Genocide in Australia
Genocide in Australia
Indeed, in response to the High Court’s Wik decision, the Coalition
government under John Howard has introduced amendments to the Native Title Act
(known as the 10-point plan), which aim to extinguish native title in all but name,
perpetuating the cycle of dispossession and alienation. In what has been described
(not only by socialists and Aborigines themselves) as “the biggest land grab since
1788”, Howard’s legislation takes from the Aborigines to give to the richest pastoralists
in the land. At the time of writing, the Senate has rejected this legislation for
the second time, setting the scene for a double dissolution and a general election.
Howard derides what he calls the “black armband view of history”
– that is, a history which tells the truth about what happened to the Aborigines
and Torres Strait Islanders and how Australia’s wealth was built on the theft of
their land. He does so for both pragmatic and ideological reasons: to advantage
his rich mates and make Australia safe for the mining companies, pastoral interests
and capitalism generally, and to justify his assault on the gains Indigenous people
have made in recent years, meagre as they are.
The Howard government has also given the go-ahead to Energy Resources
Australia’s Jabiluka uranium mine, situated on the traditional lands of the Mirrar
people in the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, in direct contravention
of the wishes of the traditional owners. Once again, the rights of Indigenous people
have been trampled over in the rush to make profits.
The government therefore wants to sweep the Stolen Generations
report under the table. A crucial aspect of its strategy to enrich the miners and
pastoralists is to deny any spiritual or traditional connection with the land as
the basis for a native title claim – and this is the only kind of claim many of
the stolen generations can make.
They must not be allowed to get away with it. In the past, Indigenous
people have won rights through struggles – such as the freedom rides, the Gurindji
strike and the Aboriginal Tent Embassy – in which they and their supporters took
to the streets to gain popular support. Today, we need that kind of fight again.
Opinion polls, the numbers who attend demonstrations in support
of Indigenous rights and the establishment of organisations like Defenders of Native
Title and the Jabiluka Action Groups show that there is widespread support for
justice for Indigenous Australians. That support needs to be mobilised into a powerful
movement that can stop Howard and turn the tide against the rising racism that
he has fostered.
This pamphlet looks at some of the issues raised by the Stolen
Generations report – and in particular addresses the criticisms and disclaimers
emanating from the Howard government and its supporters in big business – not to
mention Pauline Hanson and her racist One Nation organisation. In order to build
the kind of movement described above, we need to be able to counter Howard’s arguments
with the real facts. Hopefully this pamphlet is a small contribution to building
such a movement.
In 1949, Millicent was four years old. That’s when she and five
of her siblings were taken from their parents and placed in institutions. She never
saw any of them again, apart from one brother who was subsequently removed to another
The authorities told Millicent that her parents didn’t want her,
when actually they prevented them from visiting her. After a horrific childhood
consisting largely of domestic servitude, beatings and religious indoctrination,
Millicent was sent into unpaid domestic service, where she was raped, bashed and
slashed with a razor for resisting. On reporting the rape, she was beaten for
lying. The resulting pregnancy earned her yet more beatings. Millicent was overjoyed
to have a baby – someone she could love – but her joy was shortlived. They took
her baby away and told her the infant had died – a lie only revealed when the
two were reunited many years later.
The immense human tragedy of the stolen generations is made up
of thousands of stories like Millicent’s.
The practice of forcible removal of Indigenous children from
their families has a long and dishonourable history, dating back to the very beginning
of European settlement in Australia. The early settlers often simply kidnapped
children to work for them, as personal or domestic servants, or on the land. They
were effectively enslaved: paid no wages and supplied with only the barest necessities
of food, shelter and clothing. In the north of Australia, this type of thing was
happening up to the early twentieth century.
While settlers stole children purely for personal gain, governments
and churches came up with a range of ideological justifications for the practice
of systematically removing children from their families. These justifications,
though on occasion presented as in some sense “benevolent”, led to the same outcome
for their Aboriginal and Islander victims – lives of misery and physical, cultural
and spiritual deprivation.
The motivation of the missionaries and governments also reflect
a deep underlying racism. Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders were seen as backward
and barbaric, incapable of determining their own future and therefore without rights.
They had to be “civilised”, their languages, culture and way of life destroyed,
so that they could take their place – a subordinate one, naturally – in European
society. Crucially, they were to be inculcated with European values and work habits
so that they would be fit for service to the colonial settlers.
You didn’t have to scratch the surface very far to find the real
motivations behind seemingly “altruistic” actions. In 1814, for example, Governor
Macquarie funded a school for Aboriginal children. Within a few years, however,
it became obvious to Indigenous families that the real purpose of the school was
to distance the children from their families and communities. This was an essential
step in the process of separating Indigenous people from their land, which was
necessary to free the land for capitalist exploitation.
Meanwhile, colonial authorities were doing nothing to curb the
brutal activities of the settlers. It was the British government, embarrassed
by reports of frequent massacres and atrocities, which moved to appoint a Select
Committee into the condition of the Aboriginal people. But the result of this,
far from providing any relief for Indigenous people, was the establishment of legal
mechanisms to control the Indigenous population, restrict their movements and rights
and remove their children. All this went on in the name of “protection”.
Along with “protection” went segregation. Many Aborigines,
thrown off their land, deprived of the means of subsistence and forced into dependence
on government handouts, drifted to the towns and set up camps. The inevitable poverty,
malnutrition and disease in the camps made them an embarrassment to the settlers
and the colonial governments. So it was planned to remove Indigenous people to
reserves in areas the Europeans didn’t want, segregating them from the white population
and restricting their movement. By 1911, the Northern Territory and every State
except Tasmania had some form of “protectionist legislation”, giving the government-appointed
Protection Board or Chief Protector virtually total control over every aspect of
Aborigines’ lives, and, crucially, legal guardianship of all the children. The
sham of “protection” was indicated by the fact that the enforcement of protectionist
legislation was carried out by “protectors” who were usually police officers.
The exception, Tasmania, simply removed all its Aboriginal inhabitants
to Cape Barren Island and thereafter claimed it had no Aboriginal population, just
a few “half-castes”.
Throughout the nineteenth century, massacres, disease and malnutrition
took a heavy toll, leading to a serious decline in the full descent Indigenous
population. However, the mixed descent population was increasing, due no doubt
to the widespread practice of the rape of Aboriginal women and girls by white settlers.
