910-1970, many Aboriginal children were forcibly removed from their families as a result of various government policies. The generations of children removed under these policies became known as the Stolen Generations. The policies of child removal left a legacy of trauma and loss that continues to affect Indigenous communities, families, and individuals.  
  2. The forcible removal of Aboriginal children from their families was part of the policy of assimilation. Assimilation was based on the assumption of black inferiority and white superiority. Under this policy it was proposed that some Indigenous people should be assimilated into the white community.



A New Culture 


  1. Children taken from their parents were taught to reject their Indigenous heritage, and forced to adopt white culture. Their names were often changed, and they were forbidden to speak their traditional languages. Some children were adopted by white families, and many were placed in institutions where abuse and neglect were common. 
  2. Assimilation policies focused on children, who were considered more adaptable to white society than Indigenous adults. “Half-caste” children (a term now considered derogatory for people of Aboriginal and white parentage), were particularly vulnerable to removal, because authorities thought these children could be assimilated more easily into the white community due to their lighter skin color. 


  1. Impact of forcible removal on Indigenous children: 
  • Many of the Stolen Generations were abused while living in state care or with their adoptive families. 
  • Efforts to make these children reject their culture often caused them to feel ashamed of their Indigenous heritage. 
  • Many children were wrongly told that their parents had died or abandoned them, and many never knew where they had been taken from or who their biological families were. 
  • Living conditions in the institutions were highly controlled, and children were frequently punished harshly, were cold and hungry, and received minimal, if any, affection. 
  • The children generally received a very low level of education, as they were expected to work as manual laborers and domestic servants.  
  • Medical experts have noted a high incidence of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and suicide among the Stolen Generations. 


  1. Impact on Indigenous families: 
  • The loss of having their children taken away was devastating to many parents, who never recovered from their grief. 

  • The removal of several generations of children severely disrupted Indigenous oral culture, and consequently much cultural knowledge was lost. 

  • Many of the Stolen Generations never experienced living in a healthy family situation, and never learned parenting skills. In some instances, this has resulted in generations of children raised in state care. 





  • Indigenous: native (The Aborigines are the indigenous people of Australia.)  

  • assimilation: the process of adapting or adjusting to the culture of a group or nation

  • derogatory:  tending to lessen the merit or reputation of a person or thing





Source 2

Australia Apologizes to Aborigines (Secondary Source)

By Jacqueline Head and Hugh Riminton, CNN, February 12, 2008


  1. The Australian government apologized Wednesday for years of "mistreatment" that inflicted "profound grief, suffering, and loss" on the country's Aboriginal people. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd read the apology to Aborigines and the "Stolen Generations" of children who were taken from their families. "To the mothers and fathers, to the brothers and sisters, we say sorry. And for the indignity and degradation on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry."
  2. For 60 years, until 1970, the Australian government took mixed-race Aboriginal children from their families and put them in dormitories or industrial schools, claiming it was protecting them. As a result of the policy, "stolen" children lost contact with their families and heritage, received poor education, lived in harsh conditions, and often endured abuse.  "There is nothing I can say today that will take away the pain... Words are not that powerful," Rudd said in the Australian Parliament.
  3. Rudd said that the apology was the start of a new approach towards Aborigines which included helping them find their lost families, closing pay gaps, and a 17-year difference in life expectancy between Aborigines and white Australians.  He said new policies would be introduced to provide better healthcare and education to Aborigines. "The mood of the nation is for reconciliation now," Rudd said. 
  4. Former Prime Minister John Howard refused to offer an apology, saying the current generation should not be held accountable for past misdeeds. He instead issued a statement of regret. "The apology... is... very much just the first step," said a spokeswoman for Jenny Macklin, the minister for Families, Housing, Community Services, and Indigenous Affairs. "We have serious inequalities between indigenous and nonindigenous Australians. The apology is symbolic, but there's a lot of hard work to be done to reverse those inequalities."
  5. Aboriginal people have been waiting decades for an apology, and the Australian public appear to welcome the government's move, according to CNN's Jacqueline Head in Sydney. Head said many Australians believe saying sorry is long overdue, but some doubts remain over what it will achieve in the long term -- whether it will help open doors for Aboriginal people seeking rights and financial compensation or whether it will fail to secure indigenous people a better future.
  6. Some white Australians don't believe the apology will bring about reconciliation. "I think Australians will be sorry for many generations for offering this apology now," said Piers Akerman, a conservative commentator. He said Aboriginal financial compensation claims will now gain new vigor.
  7. To symbolize what the government hopes will be a fresh approach to the future, a group of indigenous Australians performed a traditional welcome ceremony Tuesday of dancing and singing to mark the start of parliament's new session. As the traditional owners of the land which parliament sits on, the performers "welcomed" the lawmakers onto it. "For thousands of years, our peoples have observed this protocol," said Matilda House, an Aboriginal elder at the ceremony. "It is a good and honest and decent and very human act to reach out to make sure everyone has a place and is welcome."





Source 3

Telling Our Stories--Our Stolen Generations (Lorraine Peeters) (Primary Source) 










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