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The `Stolen Generations' and Cultural Genocide

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Abstract

From around the turn of 20th century up to the 1970s, Australian government authorities assumed legal guardianship of all Indigenous children and removed large numbers of them from their families in order to `assimilate' them into European society and culture. This policy has been described as `cultural genocide', even though at the time it was presented by state and church authorities as being `in the best interests' of Aboriginal children. This article outlines the results of a study of the development of the policy of forced child removal, its antecedents, its surrounding philosophy and politics and the emergence of a more critical understanding of it in recent years, as well as examining the more general implications of this history for the sociology of childhood.
The‘stolengenerations’andculturalgenocide:theforcedremovalof
AustralianIndigenouschildrenfromtheirfamiliesandits
implicationsforthesociologyofchildhood
1
RobertvanKrieken,UniversityofSydney
Publishedin:Childhood6(3)1999:297311
Deficiencies in the treatment of children are almost always understood as somehow ‘external’ to
Europeancultureandcivilization, as flaws inthesocialfabricwhichhavebeen,andcontinuetobe
rectified.Such deficiencies, whatever form they take, might be seen as errors of judgement or
interpretation,butalwaysasalien
toEuropeancivilizationitself.Itisgenerallytakenforgrantedthat
the twentieth century is the ‘century of the child’ (Key 1909), that there is clearly a harmonious
relationship between the unfolding of European civilization around the world and the increasing
realizationof‘thebestinterestsofthechild’.
The
latestinaseriesofprofoundchallengestothisconceptionofEuropea ncivilization,and
theroleofchildrenwithinit,wasraisedintheAustraliancontextinMay1997,whena reportissued
bythe AustralianHumanRights andEqualOpportunityCommission(HREOC), BringingthemHome,
stressed that the treatment
of indigenous Australian children by both State and Church agencies
throughoutthiscenturyfalls clearlywithinthetermsoftheUNdefinitionofgenocide.Thedefinition
in the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide includes
‘forcibly transferring children of the group toanother
group’ committed‘with intent todestroy,in
wholeorinpart,anational,ethnical,racialorreligiousgroup,assuch’.TheHREOCinquiryaroseout
of the findings of the 1989 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, which focused
attentiontohowmanyAboriginalprisonershadalonghistoryof
institutionalisation,beginningwith
theirremoval fromtheir families.CommissionerJ.H. Wootten, inhisreportonthedeath(‘suicide’)
of one particular Aboriginal prisoner, Malcolm Smith, spoke of ‘a life destroyed, not by the
misconductofpoliceandprisonofficers,butinlargemeasurebytheregularoperationofthesystem
of selfrighteous and racist destruction of Aboriginal families that went on under the name of
protection or welfare well into the second half of this century’ (Royal Commission into Aboriginal
DeathsinCustody1989:1),anddrewattentiontothefactthat‘theattemptto“solvetheAboriginal
problem”by
thedeliberatedestructionoffamiliesandcommunities....isseenbymanyAboriginesas
fallingsquarelywithinthemoderndefinitionofgenocide’(p.5).
2
1
Thisisrevisedandextendedversionofapaperfirst given during theSociologyofChildhoodsessionsatthe
14
th
World CongressofSociologyinMontreal,26July1August1998.Partsaredrawnfromanotherarticlein
the British Journal of Sociology (van Krieken 1999), and I would also liketo thank Jens Qvortrup, Ivar Frønes
andVirginiaWatson,aswellasthoseattheMontrealsessions,fortheir
commentsandsuggestions.
2
Thefirstreferenceto‘culturalgenocide’IhavecomeacrossisbyanExternalAffairsofficer,PhillipPeters,ina
memo on Paul Hasluck’s address to the Anthropology section at the 1959 ANZAAS congress. Hasluckwas
Minister for Territories (19511963), came close to becoming Prime Minister, and later became Governor
General, exercising a strong influence on Australian political culture and public debate. He is particularly
significantasprobablytheleadingAustralian‘theoristofassimilation’,alongsidetheanthropologistA.P.Elkin.