These developments led to a somewhat different approach from the authorities. In
social Darwinist “survival of the fittest” terms, the Aborigines and Torres Strait
Islanders were “doomed races”, destined to extinction because they couldn’t compete
with a more “advanced” society. The task of government and missionaries was therefore
to “smooth the dying pillow”. Indigenous people of mixed descent, however, were
to be absorbed into European society and forced to join the workforce. This policy
of “merging” would both save the government money and provide cheap labour for
the developing capitalist economy, and it made the removal of children an even
more vital part of the process, to keep full descent and mixed descent Aborigines
Definitions of “Aboriginality” were arbitrarily changed to fit
government policy and facilitate the break-up of families and communities. Across
the country, there were some 67 definitions of “Aboriginality”, enshrined in over
700 pieces of legislation. People were defined as “full blood” or “half caste” and
there were further offensive divisions such as “quadroon” and “octoroon”.
The first national discussion of the “Aboriginal problem” took
place in 1937, at a Commonwealth State Native Welfare Conference. It was here
that the notion of “merging” became the policy of “assimilation”, which formed
the basis for government action right up to the 1970s. The difference between
“merging” and “assimilation” was largely one of degree: an intensification and extension
of control over the Indigenous population. Though couched in seemingly high-minded
phrases about enabling mixed descent Aborigines to “take their place in the white
community on an equal footing with the whites” and “improving their lot”, the authorities
began from the implicit notion that there was nothing of value in Aboriginal culture.
Aboriginality was to be destroyed by removing “half-caste” children from their
communities, their language and their cultural heritage. Assimilation was not a
sharp break from what had gone before, simply a refinement.
Moreover, the practices which occurred under assimilation were
racist through and through. To return to Millicent’s story: the reason given for
taking the children was that “the authorities decided us kids could pass as whitefellas”.
But at the notorious Sister Kate’s Home in Western Australia where Millicent spent
her childhood, she got a very different message:
“They said it was very degrading to belong to an
Aboriginal family and that I should be ashamed of myself, I was inferior to whitefellas.
They tried to make us act like white kids, but at the same time we had to give up
our seat for a whitefella because an Aboriginal never sits down when a white person
All States had child welfare legislation which allowed children
– black or white – to be taken from their parents if the children were deemed to
be “neglected”, “uncontrollable” or “destitute”. Prior to 1937, however, most
States preferred to use the protectionist legislation when taking Indigenous children,
because that way they didn’t have to justify anything before a court. The authority
of the Chief Protector or the Board was sufficient.
But even after 1940, when child welfare legislation was used instead,
“proof of neglect” could easily be dispensed with. In many cases, “Aboriginality”
was sufficient “proof”, and the poverty in which Aborigines were forced to live
made them targets because it could be argued the children were “destitute”. Girls
who ran away from situations of sexual abuse or got pregnant were labelled “uncontrollable”.
The separations were carried out with extreme brutality, traumatising the children
and their parents for life.
“Early one morning in 1952 the manager from Burnt
Bridge Mission came to our home with a policeman. I could hear him saying to Mum,
‘I am taking the two girls and placing them in Cootamundra Home.’ My father was
saying, ‘What right have you?’ The manager said he can do what he likes, they said
my father had a bad character (I presume they said this as my father associated
with Aboriginal people). They would not let us kiss our father goodbye, I will
never forget the sad look on his face…That was the last time I saw my father, he
died within two years after…Next morning we were in court. I remember the judge
saying, ‘These girls don’t look neglected to me’. The manager was saying all sorts
of things. He wanted us placed in Cootamundra Home. So we were sent away…”
Children were routinely taken from their mothers at birth. Her
consent was sometimes waived, sometimes forced from her with threats, or she was
simply told the child died.
“My mother told us that the eldest daughter was
a twin…And in those days, if Aboriginals had twins or triplets, they’d take the
babies away. Mum swore black and blue that boy [the twin] was alive. But they told
her that he had died. I only found out a couple of years ago – that boy, the nursing
sister took him. A lot of babies were not recorded.”
Often, too, the parents and children were tricked:
“I was at the post office with my Mum and Auntie
[and cousin]. They put us in the police ute and said they were taking us to Broome…But
when we’d gone [about ten miles] they stopped and threw the mothers out of the
car. We jumped on our mothers’ backs, crying, trying not to be left behind. But
the policeman pulled us off and threw us back in the car. They pushed the mothers
away and drove off, while our mothers were chasing the car, running and crying after
us…When we got to Broome they put me and my cousin in the Broome lock-up. We were
only ten years old. We were in the lock-up for two days waiting for the boat to
Children who were left temporarily in “homes” or even hospitals
“A mother [single teenager] had a child in a home,
and went out to provide some sort of basis for rearing the child…when the mother
came back, they told her that the child had died. And 25 years later we have a
request from a person to find his mother…(she) now has gone through the grieving
of the person dying and now coming to terms with his resurrection.”
Siblings who were stolen were often placed separately, or even
when placed together, their identities and kinship were not revealed. The inquiry
gives the example of one witness who, in a seeming act of gratuitous cruelty, was
“introduced to his brother on the day that brother was departing the institution
for a foster placement.” At a conference following the release of the report in
Melbourne in 1997, an Aboriginal speaker recalled how he, along with an older boy,
was summoned one day to the office of the institution in Ballarat where the two
of them had lived for several years, introduced to an Aboriginal woman and told
she was their mother.
And you didn’t have to be stolen to experience the effects of
“Every morning our people would crush charcoal and
mix that with animal fat and smother that all over us, so that when the police
came they could only see black children…We were told always to be on the alert and,
if white people came, to run into the bush or run and stand behind the trees as
stiff as a poker…and hide…And if the Aboriginal group was taken unawares, they
would stuff us into flour bags and pretend we weren’t there. We were told…if we
sneezed…we’d be taken off and away from the area…During the raids on the camps it
was not unusual for people to be shot – …in the arm or the leg. You can understand
the terror that we lived in…”
The pace of removals increased through the 1950s and 1960s. Despite
the difficulty in establishing precise numbers (partly because of lack – or falsification
– of documentation, partly because many removals were illegal even under the various
racist laws in operation) the inquiry concluded that between 1910 and 1970, between
one in three and one in ten children were forcibly removed, and “[I]n that time
not one Indigenous family has escaped the effects…”.
