Stolen Generation header image

Between 1910 and the 1970s*, many First Nations children were forcibly removed from their families as a result of various government policies.

Between 1910 and the 1970s*, many First Nations children were forcibly removed from their families as a result of various government policies. The generations of children removed under these policies became known as the Stolen Generations. The policies of child removal left a legacy of trauma and loss that continues to affect First Nations communities, families and individuals today.

What happened and why?

The forcible removal of First Nations children from their families was part of the policy of Assimilation, which was based on the misguided assumption that the lives of First Nations people would be improved if they became part of white society. It proposed that First Nations people should be allowed to ‘die out’ through a process of natural elimination, or, where possible, assimilated into the white community. [1]

Policies focused on assimilating children as they were considered more adaptable to white society than adults. Children of First Nations and white parentage were particularly vulnerable to removal because authorities thought these children could be assimilated more easily into the white community due to their lighter skin colour.[2] 

Children taken from their parents were taught to reject their heritage and were forced to adopt white culture. The children’s names were often changed, and many children were forbidden from speaking First Nations languages. Some children were adopted by white families, and many children were placed in institutions where abuse and neglect were common.[3] First Nations people who were removed were left with lifelong trauma and were never treated as equal to non-Indigenous Australians.