For useful discussions, see Thomas (1994) and Rowse (1999). Peters comments that Hasluck’s statement
suggests‘thatculturalgenocideisaprerequisite
offullassimilationof theAboriginesintothenonAboriginal
community’, making ‘no reference to the wishes of the Aborigines as regards their future’ and failing to
‘envisageanyalternativewhichmightallowAboriginestopreservesomeoftheircustomsandculture’.Peters
was also unimpressed with Hasluck’s response to criticism:
‘Mr Hasluck attacks those who, unaware of the
complexities of the problems facing Aborigines, are bold enough to criticise Government policy. The
implication seems to be that Govt policy, like the laws of the Medes and Persians, is unalterable and
profoundly wise. It may be difficult to argue this point
to overseas critics’ (National Archives of Australia,
2ROBERTVANKRIEKEN
At the time, the practice was presented as promoting the welfare of individual Aboriginal
children,becauseAboriginalculturalidentitywasseenasaninsurmountableobstacletothecapacity
to take a ‘normal’ part in EuropeanAustralian social life. Indeed, many current commentators,
including an exPrime Minister (John Gorton), still
maintain both that the overall effect was
beneficial,andthattheintentions weregood.
3
Therehavebeenscatteredvoicesofcriticaldissentat
almost every point of the policy’s history. During the passage of the New SouthWalesAborigines
Protection Amending Bill in 1915, for example, one Parliamentarian said of the forced removal of
Aboriginalchildrenthat
These people are unfortunate because, in the
interests of socalled civilisation, we have
overruntheircountryandtakenawaytheirdomai n.Wenowproposetoperpetratefurther
acts of cruelty upon them by separating the children from the parents. The mothers and
fathers of these children love them just as much as the birds and the
animals of the bush
carefortheiroffspring,andhon.memberswouldnotperpetrateacrueltyofthiskindeve n
upon an animal.....To my mind some better method should be adopted. There should be
some method of direct control over these children, but the child should not be separated
from
themother.(NSWParliamentaryDebates57191415:1953)
In1934,thehumanitarianandfeministactivistMaryBennetttoldtheWesternAustralian1935Royal
Commission into the Treatment of Aborigines that there was no ‘valid justification for the official
smashing of native family and community life’ and she ‘most earnestly’
asked that ‘the official
smashing of native family life may be stopped, and that native families may be permitted to live
wheretheywishwithinthelaw’.Bennettwassimplyarguingforequaltreatment,that‘thelawsthat
areenoughfortheproperconductofwhitecommunitiesshouldbeenoughfor
theprop e rconduct
of native communities also’ (Moseley 1935: 225, 229). Jeremy Long points out that in 1951 one
officialwasquotedasdescribingthe‘mosthatedtask’ofthepatrolofficersasbeing‘theseparation
of‘halfcaste’babies fromtheirmothersinaccordancewitha‘cruelgovernmentorder’’
(Long1992:
83), and in the 1960shistorian Charles Rowley described the child removal policy as ‘much
criticized’(1962:275),butallthese criticismshadlittlerealeffect.
IthasonlybeensincePeterRead’sstudyontheoperationofthepolicyinNewSouthWales,
publishedin1983, and
alargebodyof subsequent historicalresearch, aswellasthe publication of
the reports of two major government inquiries‐the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in
Custody (1989) and the HREOC report (1997)‐that it has become more widely recognized how
destructiveanddamagingapracticeitwas.Thisrecognition
hassparkedaremarkablepublic debate
aboutwhetherthereisaneedforanexpressionofsomesortof‘collectiveshame’(e.g.,Brett1997;
Gaita 1997; Manne 1998), with some political leaders, state governments, religious bodies and
citizen groups having issued apologies for the state‐ and churchsponsored forcible removal
of
Indigenous children andtheeffectthis has had on Aboriginalindividualsand communities. Others,
notably the Prime Minister, John Howard and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (!), John Herron,
haveremainedtruetoonelongtraditioninAustralianliberalism,andexpressed varyingdegrees of
regretwhilealsoarguingagainstdwelling
ontheunpleasantriesofthepast.Instead,wearetold,we
A1838 557/1). Hasluck was fond of attributing criticism of the management of Aboriginal affairs to a
Communist plot (1988: 97). I am gratefulto SusanTaffe (1995) for drawing my attentionto this memo, and
alsoforprovidingmewithhercopyofit,sinceIwasunabletolocateit
personallyinNationalArchives.