One of the most heart-rending aspects of the report is reading
about the Indigenous parents who blamed themselves for the loss of their children.
The NSW branch of Link-Up (an organisation which works to reunite separated families)
reported to the inquiry:
“…we found that Aboriginal women were unwilling
and unable to speak about the immense pain, grief and anguish that losing their
children had caused them…We see that they judge themselves harshly, never forgiving
themselves for losing their children – no matter that they were part of ongoing
systematic removal of Aboriginal children…They were made to feel failures; unworthy
of loving and caring for their own children; they were denied participation in
the future of their community.”
The accounts of those who observed this pain show clearly how
the lives of the parents, and the wider Indigenous community, were shattered.
“I remember my Aunty, it was her daughter that
got taken. She used to carry these letters around with her. They were reference
letters from the whitefellas in town…[saying that] she was a good, respectable
woman…She judged herself and she felt the community judged her for letting the
welfare get her child…She carried those letters with her, folded up, as proof, until
the day she died.”
Such accounts also show how the practice of stealing their children
is at the root of many problems experienced by Indigenous people today, particularly
“My parents were continually trying to get us back.
Eventually they gave up and started drinking. They separated. My father ended up
in jail. He died before my mother. On her death bed she called his name and all
us kids. She died with a broken heart.”
Non-Indigenous families who adopted children were also lied to
– told that mothers who were searching for their child were dead, or had refused
to take responsibility for them. Some of these families told the inquiry they are
wracked with guilt and regret that they were unknowingly complicit in such barbarism.
“We would never have deprived any mother of her
child, or any child of its mother…The doctor told me how this child’s mother was
very young [she was actually 20]…plus the baby was never wanted right from the
start. If this was true, why did she take her poor frail baby home…? He would not
feed. She took him back [to the hospital] and it was the last she saw of him.
She said they would not give him back…”
“In 1960 my wife and I applied to adopt an Aboriginal
baby, after reading in the newspapers that these babies were remaining in institutionalised
care…Later that year we were offered a baby who had been cared for since birth in
a Church run Babies Home…We were told, and truly believed, that his mother was
dead and his father unknown…”
Despite the love of his adoptive family, this child, Ken, grew
up feeling isolated and alienated, subjected to constant racism, and several times
“…When Ken was eighteen he found his natural family,
three sisters and a brother. His mother was no longer living. She died some years
earlier when Ken was four. Because of the long timespan, strong bonds with his
family members could not be established.”
Although supposed neglect provided the justification for removing
children from their parents, many children never experienced such terrible conditions
and abuse until they were taken away.
“And for them to say she [mother] neglected us!
I was neglected when I was in this government joint down there. I didn’t end up
15 days in a hospital bed [with bronchitis] when I was with me mum and dad.”
“These are people telling you to be Christian and
they treat you less than a bloody animal. One boy, his leg was that gangrene we
could smell him all down the dormitories before they finally got him treated properly.”
The luckier ones were adopted; others went to foster families,
sometimes a succession of them. But even those who were fortunate enough to be
placed with loving families felt and regretted the effects of separation (see
the discussion of “benefits” below). Often too, the adoptions or fostering arrangements
didn’t work out. Possibly the most notorious case of this was that of James (Russell)
Savage, who was not only removed from his family, but from the country when his
adoptive family moved to the USA. Like most stolen children, Russell had severe
problems growing up, and ended up thrown out on the streets at the age of twelve.
Worse was to come: several years ago, after getting involved with drugs and alcohol
like so many other stolen children, he ended up in jail for life on murder and
rape charges, narrowly escaping the death penalty. The scandal surrounding this
case put a spotlight on the whole practice of stealing Indigenous children.
In keeping with the objectives of the assimilation policy, many
children were not told of their Indigenous background. Children were bullied into
adopting white ways of living and thinking, only to suffer abuse and denigration
at home and school for the darkness of their skin. Others were taught racist attitudes
towards Indigenous people only to find – often because of constant taunting about
their complexion – that they themselves belonged to the people towards whom they
felt disgust. The denigration of all things Aboriginal was one of the most common
experiences reported to the inquiry.
“During this placement [with a foster family], I
was acutely aware of my colour, and I knew I was different from the other members
of their family. At no stage was I ever told of my Aboriginality…When I’d say…‘why
am I a different colour?’ they would laugh at me and tell me to drink plenty of
milk, ‘and then you will look more like us.’ The other sons would call me names
such as ‘their little Abo’ and tease me. At the time I didn’t know what this meant,
but it did really hurt…”
“We were told our mother was an alcoholic and
that she was a prostitute and she didn’t care about us. They [foster family] used
to warn us that when we got older we’d have to watch it because we’d turn into
sluts and alcoholics, so we had to be very careful. If you were white you didn’t
have that dirtiness in you. It was in our breed, in us to be like that.”
But generally speaking, those who fared the worst were those
– the vast majority – who were put into mostly Church-run institutions, such as
Sister Kate’s Home, Kinchela Boys’ Home, Cootamundra Girls’ Home and so on. The
experiences from these institutions remain like a nightmare. Many inmates remember
the constant hunger:
“There was no food, nothing. We was all huddled
up in a room…like a little puppy-dog…on the floor… Sometimes at night time we’d
cry with hunger, no food…We had to scrounge in the town dump, eating old bread,
smashing tomato sauce bottles, licking them. Half of the time the food we got was
from the rubbish dump.”
On top of that, there were cruel punishments for the slightest
“I remember once, I must have been 8 or 9, and I
was locked in the old morgue. The adults who worked there would tell us of the
things that happened in there, so you can imagine what I went through. I screamed
all night, but no-one came to get me.”
“I’ve seen girls naked, strapped to chairs and
whipped. We’ve all been through the locking up period, locked in dark rooms. I
had a problem of fainting when I was growing up and I got belted every time I fainted…I’ve
seen my sister dragged by the hair into those block rooms and belted because she’s
trying to protect me.”
The infamous A. O. Neville (WA Chief Protector 1915-40) wrote
a book in 1947 in which he listed some of the punishments meted out by his staff
– tarring and feathering, chaining girls to table legs (this was done by “an ex-Missionary,
and a good man too” whom Neville clearly regrets having to dismiss), shaving heads
and so on.
