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2.4 Commonwealth Responses to the Bringing Them Home Report

In December 1997, the Commonwealth Government agreed that their response to the Bringing Them Home Report would be under the themes of family reunion and associated counselling services. They also stated that there would be no formal Government apology and that all issues of child welfare, adoption and juvenile justice would not be covered by a Commonwealth response, but that each state would respond individually under the relevant jurisdiction legislation.144 It is noted that this section does not cover every Commonwealth response to the Bringing Them Home Report but those which are significant.

The five measures that the Commonwealth funded in 1997 in response to the 54 Recommendations of the Report were:145

  • Digitisation and indexing of archival records to assist in family tracing and reunions.
  • A national network of Link-Up services to assist in family tracing and reunions including enhanced funding to Link-Up services that were already established.
  • Expanded and enhanced mental health services through the provision of 50 training Indigenous mental health workers to assist those suffering psychological distress as a result of family separations.
  • An oral history project to record and preserve the stories and process of family separations It was stated by the Government at the time that the Bringing Them Home Report was ‘one sided’ and that this oral history project include the stories of officials, police, missionaries, and hospital staff ‘so that there is a rounded record for historical purposes’.146
  • Parenting support programs to address the impacts of Stolen Generations experiences on raising their own families.147
  • The Commonwealth response also included that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) would use existing funds to support Culture and language programs.148

This led to funding of the following responses to the recommendations:149

  • The Bringing Them Home Name Index of National Archives Australian Records relating to Stolen Generations (Remains current).
  • Establishment or expansion of Link-Up services in each state, Link-Up Victoria was established in 1992 Remains current).
  • The Bringing Them Home Counsellors workforce program established to provide support to people affected by the removal policies and practices of past governments. In Victoria there are currently 13 Bringing Them Home Workers located within Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (Remains current).
  • Expansion of the social emotional wellbeing programs in regional areas (Partially complete).
  • The National Library of Australia Bringing Them Home Oral History Project which recorded 340 oral histories of various Stolen Generations and non-Indigenous employees involved in the removal or institutionalisation of Stolen Generations.150 There are approximately 35 Victorian related oral histories in this collection that are publicly available (Complete).
  • National Library of Australian publication, ‘Many Voices: Reflections on Experience of Indigenous Child Separation’ (Complete).
  • Family support and parenting programs administered by Family and Community Services (No longer funded).
  • Innovative and cultural healing approaches administered by ATSIC (No longer funded).
  • Educational and training activities for health, justice, Link-Up and other relevant services (Partially funded).

Further Commonwealth responses that have been actioned after the initial 1997 response are:

  • In 2004 a memorial to Stolen Generations was established at ‘Reconciliation Place’ in Canberra.151
  • On 13 February 2008 then Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, made the now well-known national apology to Stolen Generations. The anniversary of each apology is now commemorated each year and in addition 26 May is also commemorated as ‘Sorry Day’.
  • In 2009 The Healing Foundation, a national body for Stolen Generations, was established with Commonwealth Government funding. Between 2009 and 2019 the Healing Foundation have assisted more than 45,000 people in their personal healing journeys and administered grants to fund around 670 community-based healing projects and organisational commemorative events.152 The Healing Foundation are also national advocates for Stolen Generations and their descendants, they undertake regular policy and research reports on the requirements of Stolen Generations and intergenerational healing.

As noted above, the Bringing Them Home Report made several recommendations in relation to a national compensation process to assist in healing for Stolen Generations. However, to date no national compensation process has followed and states have responded on an individual basis.

The Commonwealth response to the Bringing Them Home Report has been criticised in numerous reports, in 2007 an evaluation of the Bringing Them Home and other services stated ‘The Government’s response to the Bringing Them Home Report has been insufficiently documented, poorly coordinated and insufficiently targeted to meet the needs of the Stolen Generations’.153 In 2017 the Healing Foundation stated ‘Despite progress in some areas, there has never been a collaborative and systematic attempt to address the recommendations the report made. Most have never been implemented’ and noted that this ‘Failure to act has caused a ripple effect to current generations.’154

Of the Commonwealth Government responses to the Bringing Them Home Report, four are still relevant to Stolen Generations in Victoria through Link-Up Victoria, Bringing Them Home Workers, the Bringing Them Home oral history project and the Bringing Them Home Name Index which assists in accessing family records at National Archives Australia.


End notes

144 Commonwealth Government, 1997, Cabinet Submission, Government response to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission's Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families - Bringing Them Home, Item ID 32318996; Public Interest Advocacy Centre Ltd, June 2009, Restoring Identity: Final Report of the Moving Forward consultation project

145 Commonwealth Government, 1997, Cabinet Submission, Government response to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission's Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families - Bringing Them Home, Item ID 32318996; Public Interest Advocacy Centre Ltd, June 2009, Restoring Identity: Final Report of the Moving Forward consultation project

146 Commonwealth Government, 1997, Cabinet Submission, Government response to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission's Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families - Bringing Them Home, Item ID 32318996a

147 Public Interest Advocacy Centre Ltd, June 2009, Restoring Identity: Final Report of the Moving Forward consultation project

148 Public Interest Advocacy Centre Ltd, June 2009, Restoring Identity: Final Report of the Moving Forward consultation project

149 Public Interest Advocacy Centre Ltd, June 2009, Restoring Identity: Final Report of the Moving Forward consultation project; Ministerial Council of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, 2003, Evaluation of responses to Bringing Them Home Report

150 Australian Human Rights Commission, Audio Testimonies - Bringing Them HomeExternal Link

151 Australian Human Rights Commission, Stolen Generations Timeline - Bringing Them HomeExternal Link .

152 Healing Foundation, 2019, Apology 11 Fact Sheet

153 Office for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing, May 2007, Urbis Keys Young Evaluation of the Bringing Them Home and Indigenous Mental Health Programs

154 Healing Foundation, 2017, Bringing Them Home Report – 20 Years O

Reviewed 02 March 2022

Stolen Generations Reparations Steering Committee Report

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