3
JohnGortonwrotethat‘[o]nthewholeItaketheviewthechurchestookatthetime.Itwastherightthingfor
themtodo,totryandlookafterAboriginalchildren’(SydneyMorningHerald,30May1998)
The‘stolengenerations’andculturalgenocide3
should concentrate on morepractical endeavours to improve Aboriginal health, housingeducation
andemployment.
Essentially two reasons have been given in Australia for the failure to issue an official
apologyalongthelinesoftheCanadianapologytotheirIndigenouspeoples:
1. historicity‐thereisnoconnectionbetweenthesepast
eventsandpeoplelivin gtoday,sono
reason for apology for those events. The Prime Minister thus declared that ‘Australians of
thisgenerationshouldnotberequiredtoacceptguiltandblameforpastactionsandpolicies
overwhichtheyhadnocontrol’(SydneyMorningHerald30May1998).
2.
goodintentions‐althoughwemightrecognizeforcedremovalasproblematictoday,atthe
time they were pursued with the best of intentions. As one newspaper letterwriter
commented,‘Iamprofoundlysorryforthehurtexperiencedbythisgenerationofseparated
children, but I can not apologise on behalf of the “do
gooders” responsible for it. I am
convincedtheyactedtogivethechildrenabetterstartinlife.Andwhat’swrongwiththat?’
(JeanDixon,SydneyMorningHeraldLetters,28May1998).
Thefirstpointrestsonthepresumptionthatwecanhaveonlyapositivemoralrelationtothe
past,
forJohnHowardisquitecontenttobeproudofothertypesofactionsoverwhichhehadnocontrol,
it is only the ones we mig ht feel regretful about that he wishes to dissociatehimself from. It is, in
thissense,aprofoundlyimmatureanddeeplyproblematicmoralposition
totakeup,sinceregret is
actually an important part of our engagement with and reflection on the past (Postema 1991;
Webber 1995). The second point is simply inaccurate, because it is clear that many people at all
times throughout this century drew attention to the destructive features of the
policy, and in any
case demonstration of good intentions does not preclude the possibility of apology for the actual
harmcausedbyparticularactionsinthe past.
However,anofficialapologywouldnotinitselfresolvealltheissues,andinthispaperIwill
attempttogobeyondthese
considerationsbyreflectingonmorefundamentalramificationsofthis
case for thefabric of the Australian moralcommunity, with a particular focus on thetreatment of
children. The relationship between European and Indigenous Australian children has broader
significancebecausetheremovalofAboriginalchildrenwascentrallya‘civilizingproject’,despitethe
fact that the subsequent critique of that practice is also undertaken in the name of ‘civilization’.
“Civilization” was the foundation for citizenship in the modern nationstate, with its achievement
the key condition for the attainment of citizenship rights. The story of the ‘stolen generations’ as
part of a particularly
Australian set of civilizing processes is thus an important example of the
multiple meanings of the concepts ‘civilization’ and ‘citizenship’, with a number of important
implicationsforthesociologyofchildhood.
The‘halfcasteproblem’
By the last quarter ofthe nineteenthcentury, the accepted position inAustralian official discourse
and
practice was that the Aborigines were a ‘dying race’, and this was based on the notion of the
essential ‘fragility’ of Aboriginal culture in contact with Europeans (Brantlinger 1995; McGregor
1997).Aboriginalculturewasdefinedassimply‘weak’inthefaceoftherobustnessoftheEuropean
way of life‐
militarily, technologically, economically, culturally, socially, and physically.Some
Europeans were distressed and dismayed that this should be so, and it troubled their Christian
consciences,butdidnothingaboutthesenseofitsinevitability.Extinctionwasthussimplyamatter
oftime,sothatthemostEuropeanscoulddowasto‘smooth
thedyingman’spillow’(Bates1944),
pursuing what Pat O’Malley has called ‘gentle genocide throug h a program of enforced eugenics’
(1994:52).
Towards the end of the century, however, the picture changed dramatically and produced
quitedifferentconceptualandpracticalconcerns.Notonlywere‘traditional’Aborigines notdying as
4ROBERTVANKRIEKEN
quickly as anticipated, but as European settlement spread across the continent, so did contact
between Europeans and Aborigines, including sexual contact, which of course had its inevitable
consequence‐children.Thissexualcontactwasrelativelyprolificin itself,andtheresultantmixed
blood population was also very fertile, so that by around
the 1890s European Australians were
becoming increasingly agitated about what came to be defined as the ‘halfcaste problem’. ‘There
was a growing realisation,’ writes Russell McGregor, ‘that the descendants of a dying race might
continuetohauntaWhiteAustraliaforgenerations’(1997:134).