But some stories were even
“Cootamundra…was very strict and cruel…Mum remembered
once a girl who did not move too quick. She was tied to the old bell post and belted
continuously. She died that night, still tied to the post, no girl ever knew what
happened to the body or where she was buried”.
A key aspect of the assimilation project was to prevent the
children speaking their own language. No effort was spared on this, because it
was one of the most effective ways to permanently separate the children from their
parents and communities.
“Y’know, I can remember we just used to talk lingo.
[In the Home] they used to tell us not to talk that language, that it’s the devil’s
language. And they’d wash our mouths with soap. We sorta had to sit down with
the Bible language all the time. So it sorta wiped out all our language that we
This meant that even when children and parents were subsequently
reunited, they often couldn’t speak to each other except through an interpreter.
The accounts given to the Stolen Generations inquiry also
abound with examples of sexual abuse of both girls and boys, which fits with the
revelations about sexual abuse in churches and institutions everywhere (though
the report notes that for girls in particular, “the risk of sexual assault in a
foster placement was far greater than in any other”). Almost one in ten boys and
just over one in ten girls reported that they were sexually abused in a children’s
institution, while one in ten boys and three in ten girls reported the same for
“There was tampering with the boys…the people would
come in to work with the children, they would grab the boys’ penises, play around
with them and kiss them and things like this…It was seen to be the white man’s
way of lookin’ after you. It never happened with an Aboriginal.”
Girls who reported sexual assaults were told to stop telling
lies and often beaten.
“…my foster father molested me. He would masturbate
in front of me, touch my private parts and get me to touch his. I remember once
having a bath with my clothes on ’cause I was too scared to take them off. I was
scared of the dark ’cause my foster father would often come at night. I was scared
to go to the outside toilet as he would often stop me on the way back…So I would
often wet the bed…I once attempted to tell the local Priest at the Catholic Church
and he told me to say ten Hail Mary’s for telling lies. So I thought this was how
‘normal’ non-Aboriginal families were. I was taken to various doctors who diagnosed
me as ‘uncontrollable’ or ‘lacking in intelligence’.
A young Koori woman, with the help of an employer, tried to have
a former employer who had raped her charged with the offence. Although two medical
examinations confirmed the rape, the Protection Board officials to whom the matter
was reported first accused the victim of being a “sexual maniac” and then had her
committed to Parramatta Mental Hospital where she remained for 21 years.
“We may go home, but we cannot relive our childhoods.
We may reunite with our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunties, uncles, communities,
but we cannot relive the 20, 30, 40 years that we spent without their love and
care, and they cannot undo the grief and mourning they felt when we were separated
from them. We can go home to ourselves as Aboriginals, but this does not ease
the attacks inflicted on our hearts, minds, bodies and souls, by caretakers who
thought their mission was to eliminate us as Aboriginals.”
Bringing them home utterly refutes the claims
made by the likes of Howard and Hanson, as we shall see below. That’s why Howard
and Minister for Indigenous Affairs John Herron have gone to such extraordinary
lengths to undermine it, before and after its release.
Howard claimed, for example, that the inquiry President, Sir
Ronald Wilson, was “biased” because, in his capacity as a church representative,
he had offered an apology to Indigenous people for the church’s role in the treatment
meted out to Aboriginal and Islander people. It is crucial that those who support
Indigenous rights equip themselves with the facts and arguments, and disseminate
them as widely as possible.
Indigenous children were forcibly taken from families well into
the seventies – merely twenty years ago. The Broken Hill Aboriginal Legal Service
told the inquiry “there were children removed from Wilcannia in the 1970s in much
the same way [as] in the 1960s”. A woman told how she was adopted by a white family,
without her mother’s knowledge, in 1973:
“I was taken off my mum as soon as I was born…What
Welfare wanted to do was adopt all these poor little black babies into nice, caring
white families, where they’d get a good upbringing. I had a shit upbringing. Me
and [adopted brother who was also Aboriginal] were always treated different to
In 1964, Paul was stolen from the Royal Children’s Hospital in
Melbourne as a baby, when he and his mother were both ill. His mother was told
his removal to a Babies’ Home was a temporary arrangement until she got better.
But Paul was first made a ward of the State and then offered for adoption when
the courts dispensed with his mother’s consent. The adoption placement failed because
the family was racist, and Paul was returned to an orphanage, subsequently being
fostered until the age of 17. In this family too, he experienced cruelty, abuse
and racism – which he didn’t understand until he was discharged from State wardship.
It was a bombshell.
“In May 1982…the Senior Welfare Officer…conveyed
to me in a matter-of-fact way that I was of ‘Aboriginal descent’, that I had a
Natural mother, father, three brothers and a sister, who were alive…He placed before
me 368 pages of my file, together with letters, photos and birthday cards. [His
mother had never given up looking for him.] He informed me that my surname would
change back to my Mother’s maiden name…”
The Home at Bomaderry in NSW, notorious for holding Indigenous
children, was not closed until 1980.
And according to National Party MP Bob Katter – hardly a sympathiser
of the Aboriginal cause – the removal of Aboriginal children, presumably under
child welfare legislation, is still going on today in areas of Queensland and other
parts of the country. So we are not talking about “ancient history” here, but a
pattern of racist oppression which has continued in different forms from settlement
right up to today.
In fact, Bringing them home devotes a whole chapter to
“Contemporary separations”. Though “assimilation” is no longer official government
policy, there are still ways to break up Indigenous families and communities. Although
Indigenous children and youth aged 10-17 accounted for only 2.7 per cent of the
total youth population in 1993, they made up 20 per cent of the numbers in care,
with the main reason cited as “neglect”. In 1997, Indigenous children were almost
six times more likely than non-Indigenous children to be removed from their families
and placed in protective care, according to a survey by the Australian Institute
of Health and Welfare (and in fact this was an underestimation, because NSW was
unable to provide details on Aboriginality).
Of perhaps even greater concern is the juvenile justice system
and the way it is administered in respect of Aboriginal youth. Indigenous youth
(and adults) are routinely arrested for minor “offences” such as drunkenness, offensive
language and so on, which when committed by whites lead to at most a caution.
