MEDIA RELEASE 3 March 2022
Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS)
Content warning: this document contains discussions of abuse and trauma
VALS acknowledges and pays our respects to the members of the Stolen Generations.
In Victoria, the Stolen Generations started as early as 1837 when the Church Missionary Society set up the Yarra Mission for Aboriginal children. It was not until 1989 that Victoria introduced laws that required Aboriginal people to be involved in case planning and decision-making processes regarding Aboriginal children. Despite these changes, Aboriginal children are still disproportionately removed from them families and disproportionately put in youth prisons.
The Stolen Generations policies of governments across Australia destroyed the cultural connection between children, families, communities, land, culture and language for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It enabled sexual, physical, and psychological abuse. Today, these policies are internationally recognised as genocide. VALS supports individuals who continue to deal with the ongoing consequences of policies of removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, community, and culture every day
The Victorian Government has today announced a $155 million Stolen Generations Redress Scheme for Aboriginal Victorians removed from their families in Victoria before 1977. Individuals will be able to apply for payments of $100,000, as a personal apology and other supports from the government. They will also be able to access healing and reconnection to Country programs.
VALS welcomes the establishment of this scheme as an important acknowledgement of the genocide committed against our people and a step on a journey towards justice. Many members of the Stolen Generations and their families continue to face inequalities caused by governments and organisations that took them from their homes and culture. That trauma can never be erased, but the Stolen Generations Redress Scheme is a necessary step towards addressing the inequality it caused.
Many Aboriginal Victorians eligible for the Stolen Generations Redress Scheme are rightly hesitant to engage in government processes. It will be vital to the success of the scheme that the Victorian Government work closely with community and Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations to ensure the Scheme is delivered with open ears and hearts and in a culturally safe way.
VALS has continually advocated for important reforms that will bring us closer to ending government practices that take away our children’s right to community, culture, and Country. These next steps on our journey to justice include:
- Raising the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14
- Fixing Victoria’s broken bail laws
- Realising true Aboriginal Self-Determination in Victoria, particularly in supporting families to stay together and preventing the high out-of-home cares rates of our children
- Investing in a better future for our children, especially early intervention and crisis support services that keep them out of the justice system.
Quotes Attributable to Nerita Waight, CEO, Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service
“I pay my respects to the members of the Stolen Generations. Supporting them is a huge motivation for the work we do at VALS.”
“The Stolen Generations Redress Scheme is an important step that will go some way to addressing the individual and generational inequality that was caused by governments and organisations that took our children from us.”
“We are looking forward to working with community to help them access the Scheme”
“The UN now describes the forced transferring of children from one group to another as genocide. That is what happened in Australia. The Stolen Generations was an act of genocide against our people.”
“There is still so much left to do before our people have justice. Our children are still more likely to be taken from their families and more likely to be put in prison.”
“The Victorian Government has shown a willingness to address these difficult issues and I hope they continue on this journey by raising the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14, fixing Victoria’s broken bail laws, and giving Aboriginal organisations and communities the power and resources to reduce out of home care rates and give our children a better future.”