By 1936 CecilCook, the
Chief Protector in the Northern Territory, was writing, ‘Myview is
that unless the black population is speedily abso rbed into the white, the process will soon be
reversed, and in 50 years, or a little later, the white population of the Northern Territory will be
absorbed into the black’ (Commonwealth
of Australia 1937: 14). Everything that civilization was
meanttohaveachieved,thedistancethatwassupposedtohavebeenplacedbetweenthepresent
and the past,was thrown intodisarray with the cultural andbiological hybridity characterizing the
‘halfcaste problem’. Mixedbloods were said to inherit the ‘vices’ of
both races and few of their
virtues, and they were regarded as representing precisely those forms of behaviour which the
civilizing process was meant to have overcome, the ‘repressed’ of modern civilization‐ idleness,
nomadism,emotionality,lackofdiscipli neandproductivity,sexualpromiscuity,poorbodilyhygiene,
anda group rather than
anindividual orientation. As Andrew Lattas has summed itup,‘Aborigines
were often constructed as prisoners of unreflexive bodily desire s which they could not control or
satisfy’andAboriginalsocietyas‘characterizednotbythedisciplinedfreedomsofthemind,butby
theviolentpassionsofthebody’(1987:43,55).
4
TheAustralian‘finalsolution’:rescuingtherisinggeneration
Thereweree ssentially twoelements to the resultant ‘civilizing offensive’onthe partofbothState
andChurch,bothaimingtoprotectaswellasadvancecivilizationbyeliminatingAboriginalityinthis
hybridformfroma‘White Australia’ completely. The first was
totry and regulate the cause of the
problem, the sexual intercourse between whites and blacks, through a system of governance of
Aboriginal movements and relationships, contained within a legislative apparatus concerning the
‘protection’ of Aborigines constructed between the early years of the twentieth century and the
1930s.
Second, there
was already a particular social technology in place to deal with problems of
socialdiscipline among thedegenerateconvicts and working classes (vanKrieken 1992; Kidd 1998:
1415),andthiswaswhatwasalsoturnedtoinrespondingtothe‘halfcasteproblem’.Theconcept
of‘rescuingtherising
generation’hadbeencentral toEuropeanchurchandstateagencies’policies
inrelationtothechildrenofthe poorandtheworkingclasssincethe sixteenthcentury, andwasa
central element of the modern State’s conception of the intersection of family life and liberal
citizenship. Theremoval of Aboriginal children
thus drew on preexistingphilosophies, policies and
institutional practices concerning u nacceptable, ‘problem’ groups in all the Western European
countries and their colonies, so that it is possible to chart the parallels and affinities between the
racismofremovingAboriginalchildrenfortheirAboriginality, andthe classideology underlyingthe
removal of nonindi genous children for the immorality and viciousness of their impoverished
surroundings.Thisisnotaclaimthattherewas somesortofequitabledistributionofstateviolence
between indigenous and nonindigenous families, but it does indicate a certain degree of
isomorphismbetween‘race,’‘class’and‘gender’,thatanxieties
concerningtherapidreproductionof
4
The dynamics of the situation in Australiawere different from those in Indonesia analysed by Stoler(1995)
becauseofitscharacterasasettlercolony.
The‘stolengenerations’andculturalgenocide5
halfcasteAborigines ontheborderbetweenwhiteandblackculturesinmanyrespectsfollowedthe
same logic of governance underlying the fears of the equally sexually dangerous and prolific non
respectableworkingclass,especiallywomen,onthefringesofthemetropolis(Stoler1995).
The ‘danger’ which most exercisedEuro pean
Australian minds was the coming together of
two races, rather than the mere existence of Aborigines alongside white Australians. As J.W.
Bleakley,Queensland’sChiefProtectorandDirectorofNativeAffairsbetween1913and1942,wrote
aboutthemissions,‘[n]otonlydotheyprotectthechildracesfromtheunscrupulouswhite,but
they
help to pres erve the purity of the white race from the grave social dangers that always threaten
where there is a degraded race living in loose conditions at its back door’ (1961: 124). Although it
oftenseemsthatway,the target of these policies and practiceswas not simply
Aboriginality itself,
becausethatwasmoreorlessacceptabletoEuropeanAustraliansin itstraditio nal,‘fullblood’form,
albeitquaran tined in the desert regionsofthecontinent. What was so problematic anddangerous
was the hybridity of mixedbloods, their threat to the boundaries between the civilized and the
savage. Note,
for example, this extract from the Annual Report of the State Children Relief Board
in1915: ‘Many of such children are so white that, were it not for their presence in camps or in
association with blacks, the average individual would characterize them as practically normal.