The Royal Commission into Black Deaths in Custody recommendation that these offences
be dropped from the criminal code – like most of its other recommendations – was
A study by researchers from the University of Melbourne’s criminology
department found that over-representation of Kooris in the Victorian criminal justice
system has worsened since the findings of the Royal Commission on Black Deaths in
Custody in 1991. Between 1989-90 and 1993-94 the number of Koori “offenders” aged
17 and under jumped by 69 per cent, and the rate of charges against Kooris increased
by 17.3 per cent over the same period. Kooris are 14.5 times more likely to be
charged with being drunk than non-Aborigines and 10 times more likely to be charged
After funding of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Services Association
Inc was cut in 1996 (as a result of Federal government cuts to ATSIC), the number
of young Victorian Aborigines in custody nearly doubled in less than a year.
In November 1996 Western Australia introduced a “three strikes”
law which makes a minimum 12 month jail sentence mandatory for anyone – adult or
juvenile – convicted of a third home burglary offence. Under this law, a 12-year
old Aboriginal boy was jailed for a year for acting as a look-out. There was outrage
in December 1997, when a magistrate jailed two Aboriginal children for (quite understandably)
spitting at the racist MP Pauline Hanson. Fortunately, the public outcry led to
In August 1995, a National Police Custody Survey illustrated,
according to an analysis done by the Australian Institute of Criminology “the continuing
heavy involvement of Indigenous children (compared to non-Indigenous children) in
the criminal justice system, in particular the elevated proportion of Aboriginal
children being held in the cells by police.”
Of 1,753 juveniles aged from 10 to 17 years held in police custody
in the survey period, 704 – about 40 per cent – were Indigenous children and young
people. Similarly, some 36 per cent of youth in juvenile correctional institutions
in June 1996 were Indigenous, with a rate of incarceration of 540 per 100,000,
compared to 25 per 100,000 for non-Indigenous youth.
These scandalous figures again highlight the systematic, ingrained
racism of Australian society and its institutions. And as the WA Aboriginal Legal
Service submission to the Stolen Generations inquiry points out, “The detention
of Aboriginal youth is a form of child removal.”
The separation from their families and communities of Indigenous
children and youth detained in correctional institutions is even worse when you
consider that the detention centres are often hundreds or even thousands of kilometres
away from the communities, especially in Queensland, Western Australia and the
Northern Territory, where the rates of removal are particularly high compared with
the national average.
So it’s very strange that he was prepared to give a personal
apology (albeit a very grudging, mean-spirited one) at the 1997 Reconciliation
Convention, but utterly refuses to countenance an apology by the Federal Parliament,
on behalf of the nation. And since he followed up his stilted, two-sentence “expression
of regret” with an angry, lectern-pounding tirade defending his government’s policy
on native title, it’s hard to believe in his sincerity. No wonder a quarter of
the audience turned their backs on him in disgust.
It might appear that Howard just doesn’t get it. A majority of
people (according to the polls), most newspapers, churches, a host of eminently
respectable public figures, and even some State Liberal governments can recognise
that an acknowledgement of and apology for past crimes against the Aboriginal people
is not a matter of people today admitting individual or collective guilt – a word
which, as the inquiry President Sir Ronald Wilson has pointed out, is never mentioned
in Bringing them home.
But Howard isn’t really that dumb. His refusal to consider either
an official apology or compensation arises out of his determination to pursue a
course that involves not only continuing racist oppression, but stripping away
some of the gains, small as they are, that Indigenous people have made in recent
Howard’s 10-point plan in response to the High Court’s Wik judgement
takes away from Indigenous people and gives to the miners and pastoralists, and
all the millionaires who stand to make windfall profits from the effective upgrading
of pastoral leases to freehold ownership. So Howard’s response (or lack of it)
to the Stolen Generations report is entirely consistent. He doesn’t want
to acknowledge the past because he plans to continue it in other ways.
A sincere acknowledgment and expression of regret for the wrongs
done to Australia’s Indigenous people has nothing to do with guilt. But it does
imply that you take responsibility for trying to redress the wrongs by fighting
for, or at least supporting, greater rights and a better deal for Aborigines today.
The reason Howard is so obsessed with guilt is that, unlike most
of us, he actually does have reason to feel some.
But of course, Howard doesn’t want to be seen as the racist he
is, nor does he want the Australian economy damaged by international perceptions
of Australia as a racist country. Hence his condemnation of what he calls “the
black armband view” of Australian history. Howard prefers what the historian Henry
Reynolds refers to as the “white blindfold view”. (And the whitewashing continues.
Following the release of Bringing them home, government departments have
been instructed not to refer to “stolen” children, but to use the more sanitised
term “separated” instead.)
There is no rigid barrier between the past and the present – or
between the present and future for that matter. There is a continuity in history
– things that happen in one year or decade shape what comes after, as the victims
of the assimilation policy know only too well.
“I have six children. My kids have been through
what I went through…The psychological effects that it had on me as a young child
also affected me as a mother with my children. I’ve put my children in Bomaderry
Children’s Home when they were little. History repeating itself.”
The social and economic position of Aborigines today is a direct
result of what has happened to them in the past. And on a personal level, the effects
ripple through the generations in a vicious cycle of despair and alienation.
In fact, as the report clearly shows, existing laws were often
flouted and common law rights were certainly ignored. British common law rights
were promised to all the Indigenous peoples of the British Empire. But in far-flung
colonies, before the development of mass transportation and communications, local
authorities could get away with murder – literally. And the Australian colonies
were the most notorious. The report shows how the following common law rights were
routinely violated with regard to Indigenous people: deprivation of liberty (by
removing Indigenous people to reserves and missions and by detaining children and
confining them in institutions); abolition of parental rights (by making the children
wards or by assuming custody and control); abuses of power (in the removal process)
and breach of guardianship obligations (on the part of Protectors, Protection Boards
and other “carers”).
Moreover, a host of special legislation was devised to provide
legal cover for the atrocities committed against Indigenous people. For example,
a Welfare Ordinance was introduced in the Northern Territory in 1953. Its purported
objective was to “subject all Aboriginal people to the same welfare legislation
as non-Indigenous people. Accordingly, it made no mention of race, referring instead
to ‘wards’. A ward was any person who ‘by reason of his manner of living, his inability
to manage his own affairs, his standard of social habit and behaviour, his personal
associations, stands in need of special care.’”
These “wards” had no rights whatsoever; they were completely in
the power of the Director of Welfare. But when there were protests from non-Indigenous
Territorians who feared the Ordinance might be applied to them, the wording
was changed to make it clear that only Indigenous children were to be targeted.
