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.
Records Access Policy
There have been many reports that have recommended improvements and changes to assist Stolen Generations in accessing their records and understanding their family
history.208 In response there have been a number of quality actions in Victoria to assist with making changes to records access and family tracing for Stolen Generations including the ‘common access guidelines’ developed by the Koorie Records Task force, in fulfilling a Bringing Them Home report recommendation. In 2012 when the Koorie Records Taskforce ceased they stated these remained to be implemented. The common access guidelines were designed in consultation with Stolen Generations and relevant agencies to improve service provision within government and non-government records access procedures.209
Reparations consultation consistently raised various records access concerns indicating that access to personal and family records remains an issue. Stolen Generations Reparations consultation participants raised that they did not know how to access records, did not understand or agree with the Freedom of Information redaction process, or were unable to locate family due to limitations in accessing records. One participant stated that they applied for their ward files and were told they did not exist, however, they later found out that the records did exist, and this impacted on their ability to find family. The Stolen Generations Reparations survey shows that out of 94 participants, Stolen Generations and family, 46 see intergenerational healing as occurring through receiving access to family history and other records.
The Steering Committee recommends that the Common Access Guidelines developed by the Koorie Records Taskforce be reviewed, restored and implemented across all government and non-government agencies that hold personal records about Stolen Generations, including those interstate.
It is recommended that the Common Access Guidelines are reviewed and restored to ensure:
- That those with a lived experience of a disability are considered in access processes,
- That records access includes the needs of the whole family where requested,
- That records access services consider the emotional impact of records by providing culturally safe support alongside delivery of records.
- That the common access guidelines develop a framework to ensure that a pro-release records access approach is delivered by all relevant agencies.
It is noted that the Healing Foundation have recently developed an archivists training package to increase awareness of records access needs for Stolen Generations which may assist agencies implementing the common access guidelines.210
Limited access to records from hospitals and police were found to be one significant area of records access that stops Stolen Generations from finding family. One consultation participant shared their story of being denied access to their personal hospital records. These records may hold birth and subsequent adoption information and are essential in reconnection to the participant’s birth family and re-building an identity. The Stolen Generations participant was forced to undergo legal action in order to access their own records from this hospital. Link-Up Qld also worked with parents of a child that was removed in Victoria to try to locate their missing daughter. The Link-Up Qld Research team worked on this case for seven years and they were unable to locate this stolen child as they were denied access to essential hospital and police records. An article that describes the details of the issues accessing Victorian hospital and police records for Stolen Generations is at Appendix 4. During consultation it was stated that ‘Hospitals need to acknowledge their part in the Stolen Generations and all other institutions, private and public, no more hiding, everyone named.’ It is recommended that the common access guidelines are urgently implemented by Victoria Police and all Victorian hospitals to ensure that Stolen Generations have free access to personal and family records for family tracing and identity purposes.
Additionally, access to Victorian Births, Deaths and Marriage Certificates were noted as of concern to Stolen Generations, this has also been raised in previous reports for Stolen Generations.211 It is recommended that the common access guidelines are urgently implemented by Victorian Births, Deaths and Marriages to ensure that Stolen Generations have free access to births, deaths and marriage certificates for family tracing and identity purposes.
In addition to the implementation of the common access guidelines the Steering Committee finds that a broad self-determined approach for Aboriginal records management is required.
The Steering Committee recommends that an Aboriginal Victoria records repository is established to hold relevant Aboriginal historical and cultural records. It is further recommended that the repository has the capacity to hold personal records at the request of individuals.
This is detailed within recommendation 29 of the Bringing Them Home Report with an emphasis on the transfer of cultural and historical records to Aboriginal community control to increase the option for self-determined access to the Aboriginal history held within archival records.212 It is recommended that the Aboriginal managed records repository develop a framework to ensure that a pro-release records access approach is delivered.
It is noted that current legislation may need to be addressed for those individuals who wish their personal records to be transferred out of state agencies control into an Aboriginal controlled repository.
208 Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, 1997, Bringing Them Home Report; Koorie Records Taskforce, 2001, Finding Your Story - Community Forums Summary Report; Victorian Stolen Generations Taskforce, 2003, Stolen Generations Taskforce Report; Koorie Records Taskforce, Department for Victorian Communities, May 2006, wilam naling, knowing who you are Improving Access to Records of the Stolen Generations A Report to the Victorian Government; Stolen Generations Victoria, 2008, Unfinished Business: Reparations, Restitution and Rehabilitation; Koorie Records Taskforce, January 2012, Victorian Koorie Records Taskforce Final Report
209 Koorie Records Taskforce, January 2012, Victorian Koorie Records Taskforce Final Report
211 Stolen Generations Victoria, 2008, Unfinished Business: Reparations, Restitution and Rehabilitation; Koorie Records Taskforce, January 2012, Victorian Koorie Records Taskforce Final Report
212 Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, 1997, Bringing Them Home Report