3.3 Reparations – Measures of Restitution

As stated above, this report defines this aspect of reparations, detailed in the Bringing Them Home Report, as the policies and practices in place to restore what was lost or stolen from Stolen Generations due to separation from family, community, Culture and Country.

Post Reunion Support

Reunions with birth family are an integral part of healing for Stolen Generations and have been supported by Link-Up Victoria from 1992, prior to the Bringing Them Home Report. Under the Link-Up model Stolen Generations are supported to have one reunion, it has been noted by the Steering Committee and past recommendations that the first reunion is usually only the beginning of a long journey to reconnecting with family, community, Culture and Country.190 Dr Jane McKendrick of the Victorian Aboriginal Mental Health Network was quoted in the Bringing Them Home Report in 1997: ‘… it has been my experience with some Aboriginal people who have been taken away from their families in childhood and who have had severe mental health problems in adulthood have really benefited from going home, spending time on their traditional land with their elders and extended family. The healing process might take a few years, but that is by far the best way to do that.191 Some healing camps or programs to assist Stolen Generations to reconnect have been established in Victoria prior to this time and it is noted that these provide a model of the important post-reunion healing that has been occurring in Victoria due to these programs.192

The opportunity to form an identity in relation to community, Culture, Country and language was an essential theme that was raised throughout consultation sessions across Victoria. Stolen Generations stated they want to connect to community, Culture, Country and language to address feelings of disconnection and to increase a sense of belonging. The opportunity to reconnect to Culture, Country and language was also noted as extremely significant in the Bringing Them Home Report and the 2008 Victorian Stolen Generations Report.193

The Steering Committee’s Stolen Generations Reparations survey indicates 30 of 63 participants who identified as Stolen Generations need better access to Culture, language and return to Country programs and 36 need better access to healing places. Many survey participants further noted that being on Country was a method of healing for them and that accessing and learning cultural practices such as weaving, cultural heritage and history, smoking ceremonies, languages, dreaming and creation stories have supported their healing. Some of the existing healing programs that were noted by survey participants as useful were Marumali Program (3), Ngarra Jarra Noun Healing Programs (4), Bringing Them Home Workers Programs (4) and Wulgunggo Ngalu Learning Place (1). A Stolen Generations participant stated that having a place to go and tell your story, connect with community (such as a Stolen Generations gathering place), and healing through art helps to build a sense of identity and gives people time to accept themselves.

The Steering Committee has considered this consultation data and considers the following recommendation as a response and in recognition of the ongoing support needed post-reunion for Stolen Generations to build a sense of identity and belonging.

Recommendation 10

The Steering Committee recommends that all current Victorian Stolen Generations services be enhanced to support Stolen Generations eligible for the Stolen Generations Reparations package through post reunion programs.

To fulfill this recommendation, it is recommended that post reunion programs should consist of four programs:

  • Stolen Generations and family return to Country program, with a Traditional Owner welcome.
  • Access to language programs.
  • Access to healing camps or healing centres.
  • Access to counselling needs as determined by Stolen Generations.

All post reunion programs are to ensure that Stolen Generations who are eligible for the Reparations package can access these programs as self-determined by themselves and that that applicants with a lived experience of disability are able to access support workers to guide them through these programs.

To fulfill this recommendation, it is advised that Traditional Owner groups are supported to better connect with Stolen Generations and develop practices to ensure that Stolen

Generations are acknowledged, welcomed back to Country and are able to relearn Culture. Additionally, it is suggested the Stolen Generations Advisory Committee (detailed at Chapter 4.2, recommendation 14) be engaged by Traditional Owners to provide advice and support on developing these practices.

As stated above, Finity Consulting have completed research that found ‘the participant estimate for financial Reparations is 1,000. There is significant uncertainty around this estimate. This is because there is no data on how many First Nations children were removed under Victorian government policies and how many are still alive. We also do not know how many First Nations people who were removed under Victorian government policies will apply for financial Reparations’.194 Based on this it is expected that there will be 1000 eligible participants for the post reunion program. Further information on the participant estimate research and cost modelling for the post reunion programs component, including administrative and training costs, of Reparations will be provided in the Finity Consulting final report for the Steering Committee in late June 2021.

Records Access

It was consistently stated throughout consultation sessions across Victoria that access to records remains an ongoing issue for Stolen Generations. The Stolen Generations Reparations survey indicates that 33 of 63 participants who identified as Stolen Generations would benefit from access to family history and other records as a part of a Reparations package.

Recommendation 11

The Steering Committee recommends that eligible applicants to the Stolen Generations Reparations package are provided with a copy of their personal records if requested.

It is also recommended that a summary of the records is included and access to counselling and disability support is offered to assist with understanding the information within the records. It is noted that some applicants may request assistance from an existing Stolen Generations agency in this matter.

The summary of records should be provided in simple English and chronological order of information, further information about the research summary of records is provided at recommendation 29, 4.8 Assessment of applications.

A copy of personal records includes all government and non-government records created about the applicant’s removal and time in out of home care.

It is noted that this should not further delay requests for records that are already in place with existing record holding agencies.

End notes

190 Victorian Stolen Generations Taskforce, 2003, Stolen Generations Taskforce Report

191 Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, 1997, Bringing Them Home Report

192 Healing Foundation, Bringing Them Home Wellbeing Group - Wathaurong Aboriginal Health Service ; Link-Up Victoria, Stolen Generations Healing Activities; Link-Up Victoria, Stolen Generations Women’s Healing

193 Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, 1997, Bringing Them Home Report; Stolen Generations Victoria, 2008, Unfinished Business: Reparations, Restitution and Rehabilitation

194 Stolen Generations Reparations: Interim Report - Draft Findings, May 2021, Finity Consulting Pty Ltd [Final Report will be provided in late June 2021]