Beneaththeskin,howeve r,the
taintismoremarked,anditisinthecorrectionofdegeneratetraits
and the eradication of demoralised habits that the work of the expert psychologist and
educationalistlies...’(StateChildrenReliefBoard1915:880).Themostpowerfuloutragewhichany
commentary could provoke would arise from the observation that a
child who ‘looked white’ had
been seen in an Aboriginal settlement. The danger that ‘half castes’ posed was made particularly
acutebythefactthatitwasinfacttheconductofwhitemenandtheirpursuitofsexwithAboriginal
women‐perhaps we should say ‘girls’, most of the
time‐which underlay the growth in the ‘half
caste’population,andtheproductionofanexpandinggroupofpeoplefalling‘betweentwoworlds’,
so that the problem of hybridity and degeneration was in fact already internal to European
civilizationitself. Rather thanattendingto this inconsistencyin the notionof ‘racial
purity’and the
realsourceofany‘taint’,though,theapproachtakenwastoevenmoreheatedly‘blamethevictim’.
The corresponding practical strategy adopted was simply to make the state the legal
guardianofallchildrenofAboriginaldescent,overridingAboriginalparents’commonlawrightsover
their children, who
were to be removed at official will and sent to a mission, a child welfare
institutionortobefosteredwithawhitefamilyifsufficientlylightskinned.Thelegislationenabling
this was introduced in relatively weak form between 1886 and 1909 in all Australian states,
strengthened around1915, and
further reinforced inthe 1930s, by which time, in legal terms, the
statehadbecomethecustodialparentsofvirtuallyallAboriginalchildren(Haebich1988:350).
The actual number of Aboriginal children removed from their families is unclear, partly
becausetherecordskeptwerepatchy,withnoaccountingforAboriginal
childrensenttohomesnot
specifically d esignated for Aborigines; some were removed ‘unofficially’ and placed in the care of
churchagenciesorindividuals.Alsodifficulttoquantify,asPeterReadremindsus,were‘thosewho
went away to white people for a “holiday” and did not return’ (1983: 8). Rowena MacDonald
suggeststhatintheperiod19121962,‘probablytwo outofeverythreepartdescentchildrenspent
someoftheirlivesawayfromtheirparentsasaresultofthepolicyofremoval’.TheHREOCreport
sumsupitsestimationaslyingbetweenoneinthreeandoneinten
intheperiodbetween1910and
1970, and points out both that ‘not one indigenous family has escaped the effects of forcible
removal’ and that ‘most families have been affected, in one or more generations, by the forcible
removalofoneormorechildren’(HREOC1997:p.37).
Thisassertion
oflegal guardianship bythe stateoverallindigenouschildren only ceased in
the1960s.Theprimaryandoverarchingconcernwas to‘solve’the‘halfcasteproblem’bybreeding
outthecolourofbothbodyandmindthroughthisprogramofsocialengineering,andinthissense
6ROBERTVANKRIEKEN
theremovalofAboriginalchildrenmeshedwiththefirststrategyofcontrollingsexualrelationsand
reproductionamong adult Aborigines. This was certainlythe mo st strongly articulatedargumentin
thewritingsofthepoliticians,administratorsandanthropologistscentraltothedevelopmentofthe
variousformsoflegislativeandadministrativeaction.‘Merging’,‘absorption’
and‘assimilation’into
thewaysof‘civilization’werethekeyconceptsaroundwhichthisdiscoursewasorganized.In1936a
conferenceoftheleadingauthoritiesinAboriginalaffairsdeclareditsbelief ‘thatthedestinyofthe
natives of aboriginal origin,butnot of full blood, lies intheir ultimate absorption
by the people of
theCommonwealth’(CommonwealthofAustralia1937:3).Bythe1950sthiskindofconceptionhad
been repla ced by one more organized around a liberal conception of citizenship, and in 1950 Paul
Hasluck told the House of Representatives that ‘Their future lies in association with us, and they
musteither associate with us on standards thatwill givethem fullopportunity to liveworthilyand
happilyor be reduced to the socialstatusofpariahs and outcasts living withoutafirmplace in the
community’(1953:6).