This was simply done, still managing to avoid any reference to race – people with
voting rights could not be made wards. Before the 1967 referendum, this excluded
few apart from Aborigines.
Australia voluntarily pledged itself to certain standards of
conduct under the banner of international human rights – the UN Charter of
1945, the UN Resolution of 1946 declaring genocide to be a crime against humanity,
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and so on. At this time “assimilation”
was in its infancy, and it was to continue for several more decades, despite the
fact that the policy itself, and practices such as the forcible removal of children,
were both generally and specifically outlawed under the various declarations Australia
had signed (see also the discussion of genocide below).
Let’s turn now to the treatment of Indigenous children and how
it fits with the ideas of the time about the raising and treatment of children.
In our society, the family is held up as the foundation of all
that is worthwhile – it is where we are supposed to be nurtured, loved and prepared
for life in the wider world. This is not a new idea. Millions of words were written
from the 1880s to the 1970s about the damage children suffer when removed from
their parents, in particular the mother, and about the problems institutionalised
care causes for child development.
In 1951 the United Nations released a report based on studies
of maternal deprivation and its effects. The report stressed that the focus of
child welfare services should be on assisting families to keep their children with
them. This thinking underpins a lot of child welfare policy-making this century.
In 1955 the Australian High Court unequivocally confirmed the
rights of parents to keep their children except in the most extraordinary circumstances.
“It must be conceded at once that in the ordinary case the mother’s
moral right to insist that her child shall remain her child is too deeply grounded
in human feeling to be set aside by reason only of an opinion formed by other people
that a change of relationship is likely to turn out for the greater benefit of
Yet during all these years, in the name of “assimilation” into
white society, Indigenous children were deliberately stolen from their families,
then systematically lied to in order to keep them out of their families.
They were prevented from having any contact with their families by the suppression
of letters, being moved to inaccessible places, having their files destroyed, even
having their names and birthdates falsified. By and large, these things did not
happen to white children who were removed from their families. And indeed, the
trend with regard to white children was to return them to their families wherever
possible, to arrange fostering if not – at the same time as the pace of removal
of Indigenous children was increasing.
“Unlike white children who came into the state’s
control, far greater care was taken to ensure that [Aboriginal children] never
saw their parents or families again. They were often given new names, and the
greater distances involved in rural areas made it easier to prevent parents and
children on separate missions from tracing each other.”
Many of the officials who oversaw and implemented the removal
of the children tried to justify their actions with the racist claim that family
bonds among Indigenous people were not as strong or as important as among whites.
“I would not hesitate for one moment to separate
any half-caste from its Aboriginal mother, no matter how frantic her momentary
grief might be at the time. They soon forget their offspring.”
Yet if this was the case, why did government departments go to
such extraordinary lengths to make it difficult for parents to find out where
their children were?
“They changed our names, they changed our religion,
they changed our date of birth…That’s why today, a lot of them don’t know who
they are, where they’re from. We’ve got to watch today that brothers aren’t marrying
sisters; because of the Government. Children were taken from interstate and they
were just put everywhere.”
“When I finally met [my mother] through an interpreter
she said that because my name had been changed she had heard about the other children
but she’d never heard about me. And…every morning as the sun came up the whole
family would wail. They did that for 32 years until they saw me again.”
Parents and other relatives tried desperately to find or maintain
contact with the children, meeting with obstacles and threats at every turn.
Murray’s mother was initially allowed to visit her children (under
supervision) at the Townsville State Children’s Orphanage. But the visits were
stopped because they had “destabilising effects”:
“That didn’t deter my mother. She used to come
to the school ground to visit us over the fence. The authorities found out…They
had to send us to a place where she couldn’t get to us. To send us anywhere on
mainland Queensland she would have just followed – so they sent us to…Palm Island
Aboriginal Settlement…I wasn’t to see my mother again for ten nightmare years.”
Paul’s mother never gave up looking for her son.
“She wrote many letters to the State Welfare Authorities,
pleading with them to give her son back…All these letters were shelved. The State
Welfare Department treated my mother like dirt, as if she never existed. The department
rejected and scoffed at all my Mother’s cries and pleas for help.”
Records were destroyed, often deliberately. For example, in
the Northern Territory, personal files were “culled back to only 200 records in
the 1970s due to concerns their contents would embarrass the government”. And even
today, it remains extraordinarily difficult to gain access to the remaining records.
The first Annual Report of the newly-established Ministry for
Aboriginal Affairs in 1968 expressed concern about the illegal removal of children
in Victoria, citing “unauthorised fostering arrangements” and informal separations
where children were taken and their names changed to prevent their parents finding
them. Government reports by this time recognised that Indigenous children were
best left in their own communities, yet despite all this, the number of Aboriginal
children who were forcibly removed continued to rise, from 220 in 1973 to 350 in
Economic rationalists like Howard and Herron, of course, see
“benefits” only in material terms. They seem incapable of understanding the trauma
of separation and the deprivation of things most Australians take for granted.
“I’ve often thought, as old as I am, that it would
have been nice to have known a father and mother, to know parents even for a little
while, just to have had the opportunity of having a mother tuck you into bed and
give you a good-night kiss – but it was never to be.”
Another stolen child, Penny, reports that three of her siblings
are under psychiatric care, and one of them, Trevor, has been diagnosed as a paranoid
schizophrenic and sometimes gets suicidal. Yet because he has had a job for most
of his life and owns a house and car,
“People…look at [Trevor] and say, ‘He’s achieved
the great Australian dream’. And they don’t look behind that…They look at us and
say, ‘Well, assimilation worked with those buggers’. They see our lives as a success.”
Some submissions to the inquiry acknowledged the “love and care
provided by non-Indigenous adoptive families (and foster families to a much lesser
extent)” or recorded “appreciation for a high standard of education.
Access to education is the most frequently-cited “benefit” that
stolen children are supposed to have enjoyed. Yet more often than not, their educational
aspirations were denigrated and opportunities denied.
“I wanted to be a nurse, only to be told that I
was nothing but an immoral black lubra, and I was only fit to work on cattle and
sheep properties…I [got] that perfect 100% in my exams at the end of each year…only
to be knocked back…Our education was really to train us to be domestics and to
“I was the best in my class, I came first in all
the subjects…[At age 15] I…wanted to continue in school, but I wasn’t allowed to…I
was sent out to the farms just to do housework.”
