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Wednesday 1 August 2007

'All in the past'

One of the standard responses from many Aussies about the Aboriginal situation is 'all in the past mate' - all those massacres, stolen children and cultural destruction is assigned to history.

Well this is coming out of your taxes. Mate.

$525,000 - the price of one stolen life

An Aboriginal man taken from his family as a baby has been awarded more than [A]$500,000 compensation [£211,000].

Bruce Trevorrow was 13 months old when a neighbour drove him on Christmas Day in 1957 from his Coorong family home, south-east of Adelaide, to the Children's Hospital with stomach pains.

Hospital notes tendered to the South Australian Supreme Court show staff recorded that the child had no parents and was neglected and malnourished.

Two weeks later, he was given under the authority of the Aborigines Protection Board to a woman, who later became his foster parent, without the permission of his parents. He did not see his family again for 10 years.

His mother wrote in July 1958 "I am writing to ask if you would let me know how baby Bruce is."

The board knew it lacked the legal power to resist a request for Bruce to be returned, so it lied, writing back to say her son was "making good progress" but doctors needed him for longer.

Thereafter they prevented his mother from making contact with him or from finding out where he was or by what process he had been removed.

By the age of two he showed signs of psychiatric disturbance including trichotillomania, a compulsive hairpulling disorder, and a speech defect. As a boy he also chewed his clothing, damaged books and stole.

He spent eight years growing up in the belief he was the child of a white family living in Adelaide. His dark colour was explained by references to relatives overseas who were darker skinned.

When he was returned to his Aboriginal family he was told he would be visiting them but was instead sent home.

In his late teens he took an overdose and slashed his wrists. Under questioning he admitted to never having felt close to anyone, including his wife, whom he treated "roughly" and "badly". He told the court he did not have the skills to be a father to his children and had never hugged or cuddled them.

In 1998, Mr Trevorrow sued the South Australian Government for pain and suffering, alleging he had lost his cultural identity, suffered depression, became an alcoholic and had an erratic employment history after being taken as a child from his family.

Mr Trevorrow left court saying he would pay off his house with the money. "I thought that we would never get there," he said. "But the day's come when I've got the peace of mind to start my life."

A spokesman for the South Australian Attorney-General, Michael Atkinson, said the [Labor] Government would seek legal advice before deciding whether to appeal.

The former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission chairwoman, Lowitja O'Donoghue, said the judgment was "a great victory".

"It is time to understand there was a stolen generation, instead of all these history wars [see the 'black armband view of history']."

This is the first ever such payment.

Two previous stolen generation claims from the Northern Territory were defended by the Australia Government in the High (Supreme) Court and were defeated because they were out of time.

At least 100,000 children were removed from their parents

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
Bringing them Home
Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families

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