Stolen Generations timeline
Explore the timeline of the Stolen Generations—from the Board for the Protection of Aborigines to the Prime Minister’s apology and beyond.
Here’s a timeline of the events surrounding the Stolen Generations:
Victorian Board for the Protection of Aborigines is established. The Governor can order the removal of any child to a reformatory or industrial school. The Protection Board can remove children from station families to be housed in dormitories.
Later similar legislation is passed in other colonies: New South Wales (1883), Queensland (1897), Western Australia (1905) and South Australia (1911). The Northern Territory Aboriginals Ordinance makes the Chief Protector the legal guardian of every Aboriginal and ‘half-caste’ person under 18. Boards are progressively empowered to remove children from their families.
The Aboriginal Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act (Qld) allows the ‘Chief Protector’ to remove local Aboriginal people onto and between reserves and hold children in dormitories. From 1939 until 1971 this power is held by the Director of Native Welfare; the Director is the legal guardian of
all Aboriginal children, whether or not their parents are living, until 1965. The legislation is subsequently imitated by South Australia and the Northern Territory.
The Western Australia Aborigines Act is passed. Under this law, the Chief Protector is made the legal guardian of every Aboriginal and ‘half-caste’ child under 16 years old. Reserves are established, a local protector is appointed and rules governing Aboriginal employment are laid down.
The South Australian Aborigines Act makes the Chief Protector the legal guardian of every Aboriginal and ‘half-caste’ child under 21 years old. The Chief Protector also has control of where the child lives. The Chief Protector is replaced by the Aborigines Protection Board in 1939 and guardianship power is repealed in 1962.
Federal government passes the Northern Territory Aboriginals Ordinance. The Chief Protector is made the legal guardian of every Aboriginal and ‘half-caste’ child under 18 years old. Any Aboriginal person can be forced onto a mission or settlement, and children can be removed by force.
The NSW Aborigines Protection Board is given powers to remove Aboriginal children without a court hearing. This power is repealed in 1940, when the Board is renamed the Aborigines Welfare Board.
Four generations of my family went without parently love, without mother or father. I myself found it very hard to show any love to my children because I wasn't given that, so was my mother and grandmother.—Carol, personal story in the Bringing Them Home Report
Going Home Conference in Darwin. Over 600 people removed as children, from every state and territory met to share experiences, and expose the history of the removal of Aboriginal children from their families and the effects of this policy on Aboriginal people.
11 May: The National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families is established to examine the effects of separation, identify what should be done in response, find justification for any compensation and look at the laws of that time affecting child separation.
The inquiry held hearings in all states between December 1995 and October 1996 and received 777 submissions, 69% of those from Indigenous people, 6% from churches and 1% from government.
26 May: Publication of the Report Into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families, more commonly known as the Bringing Them Home Report. An abbreviated version is called ‘Bringing them Home - Community Guide’. The inquiry made 54 recommendations, e.g. reparations and an apology to Aboriginal peoples.
- 10 to 33% of the Aboriginal children were removed from their families between 1910 and 1970.
- The stolen Aboriginal children often suffered physical and sexual abuse and official bodies failed to protect them.
- Many Aboriginal children were never paid for the work they did (’Stolen Wages’).
- Under international law, from approximately 1946 the policies of forcible removal amount to genocide.
- The removal of Indigenous children continues today.
I know of no Indigenous person who told their story to the inquiry who wanted non-Indigenous Australians to feel guilty--they just wanted people to know the truth.—Mick Dodson 
The state governments of Australia formally apologise to the Aboriginal people :
- 27 May 1997: Western Australia (Richard Court, Premier; Geoff Gallop, Leader of the Opposition)
- 28 May 1997: South Australia (Dean Brown, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs)
- 3 June 1997: Queensland (K.R.Lingard, Minister for Families, Youth and Community Care)
- 17 June 1997: Australian Capital Territory (Kate Carnell, Chief Minister)
- 18 June 1997: New South Wales (Bob Carr, Premier)
- 13 August 1997: Tasmania (Tony Rundle, Premier)
- 17 September 1997: Victoria (Jeff Kennett, Premier)
- 24 October 2001: Northern Territory (Claire Martin, Premier)
They can't give me back my mother, my lost childhood… but when Bob Carr gave his apology it was a removal of all my mother's guilt, the secret she bore alone… the apology set her free.—Aunty Nancy de Vries, taken at 14 months 
On a national level, Premier Minister John Howard refused to apologise to the Stolen Generations for another ten years. He was forced out of office in the federal election in 2007 never having apologised.