Withinthis second conception of ‘citizenship asassimilation’,itwas also
possible to regard
the state’s and church’s intervention into Aboriginal family life as advancing the ‘welfare’ ofthe
Aboriginal population as a whole, by posing a stark and uncompromising contrast between
membership of the European community, on its terms, and exclusion from civilization itself.
Aboriginalcultureanditsway of
life,especiallyonce it had encountered Europeancivilization,was
presentedbyHasluckandalmosteveryotheradministratorinAboriginalaffairsasinherentlyflawed,
fragileandbasicallyworthless,producingonlyillness,disease,drunkenness,filthanddegeneracyin
the ‘thousands of degraded and depressed people who crouch on rubbish heaps throughout the
whole
of this continent’ (Hasluck 1953: 9; see also Read 1983: 20). Aboriginality was constructed
simply as a ‘primitive social order’ composed of ‘ritual murders, infanticide, ceremonial wife
exchange, polygamy’(Hasluck 1956: 2), so that for Hasluck and most white Australians, the
permanent elimination of Aboriginality from the fabric of Australian social
life was selfevidently
synonymouswithcivilizationandprogressitself, acrucialelementofthetruththat‘theblessingsof
civilizationareworthhaving’.‘Werecognise now,’ said Hasluck, ‘that the nobl esavage can benefit
frommeasurestakentoimprovehishealthandhisnutrition,toteachhimbettercultivation,and
to
leadhimincivilisedwaysoflife....Weknowthattheideaofprogress,oncesoeasilyderided,hasthe
germoftruthinit’(Hasluck1953:17).
The destruction of Aboriginal culture and society, both inexorable and planned, via the
assimilationofAboriginesasindividualsandaschildren
,was thusposedintermsofahumanitarian
concern for the welfare of indigenous Australians, and this interpretation is still an important
element of the ‘common sense’ understanding of the practice of forced child removal. As one
newspaperletterwriterputit,‘....whiletheactofremovingchildrenfromtheir
parentswasatragic
trauma for those involved....it was done with the intent, while wrong and misinformed, of
“improving” the children's lives. It was not done with malicious intent’ (Steven de Vroom, North
Sydney,SydneyMorningHeraldLetters,27May1998).
Childhood,liberalismandgenocide
How was such a linkage
betwee n welfare and attempted cultural genocide, mediated through
policiesconcerningchildrenandthe‘risinggeneration’possible,andhowshouldweunderstandit?I
willconcludewithanattemptatansweringthisquestion.
First, it is important to observe that whatever it was about European models of the
relationship between state
and society which produced Aboriginal child removal is not simply a
“mistake” for which apologies might be issued, but something much more deeply rooted in
Europeansocial, political and legal thought, with profound ongoing implications for social
relationship in Australia, between as well as among indigenous and nonindigenous
people. The
The‘stolengenerations’andculturalgenocide7
model of citizenshipand theevolution ofindividual rights‐especiallychildren’s rights‐underlying
much of the debate displa ys considerable amnesia about exactly how ‘colonizing’ European social
historyhas beenin relation toitsownsubjectpopulations(Weber1976),and especially inrelation
to children and family life (e.g., Hearst 1997). This
raises the question of the relative success of
European ‘internal’ colonization in comparison to the overall failure to eradicate nonEuropean
identities.The‘community’destroyedbyEuropeanchildwelfarepolicieswasdefinedinclassrather
than ethnic or racial terms, whereas an ethnically defined community seems to be much more
difficult to eliminate, short of physical genocide. So ethnocultural groupings appear to be more
resistantto attacksontheircitizenship status thanclassdefinedgroupings‐paradoxically,because
theyarealsothemostlikelytohavesuchrestrictionsontheircitize nshipstatus imposedonthem.