The first Aboriginal magistrate, Pat O’Shane, recalls her ambitions
to study medicine, but her teacher “responded that I didn’t have the brains to
go on to high school…notwithstanding that I had always had an above average record
A three-year study in Melbourne during the 1980s of both children
taken from families in childhood (33 per cent) and those raised in their communities
found that those removed were: less likely to have undertaken tertiary education;
much less likely to have stable living conditions; twice as likely to have been
arrested by police and been convicted of an offence; three times more likely to
have been in jail; and twice as likely to be using illegal drugs.
A national survey by the Bureau of Statistics in 1994 found no
significant difference in standards of education, ability to find work, or the
large numbers living on incomes under $12,000 between those removed and those not.
But those removed were twice as likely to have been arrested more than once in
the last five years. And 70.9 per cent of those taken away assessed their own health
as good or better, compared with 84.5 per cent of those not taken.
The effects of the atrocities of the past haunt people’s lives
to this very day. And in any case, those children who could point to some positives
such as education to weigh up against the devastation of separation are very much
in the minority.
A majority of the stolen children spent all or part of their
childhoods in institutions, and in many cases, this was a prelude to a life in and
out of other institutions, such as prisons and psychiatric hospitals.
“They grew up to mix with other troubled children
in Tardon…they only knew how to mix with the other boys they grew up with and
these boys were into stealing, so my sons went with them. I couldn’t tell them anything…because
they felt that coloured people were nothing…
“One of my sons was put into jail for four years
and the other one died before he could reach the age of 21 years. It hasn’t done
my sons any good, the Welfare…taking them away from me, they would have been better
off with me their mother.”
To say that any stolen child “benefited” from the experience is
not only utterly false with respect to material advantage for the vast majority,
it also reflects the racist view that there is nothing of value in Aboriginal culture
and denies the significance of cultural identity for Indigenous people.
Howard says that he “understands” the concerns and anxieties of
those white Australians who feel their cultural identity is under threat (people
who are attracted to Pauline Hanson’s One Nation for instance). He is also an active
promoter of “family values”. Yet he shows absolutely no sympathy for or understanding
of the cultural identity and family relationships of Indigenous people. This,
plus his contemptuous dismissal of the report and its recommendations, is further
evidence of his inherently racist world view.
There are none so blind as those who will not see. Bringing
them home documents criticism of and opposition to the practice and methods
of forcible removal, as well as the extreme cruelty and abuse suffered by children,
from the very beginning, and all around the country. It quotes Members of Parliament,
government officials (including police and patrol officers), newspaper editorials,
welfare organisations and of course Aboriginal organisations.
The historian Henry Reynolds has recently published a book, The
Whispering in Our Hearts (Allen and Unwin 1998), about opposition to the treatment
of Aborigines from 1790 to 1940. He notes that the word “reconciliation” was used
in the 1830s in much the same way as it is used today, showing that “this tradition
has much deeper roots than people suppose.”
“Kidnapping of boys and girls is another serious
evil…[They] are frequently taken from their parents and tribes, and removed far
off whence they have no chance of returning; left helpless at the mercy of…white
people responsible to no-one and under no supervision by any proper authority…Stringent
legislation is required to prevent a continuance of abuses concerning the women
In 1915, the NSW parliament passed the Aborigines Protection Amending
Act, giving the Protection Board total power to take children away without having
to prove neglect, and abolishing the minimum age at which Aboriginal children could
be apprenticed. There was strong opposition to this Act by MPs who argued that it
was an “act of cruelty” to “steal the child away from its parents”, that the real
intention was “to gain absolute control of the child and use him as a slave without
paying wages” and that this was tantamount to the “reintroduction of slavery in
South Australia’s 1923 Aborigines (Training of Children) Act
made it easier for the state to remove Indigenous children, justified on the basis
that such a separation was “less traumatic” for Indigenous than for white children.
It was strongly opposed by Aboriginal families who organised a petition to the
government, and they won some public support. The South Australian magazine Daylight
editorialised: “There is not and never should be occasion for the Children to be
taken away from their parents and farmed out among white people.” As a result of
the protests, the operation of the Act was suspended in 1924, although it was subsequently
revived in another form.
In 1925 the Australian Aborigines Progressive Association (AAPA)
was formed in NSW and immediately called for an end to the stealing of children.
One of the AAPA’s supporters was the MP for Cobar, whose questions in parliament
led to a Parliamentary Select Committee into the Aborigines Protection Board and
a further inquiry in 1938.
In Western Australia in the early 1930s, a series of articles
appeared in the local and international press, containing allegations of slavery,
mistreatment of Aborigines and abuse of Aboriginal women. The resulting publicity
forced the government to hold a Royal Commission. Bessie Rischbieth, president of
the Australian Federation of Women Voters, gave evidence: “In most instances I
should prefer to see the children left with their parents…the system of dealing
with the parents should be improved in order that they might keep their children”.
In her opinion, governments preferred to remove children “because it was cheaper
than providing the same system of support which operated for white children.”
Another prominent critic was the feminist Mary Bennett, who taught
from 1932 at the Mt Margaret Mission in Western Australia. She described the removal
of children as the “official smashing of family life”. Feminist politics of the
time were strongly maternalist, and this led feminist groups such as the Australian
Federation of Women Voters, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and the British
Commonwealth League to take up the issue of the stolen children. They supported
Aboriginal women giving evidence to a WA Royal Commission in 1934, though they
failed to win the legal rights for Aboriginal mothers that they were seeking.
Their evidence was dismissed by Royal Commissioner Moseley as “hearsay…interesting,
In 1937 the Commonwealth Minister of the Interior, John McEwen,
visited The Bungalow and Half-Caste Home in Darwin, and was shocked at what he
“I know many stock breeders who would not dream
of crowding their stock in the way these half-caste children are huddled.”
Though not documented in the report, a major source of opposition
to racist government policies towards Aborigines was the trade union movement, and
especially the unions influenced by the Communist Party. In the film Lousy Little
Sixpence (itself evidence that many people knew about and opposed forcible
removal), an Aboriginal activist fondly recalls the financial support given by
wharfies of the Waterside Workers’ Federation, who “gave like anything”.