January: Australians for Native Title (ANT) launches the Sorry Books campaign where Australians can sign who want to do something in response to the federal government’s refusal to make a formal apology to the Stolen Generations.A sample Sorry Book entry. Children, celebrities, migrants and visitors alike signed Sorry Books. 
26 May: HREOC releases the Social Justice Report 1998,
which includes a summary of responses from the churches, and non-Indigenous community to the inquiry’s recommendations plus an Implementation Progress Report.
National Archives Australia - Bringing Them Home Indexing Project is launched. The project is focussed on the identification and preservation of Commonwealth records related to Indigenous people and communities.
Inaugural Sorry Day. The Bringing Them Home Report had suggested "to commemorate the history of forcible removals and its effects" on May 26 (recommendation #7a). Sorry Day offered the community the opportunity to be involved in activities to acknowledge the impact of the policies of forcible removal on Australia’s Indigenous populations.
Sorry Day has been an annual event since.
Aboriginal people across Australia hear with shock the comments of Aboriginal Affairs Minister Senator John Herron as he says stories of widespread removal of Aboriginal children from their families were exaggerated and that the removals that did occur were for lawful reasons “as occurs under child welfare policies today.”Sorry Day 2007. Someone had planted an Aboriginal flag on the ground expressing his sorrow for what had happened to Indigenous people.
26 August: Federal Parliament issues a statement of deep and sincere regret over the forced removal of Aboriginal children from their families.
Australia appears before the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The Committee criticises the Commonwealth Government’s inadequate response to recommendations of the Bringing Them Home Report:
While noting the efforts by the State party to address the tragedies resulting from the previous policy of removing indigenous children from their families, the Committee remains concerned about the continuing effects of this policy.
The Committee recommends that the State party intensify these efforts so that the victims themselves and their families will consider that they have been afforded a proper remedy.
Inquiry into the federal government’s implementation of the recommendations made by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission in Bringing Them Home undertaken by the Senate Legal and Constitutional References Committee results in the Healing: A Legacy of Generations Report.
April 4: The government denies that a ‘Stolen Generation’ exists in a submission to the Senate inquiry on compensation for children forcibly removed. It stated:
The government is concerned that there is no reliable basis for what appears to be a generally accepted conclusion as to the supposed dimensions of the ‘stolen generation’. [...]
At most, it might be inferred that up to 10% of children were separated for a variety of reasons, both protective and otherwise, some forcibly and some not. This does not constitute a ‘generation’ of ‘stolen’ children. The phrase ‘stolen generation’ is rhetorical. 
November: Pope John Paul II issues a formal apology on behalf of the Vatican to the affected Aboriginal families for the actions of any and all Catholic authorities or organisations in connection with the Stolen Generations.
The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission & PIAC (Public Interest Advocacy Centre) hold the Moving Forward Conference. The conference aims to explore ways of providing reparations to Indigenous people forcibly removed from their families.
For 18 years the State of Victoria referred to me as State Ward No 54321.—Paul, personal story in the Bringing Them Home Report
The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) releases Restoring Identity - the follow up report to the Moving Forward Conference. The report presents a proposal for a reparations tribunal.
The Sorry Day Committee releases the Parliamentary Seminar Report: Are We Bringing Them Home? The Report surveys the progress in the implementation of the Bringing them home recommendations.
National Library of Australia Oral History Project, Many Voices: Reflections on Experience of Indigenous Child Separation published.