Second, liberal social and political thought
rests on a delicate balance between individual
rights and some conception of ‘the social’, or the particular and the universal (Hegel), making it
possibleforcivilisationandmodernitytohavebarbariceffectstotheextentthatthisbalancetakes
particular forms. Discussing the more wellknown example of genocide, Detlev Peukert
suggested
that National Socialism constituted ‘a particularly fatal form of the tense relationship that runs
through the entire history of social policy between...the ‘normality’ that is to be fostered and
requiredand...the‘nonconformity’thatis to be segregated oreliminated’ (1989: 129). His general
argumentwasthatNationalSocialism
drewonageneralFortschrittsoptimismusthat‘finalsolutions’
couldbefoundtovarious‘socialquestions’ sothat‘anallianceofscienceandinterventionistsocial
engineeringcouldputpaidtoalloutstandingcausesofsocialunease’(1991:1345).Whatmadethis
‘gardening’ (Bauman 1987) concep tion of social policy so problematic was
the combination of an
organicconceptionofsociety,theVolksgemeinschaft,andtheabsenceof‘theidealsofequalrights,
emancipation, selfdetermination and common humanity’ (Peukert 1987: 248). This is what is
strikingaboutthesheerdisgustwhichEuropeanAustralianshavetendedtofeelforAborigines(Read
1983:20).Paul
Hasluck,forexample,gavetheHouseofRepresentativesthisfolksyadvice,that‘[w]e
have to give attention to hygiene . So long as natives are not living in a way that mak es them
physicallyacceptable‐toputitcrudely,solongasnativesliveinawaythatmakesthemsmell‐
then
there is no hope for them. We have to improve their hygiene in order to make them acceptable’
(CommonwealthParliamentaryDebates8(NewSeries)21st(1st)6October1955,p.1333).
5
AustralianIndigenouschildremovalpoliciesandpracticeswerenot,ofcourse,unique,and
comparable histories can be identified in other settlercolonies. There was a parallel concern in
Canada,forexample,withassimilationandtheeliminationofIndianculture(Miller1996;Fournier&
Crey1997;McGillivray1997).Canada’sfirstPrime
Minister,SirJohnMacDonald,saidthat‘Thegreat
aimofourcivilizationhasbeentodoawaywiththetribalsystemandassimilatetheIndianpeoplein
allrespectswith theinhabitantsof theDominion,asspeedilyas theyarefitforthechange’,andin
1917IndianAffairs officer
DuncanCampbellScottsaid‘IwanttogetridoftheIndianproblem....Our
objectistocontinueuntilthereisnotasingleIndianinCanadathathasnotbeenabsorbedintothe
bodypolitic,andthereisnoIndianquestion,andnoIndiandepartment’(inMcGillivray 1997:143).
But there
were also important differences. In the Canadian context, for example, the strategy
adopted was residential schooling (for roughly a third of the status Indian population) rather than
5
IntheHasluckpapersintheNationalLibraryofAustralia,thereisadraftofareportbyanInterDepartmental
committee on‘Matters Affecting Native Welfare’, where the followingrecommendation ‘That any aboriginal
whohasreachedastandardofgeneraleducation whichmakeshisattendanceatasecondaryschooladvisable
should be admitted to a “State” secondary school’ has added to it, in Hasluck’s writing, the following
emendation:‘providedthathisstandardofpersonalhygieneandmodeoflifemakehimacceptable’(NLAMS
5274HasluckPapers,Box32).
8ROBERTVANKRIEKEN
outrightremoval,andCanadianobservershavebeenmorecriticalof thepost1950strend towards
utilisation of the mainstr eam child w elfare system. Suzanne Fo urnier and Ernie Crey have argued
thatunder the residentialschool regime, despitetheirmistreatmentand racistabuse, ‘at leastthe
children stayed in an aboriginal peer group;
they always knew their First Nation of origin and who
their parents were, and they knew that eventually they would be going home’. The child welfare
system, on the other hand, was experienced as a more effective form of ‘child abduction’.
‘Aboriginal children,’ wrote Fournier and Crey, ‘typically vanished with
scarcely a trace, the vast
majorityofthemplaceduntiltheywereadultsinnonaboriginalhomeswheretheirculturalidentity,
theirlegal Indianstatus,theirknowle dgeoftheirownFirstNationandeventheir birthnameswere
erased, often forever’ (1997: 81). There are thus both important simila rities and differences
between the organised (governmental and nongovernmental) policies and practices relating to
Indigenouschildrenindifferentnationalcontexts,then,whichneedtobeexaminedalongsideandin
additiontotheissuesdealtwithhere.
