I am teaching a Centre College class on Australian National Identity in Australia this month.
A central front in the Australian culture war is over the "stolen generations" of aboriginal children who were taken from their families and raised in mission schools, fostered out, or adopted out. Conservatives have contested whether the policy was really bad, as well as whether it was really as extensive as liberal scholars and ideologues have contended.
The initial aim of the policy was to take "half-caste" children, to use the 19th century term. The justification for the policy was that mixed-race children were not accepted in aboriginal communities. The schools and foster placements were designed to help them assimilate to mainstream (white) society. The policy was not, at least officially, directed toward children of aboriginal couples.
Today we took a fine "aboriginal heritage tour" sponsored by the Royal Botanical Garden in Melbourne. Our guide, Brian, talked primarily about the many uses aborigines made of the plants in the garden. He started us off, though, with his own story. "I am a member of the stolen generation" he began. He said that he, his brother, and his sister were taken from their mother when he was two. He was adopted by a white Melbourne family. He did not see his siblings for 30 years.
However the policy to remove some children from aborigine mothers may have been conceived, it sure feels like their lives were stolen to some of those children, now grown to adulthood.