The Stolen Generations: Part II

By Simona Galimberti

Australia’s “Stolen Generations” episode ran from 1890 to 1970. The authorities removed Aboriginal children from their mothers, and along with that the people’s future, culture, language and knowledge. They  did this in the name of assimilation. They wanted to “breed out” full-blooded Aboriginal people by having them eventually marry into the larger white population and be absorbed.

Today, the anguish is over the Stolen Generations: Part II.  Athough the government issued an apology for its policy in 2008, the child removals continue. The motives of the Department of Child Protection (DCP), which caused unrest in so many Aboriginal homes, are not clear.

“It’s heart-breaking,” says indigenous activist Vanessa Culbong.

Dr Djiniyini Gondarra, an Aboriginal leader and cleric from Milingimbi, in eastern Arnhem Land in the Northern Territories, says: “About 60 Aboriginal children are taken away every month by child protection services. They are taken away in numbers not seen since the stolen generation.”

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare said there is a rise in the rate of indigenous children aged up to 17 who are in “out-of-home care” across all states and territories, according to a report by Leticia Futson in the Green Left Weekly last year.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are about nine times more likely to be in out-of-home care than non-Aboriginal children (44.8 in every 1000 compared with 4.9 in every 1000),” said the report.

Opposing the DCP is the national Grandmothers Against Removals (GMAR) organisation. Last year, Vanessa founded a chapter in Perth called Dembas Kulungas, Grandmothers Against Removals Western Australia (GMARWA). The following is an interview with her:

What’s your name and where do you come from?

Vanessa Culbong. I’m an Unggarangi woman. My ancestral bloodline goes back to Wardandi, Wiilman and Yinggarda countries, and also down Waygi Kiap, Koreang and Minang tribe. I’m connected to a few countries coz of the mix-ups the government did with our people along the way.
Mainly salt water from west coast, top to bottom - all my people are along this ancestral bloodline.

What issues affect your community today?

Right now I’m in Perth. We have a high rate of incarceration, child removal, suicide, homelessness. All these are causing my people to suffer.

Which issue are you most concerned with?

I’m part of the Grandmothers Against Removals WA. I founded that there. There are many incidents of removals. What enraged me was that the (DCP) came on an unannounced visit when my aunty was not at home. So they went to the school and grabbed her little Grannie out of school and took her straight to a court of law, without representation.

How old was she?

About nine or 10.

What happened?
The court agreed to put her on a plane and fly her to Queensland.
Without no one knowing. Traumatised. My aunty was a part of the stolen generation. No counselling was offered to the parents, to the little brother. All the students had to watch this little girl be ripped away from their class in the middle of the day.

Which school was this?

A metropolitan school in the city, not far from the CBD. We ended up flying over to the East side to fight the department and take her home. It was a process, there was a lot of trauma involved.

What got you involved in the protests?

I was a part of Nyoongar Tent Embassy on Matagarup Island. There were a few raids that were happening. I was watching NITV. I watched Aunty Karen Fusi up there in Queensland - she won her children back after many issues with the government department. The week after, I watched Grandmas of NSW standing up. I thought “This is what we need, some support groups over on this side”. There are so many kids and families being affected right now.

How did the word get out?

Grandmas groups standing up on NITV. Aunty Patty Gibson brought us all together. Helped us and funded the flights to get the little girl home. We were funded by Grandmas Against Removal National. I went home and I founded the GMARWA, the Dembas Kulungas.

I get 20 calls on average a day. Every house you visit, you hear that every person there has a connection with DCP. One person has another three stories of a person they know of - their kids being taken. It’s heartbreaking. Little kids taken out of parks. One aunty had six little ones taken - one got away. It’s heart-breaking to hear those stories. And it’s still happening. It hasn’t stopped.

What do you want to say about this to fellow Australians?

Open your eyes to what the government is doing to our peoples, covering them up so well with their policies and laws. The legislation  made up for my people - be aware of them. It’s all still happening. The statistics are at the highest levels ever in Australian history. I feel like in a 100 years, you wouldn’t be a person to remember - having ancestors from here, you know.

What can Australians do about this?

Start placing demands on the government. Get them with whatever you can. Emails. Make a silent protest, online protest, whatever. Get it out there. Try and make the wrongs right. The Recognition does not make up for what they have done to my people.

How can they heal their relationship with the indigenous people?

Educate yourself on Australian Aboriginal history, First Peoples history. Not Australian government history. Find out the truth about our history and what’s covered up. Then you will make people angry enough that they will want to change things - they have been blindfolded for so long. A lot of people out there have no idea. It’s not a lucky country. Can’t say it proudly.

Simona Galimberti ( is an urban ecologist graduate, currently in a support role at University Technology Sydney. She is treasurer and secretary  of Amazon Watch Allies Australia ( and an advocate of environmental and indigenous rights.

For more information, and to donate to GMAR click here

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