ARCHIVE – A woman and child are playing in Ramingining, Northern Territory, Australia on 07/24/2017 while construction begins on their home. The construction is part of a 10-year plan by the Australian government to counteract overpopulation in Aboriginal communities. Photo Lucy Hughes Jones / AAP / dpa +++ (c) dpa – Bildfunk +++ Photo: Lucy Hughes Jones / AAP / dpa
The deeply sad song is something like the hymn of the Stolen Generations – those “stolen generations” of indigenous people who were snatched from their families between 1910 and 1970.
Aim: In homes and missions, the children should be “re-educated”, forgetting their origins and language and adopting the culture of European immigrants. Those affected suffer to this day because they feel at home neither with their people nor in the world of whites.
For decades, Aboriginal associations have been demanding financial compensation for human rights violations. Now they have won an important victory: the Canberra government has announced that it will initiate such reparation. Many no longer believed in it. “I cried and laughed at the same time, my granddaughter tried to calm me down,” the Australian broadcaster ABC quoted 78-year-old Eileen Cummings.
At the same time, she is sad that many of those who suffer can no longer experience this. “The Stolen Generations in the Northern Territory fought a long time for the day,” said Cummings. At the age of four, she was taken from her parents from the Arnhem Land settlement area and taken to Croker Island, where there was a Methodist mission at the time.
Many did not see their families until many years later, or never again. It is estimated that 10 to 30 percent of all indigenous children were affected. Preferably, they were children of Aborigines and Europeans who were literally torn from their parents’ arms and forcibly taken to other – often distant – parts of the country.
The sensitive topic was dealt with again and again in music and film, but the demands of the indigenous people went unheard for a long time. In 2002, for example, the Australian director Phillip Noyce gave an impressive account of the horror: The drama “Long Walk Home” tells the story of three Aboriginal children who, after being kidnapped by the authorities, walk 2000 kilometers back through the outback to their families . While reading the script, tears came to him, Noyce said. Now many Aborigines are crying – with relief: “Tears of joy and pain”, “ABC” described the reactions.
The government plans to spend 378.6 million Australian dollars (236 million euros) on the compensation from 2022. Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke of a “longstanding problem of national concern” that is now being addressed.
Spokesmen for the indigenous peoples welcomed the move as an important step. “Many of the Stolen Generations felt that they could never win the battle, that the government would wait until they all died before doing anything,” said Maisie Austin, head of the Stolen Generations Aboriginal Corporation. She spoke of a “very emotional, very exciting” moment.
Survivors are also given the opportunity to tell their story to a government official, have it recognized, and receive a personal or written apology. This could be an important step towards healing Australian trauma. The project is reminiscent of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up by Nelson Mandela, which investigated crimes during apartheid in South Africa in the 1990s. Victims and perpetrators entered into a dialogue to enable reconciliation.
It remains to be seen whether this is also possible in Australia. Aborigines mostly live on the fringes of society, they are often affected by poverty, alcoholism and disease. This also leads to a lower life expectancy. According to government statistics, Aboriginal people die about eight years earlier than other Australians.
Prime Minister Morrison hopes the compensation will “have a positive impact on the health and well-being of the survivors of Stolen Generations, their families and communities”.
Starting in March, Native Americans will be able to apply and receive a one-time payment of 75,000 Australian dollars (EUR 47,000) as “recognition of suffering” and an additional 7,000 Australian dollars (EUR 4,400) to “facilitate healing.”
However, the stolen years and culture cannot bring money back. “They took us with them, tore us off our mother’s chest and said it was for the best,” says Archie Roach’s song. The 65-year-old with the distinctive voice was one of those children himself. «When we grew up we felt alone. Because we behaved white and felt black, ”he sings.
Hal Hart – kidnapped as a ten-year-old and now 79 years old – sums it up: “The trauma that I had to go through alone and without my family was hard, I still suffer from it.” Then he adds: “This compensation is nowhere near enough to compensate for what we went through.”