In the light of the Howard government’s current attacks on maritime
workers, it is well worth recalling the wharfies’ proud history of support for Indigenous
people – indeed it is precisely this record of solidarity with the oppressed which
is one of the main reasons the government and employers have set out to smash
the Maritime Union of Australia.
In 1964 Faith Bandler, the NSW Secretary of the Federal Council
for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, wrote to the Waterside
Workers’ Federation (WWF – predecessor of the MUA) secretary: “The main support
of the FCAATSI [in the struggle for scholarships for Aborigines to receive skills
training] comes from the Trade Unions, and among the Trade Unions, the WWF has a
special place in my heart because it has so often been the first and most generous
in response to our appeals.”
The next year, the WWF levied every member around Australia to
build a new bakery at Moa, a Torres Strait Island, after the Queensland government
had refused to help. With other groups of well-organised workers, such as the Newcastle
branch of the Operative Bakers, Seamen and the Transport Workers’ Union, the
WWF organised the purchase, delivery and installation of the bakery.
In the run-up to the 1965 FCAATSI conference, Aboriginal wharfies
held lunch hour meetings to explain the issues to their fellow workers. In
1968, with other unions, the WWF bought a car for Aborigines in northern Australia
campaigning for their rights. By 1969, the WWF was one of seven unions which had
set up committees to organise support for Aborigine and Torres Strait Islander
demands at the request of the FCAATSI.
According to the definition of genocide under international law
and used by the UN – yes. Australia is a signatory to a number of UN Charters,
Conventions and Declarations which outlaw the very practices carried out here.
The 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide
(ratified by Australia in 1949) made it clear that genocide includes any actions
which have the effect of “destroying, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic,
racial or religious group.” It defines genocide as: “…killing members of the group;
causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting…conditions
of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; forcibly transferring
children of the group…”
Australia’s treatment of Aborigines qualifies as genocide on every
So at the same time as Australian governments were grandstanding
internationally, they were deliberately ignoring their own commitments, and they
continued their genocidal practices for decades afterwards.
“There are certain restrictions which must remain
imposed on Aborigines even though they are at variance with the complete ideals
of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
The UN Conventions also make it clear that acting out of “good
intentions” is no excuse – it’s the effects which count, not the purpose. Nor can
a state use the excuse that “it was lawful under its own laws”. For example, the
Holocaust was genocide, even though much of the persecution of the Jews in Germany
was legal under the Nuremberg Laws of 1938.
“Official policy and legislation for Indigenous
families and children was contrary to accepted legal principle imported into Australia
as British common law and, from late 1946, constituted a crime against humanity.
It offended accepted standards of the time and was the subject of dissent and resistance.
The implementation of the legislation was marked by breaches of fundamental obligations
on the part of officials and others to the detriment of vulnerable and dependent
children whose parents were powerless to know their whereabouts and protect them
from exploitation and abuse.”
UN Conventions also stipulate that, where genocide is established,
reparation must follow. Australia would not be the first country to do this. The
report documents a number of cases where it has been done, and more recently the
Canadian government made an apology to its indigenous people for similar practices
and allocated substantial funds towards a reparations program.
While nothing can adequately compensate for the damage, the
prospects for healing are further reduced in the absence of acknowledgement and
Financial compensation is only a part of this. Equally important
are an open and official acknowledgement of and apology for the past, the establishment
of mechanisms to help people find out about themselves and to reunite with their
families where that is possible and legislation to ensure that nothing like this
can ever happen again. These and the other recommendations of the inquiry should
be implemented immediately, but the Howard government has rejected most of them.
The government response to the report, announced in December
1997, is nothing less than an insult to the stolen generations. The paltry sum of
$63 million dollars will be spent – over four years – on such things as counselling,
regional support networks, family support programs, link-up services, a culture
and language maintenance program and an oral history project. Minister Herron once
again reiterated the tired old Coalition party line justifying the government’s
refusal to offer an apology: “You might as well go and ask the British for an apology
for coming to Australia with the convicts”, he said. “You can’t judge past practices
by today’s standards.”
Herron also ruled out any financial compensation, saying “It
was believed cash compensation to individuals would not achieve a great deal.”
Meanwhile, stolen children who want to seek compensation for abuse in government
and church institutions through the courts are being prevented from doing so by
lack of money to fight the cases and what lawyers describe as an almost impossible
hunt for documentation. Matthew Storey, senior solicitor for the NT Stolen Generation
Litigation Unit, has been told that government records dating back to the crucial
period of the 1950s have been destroyed.
Although most States have not undertaken to adopt the report’s
recommendations on adoption, child welfare and juvenile justice procedures, Herron
said Commonwealth action to force their compliance was unnecessary. This is a repeat
scenario of what happened with the recommendations of the Black Deaths in Custody
Royal Commission, where the States’ failure to implement them has meant that the
problem has not only continued, but got worse. Since 1990, according to the Australian
Institute of Criminology, 92 Indigenous Australians have died in prison or police
custody (including deaths in police operations such as sieges and pursuits). More
than 17 per cent of all custodial deaths were Aborigines or Torres Strait Islanders,
who make up 1.4 per cent of the adult population.
With all this plus the racist 10-point plan, it is little wonder
that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission has passed a vote of
no confidence in Herron, and refused to have further dealings with him. Even the
conservative, Liberal-appointed head of ATSIC, Gatjil Djerrkura, who was a Country
Liberal Party candidate for a Northern Territory Senate seat in 1980, has called
for Herron’s sacking. In a recent interview Djerrkura described Herron as “a person
who believes he knows best for us. He has a paternalistic attitude.” And one of
his staffers described the relationship between Herron and Howard as “the uninformed
informing the uninterested.” Howard has repeatedly demonstrated his lack of interest
in the issue, perhaps most notably when he actually left the parliamentary chamber
just as Labor opposition members started to read out some of the experiences of
the stolen children.
Howard wants to be “fair” to pastoralists, many of whose fortunes
were built on both dispossession and cheap or unpaid Aboriginal labour. He has
no problem with setting up special funds for things such as drought relief or gun
buy-backs, or funding the redundancies of wharfies sacked by Patrick Stevedores.
Clearly, he feels some loyalty and sense of responsibility to those constituencies.
But he rejects any compensation for Aborigines.
With its attacks on native title, ATSIC, Abstudy and so on,
the Howard government is carrying on the racist traditions of its predecessors and
adding further insult to the grievous injuries already suffered.