The first member of the Stolen Generations is awarded compensation in the NSW Victims Compensation Tribunal for the sexual assault and injuries she suffered after authorities removed her from her family. Valerie Linow was 16 when she was working as a domestic servant for a family and suffering sexual assault and violence. Mrs Linow was awarded $35,000 in compensation. She said “It’s not the money that’s important to me. It is the knowledge and recognition that this happened to Aboriginal people. No one could pay any amount for what happened to us because we lost a lot.”
As part of the Victorian Government’s response to the Bringing Them Home Report, Victoria establishes a Stolen Generations taskforce.
I'm the only one out of thousands of members of the stolen generations who got through and was believed that these things did happen. This is the most important thing - the believing.—Valerie Linow, member of the Stolen Generations The Age, October 18 2002
The Ministerial Council for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs (MCATSIA) commissions and releases an independent evaluation of government and non-government responses to the Bringing Them Home Report.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner publicly criticises the failure of governments to provide financial and social reparations for members of the Stolen Generation, a national apology, or the appropriate mechanisms for individuals that were forcibly removed to reconnect with their culture.
The Commonwealth Government establishes a memorial to the Stolen Generations at Reconciliation Place in Canberra.
461 ‘Sorry Books’ recording the thoughts of Australians on the unfolding history of the Stolen Generations are inscribed on the Australian Memory of the World Register, part of UNESCO’s programme to protect and promote documentary material with significant historical value.
The organisation Stolen Generations Victoria is set up as a result of the 2003 report of the Stolen Generations taskforce. Its purpose is to establish a range of support and referral services that will assist Stolen Generation peoples to reconnect with their family, community, culture and land.
The National Sorry Day Committee announces that this year, Sorry Day will be a ‘National Day of Healing for All Australians’ in an attempt to better engage the non-Indigenous Australian community with the plight of the ‘Stolen Generations’.
The first official Sorry Day ceremony outside Australia is hosted in Lincoln Fields, London, on 25 May 2005.
Volume two of the Western Australian Aboriginal Child Health Survey is released. The report says that 12.3% of the carers of Indigenous children aged 0-17 in Western Australia were forcibly removed from their families. Compared with other Indigenous children, the children of members of the Stolen Generations are twice as likely to have emotional and behavioural problems, to be at high risk for hyperactivity, emotional and conduct disorders, and twice as likely to abuse alcohol and drugs.
The first Stolen Generations compensation scheme in Australia is set up in Tasmania by the Stolen Generations of Aboriginal Children Act 2006 (Tas). The Tasmanian government allocated $5 million to Aboriginal people who qualified for the compensation package.
When she worked for this person at this property, her husband raped my mum and I was from that rape.—Marjorie Woodrow, Aboriginal woman 
Aug 1: In a landmark court case a member of the Stolen Generations has been awarded $525,000 in compensation by a South Australian court for a liftetime of sorrow and pain . Bruce Trevorrow was taken from his father aged 13 months. He was given to a white family where he grew up until he was ten, unaware of his Aboriginality. He then saw his mother again, but at this stage was a rebellious boy not belonging to either culture.
Mr. Trevorrow’s life followed the path of many taken children: times in and out of jail and other institutions, poor health, alcoholism, smoking, depression. His siblings who remained with the family were able to overcome life’s difficulties.
The justice’s judgment established for the first time that removing a child from his family in these circumstances constituted wrongful imprisonment and was a breach of the state’s duty of care. He awarded Mr Trevorrow $450,000 for injuries and losses suffered, and a further $75,000 in damages for his unlawful removal and false imprisonment.
14 September: Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States are the only countries that oppose the UN declaration for the rights of Indigenous peoples worldwide. 134 countries vote for the declaration, 11 countries abstain. The declaration has no legal bindings. Canada initially was in favour, but changed its mind after lobbying of John Howard.
2 October: A Stolen Generations memorial is opened at Mt Annan near Campbelltown, Western Sydney. The
memorial, designed by Aboriginal artist Badger Bates from Wilcannia, features original forest, boardwalks and interpretive signs.
24 November: Kevin Rudd wins the national election and promises to apologise to the Stolen Generations.
This year, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare removed 7,892 children from their families. In 1997, it removed 2,785 children .
13 February: The Australian Parliament apologises to the Stolen Generations. Both the government and the opposition support the apology and say ‘sorry’ to Aboriginal people who were taken away from their families from 1900 to the 1970s. The apology has no legal effect on the ability of Aboriginal people claiming compensation.Kevin Rudd’s apology viewed by a crowd on Federation Square, Melbourne. Photo: Virgina Murdoch, Flickr
14 February: Senator Andrew Bartlett introduces the Stolen Generation Compensation Bill into the Senate. The bill calls for ex gratia payments (i.e. without any liability or legal obligation) to be made to the Stolen Generations of Aboriginal children. The Senate rejects the bill. 24 September: The Greens introduce the Stolen Generations Reparations Tribunal Bill. This bill seeks to implement ‘reparations’, a key recommendation of the Bringing Them Home report. Reparation is much more than monetary compensation and includes “measures such as funding for healing centres, community education projects, community genealogy projects, and funding for access to counselling services, health services, language and culture training for the Stolen Generations.” 
Just reparations are essential to repairing the enduring social, economic and cultural harm experienced by the Stolen Generations.—Rachel Siewert, Greens Senator 
13 February: The Australian government promises to establish the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation which will deal with the “trauma experienced by all Aboriginal people as the after-effect of colonisation” , but with a particular focus on the Stolen Generations.
The foundation won’t deliver healing services, instead it will fund healing work, educate communities and social workers and evaluate healing programs to find out what works.
2 April: The Human Rights Committee report on Australia recommends the government “adopt a comprehensive national mechanism to ensure that adequate reparation, including compensation, is provided to the victims of the Stolen Generations policies” . The Federal-Attorn General decides not to follow that recommendation and rules that no challenge to this decision be allowed.
August: The Australian government refuses compensation despite the UN being ‘concerned about a lack of adequate access to justice’  for Indigenous people and recommending the government compensating victims of the Stolen Generations. The UN responded to a formal complaint submitted by the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement in March.
27 October: NSW Governor Marie Bashir launches the Kinchela Boy’s Home Aboriginal Corporation Strategic Plan to help Aboriginal men who passed through Kinchela with counselling, reunions targeted at group healing, and programs for their families.
November: The National Archives Australia announce that they plan to close their Darwin office in September 2010, followed by Adelaide in 2011, and two Hobart offices in 2010/2012 due to huge savings requirements. Aboriginal people are shocked because offices are well used by services such as Link-Up to help people find and reconnect with their families.
22 March: The South Australian government loses an appeal against the $775,000 payout to a member of the Stolen Generations. The Full Court of the SA Supreme Court ruled that the government had been negligent in its treatment of Bruce Trevorrow, who was taken from his parents as a child more than 50 years ago.
4 February: The Supreme Court of Western Australia in Perth begins a “landmark” Stolen Generations test case which started in 2010 when law firm Lavan Legal lodged a Writ on behalf of 9 members of the Collard family, including parents Donald and Sylvia, whose children were removed without consent and placed in state care between 1958 and 1961 .
Last updated: 6 March 2013 | Out of respect for Aboriginal culture I use Indigenous sources as much as possible.
 John Herron, 'A generation was not stolen' (federal government's submission to the Senate inquiry), The Sydney Morning Herald, April 4, 2000
 Indigenous Law Bulletin, http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/ILB/2004/55.html
 'Hands across the nation', Professor Mick Dodson, The Age, 13/Feb/2008, p.21
 NIT 26/6/2008 p.27
 'Stolen Gen Bill gains support', Koori Mail 436 p.35
 'Healing moves a step nearer', Koori Mail 445 p.12
 'Federal Govt ignores UN Stolen Generations request', http://www.abc.net.au 21/8/,2009
 'Stolen Generations' right to reparation', Koori Mail 458 p.21
 Australian Institute Of Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander Studies, Sorry Books Exhibition, http://www.aiatsis.gov.au/collections/exhibitions/sorrybooks/introduction.html
 'Vale: Nancy de Vries 1932 - 2006', ANTaR newsletter 6/2006 p.5
 'Landmark Stolen Generations Test Case Begins in Perth', http://www.als.org.au retri,eved 11/2/2013
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