However, the specific significance of the Australian ‘stolen generations’ history is that it
indicatesthatthe
problemisnotsimplyoneofadominanceofcommunalidentitiesoverindividuals,
withallthenegationsofindividualfreedomsandrightswhichthatentails.In fact,itshowshowthe
twoareinterlinkedandthatwearebynomeansnotoutofthewoodswiththeintroductionof
the
factor‘liberalism’.Itisusefultodistinguishhere,asTimRowsedoes,betweendifferentversionsof
liberalism,betweenwhatRowsecall‘juridical’liberalism,focusedon‘asometimesmilitantconcern
to unfetter individuals from pernicious social bonds and to imagine individuals and to act towards
them in terms of their abstract
universal equivalence from the point of view of the state’ (1999:
127), and a ‘sociological’ liberalism which instead conceives individuals as integral parts of
collectivities as well, with their communal identity an essential rather than expendable elementof
their relationship to the state. Aimed as juridical liberalism was towards assimilation
into a mono
cultural form of citizenship, the removal of indigenous children was structured around an
individualised conception of wellbeing and welfare, but it was this assimilationist focus on
individuals which helped undermine communal identity, in turn inflicting significant longterm
psychologicalandsocialviolenceontheindividualswhomake
upcommunities.
Zygmunt Bauman has identifie d the more generalizable features of what he calls the
‘assimilatoryproject’withinEuropeanstateformation,andthece ntralityofthatprojecttothevery
natureofthemodernstate.Itwaspartandparceloftheprocessofdismantlingolder, deeplyrooted
forms of
communal life which provid ed alternative, sometimes oppositions frameworks of social
power.Assimilation,hesuggests,‘wasanexerciseindiscreditinganddisempoweringthepotentially
competitive,communalorcorporativesourcesofsocialauthority’(1991b:106).Aspartofthe liberal
politicalandlegalprogramtosecurethemodernstate’s‘monopolyoflaw
makingandcoercion’(p.
111),assimilationwasorganizedarounda toleranceofindividualsbasedonaprofoundintolerance
of differing collective cultural identities, so that ‘tolerant treatment of individuals was inextricably
linkedtointoleranceaimedatcollectivities,theirwaysoflife,theirvaluesand,aboveall,theirvalue
legitimatingpowers’(p.
107).Thepricetobepaidbyindividualsforentrytoliberalcitizenshipinthe
modern state, at least in its juridical form, has always been to leave all their previous communal
culturalidentitiesbehind,apartperhapsfromsomeremnantintheformofquaintcustomswheeled
outatceremonial
occasions.
6
6
AsHasluckputit:‘thelossofanyvalidanddistinctiveaboriginalcultureiscertaininthecourse of time.The
ancient pride can remain‐and in fact may grow. Those people of Scottish ancestry who delight in strange
capersatHallowe’en,andthosepeopleofIrishoriginwhowheneverthey
dosomethingfineexclaim“Itmust
bemyIrishblood”areexamplesofthesortofculturalprideIhadinmind.Buthowrealarethebagpipesand
the kilts and the poetry of Burns as a cultural force in Australia? The Scot and the Irish and the English
are
The‘stolengenerations’andculturalgenocide9
Liberal models of individual rights can never, on the one hand, really detach themselves
fromanaccompanyingconceptionof‘societyasawhole’towhichindividualsaretobe‘assimilated’.
Indeed,the rhetoricof liberaldemocracytends todrawattention awayfromthemodelsofsociety
and community which are
in fact being drawn upon, making their problematic effects that much
hardertoperceive,letalonerespondto.Ontheotherhand,whencombinedwithanorganic,mono
cultural, and unitary conception of citizenship and community, individualistic li beralism has a
stronglynormalising edgetoitwhichcan,insituationswherethe
boundariesbetweenthe‘normal’
andthe‘pathological’communitiesaredrawnstronglyenough(aswithracialdivisions),haveeffects
verysimilartomoreauthoritarianregimesbasedonquitedifferentpoliticalphilosophies.
There is in fact, then, a powerfultension atthe heart of liberal understandings of childre n
andtheirplacein
society,between‘thebestinterestsofthechild’and‘thebestinterestsofsociety’.
If we simply assume that the two work in harmony, the former will almost always be defined in
termsofthelatter.ThisiswhatJohnO’Neillhasdescribedasthe‘culturalknot’inchildren’sculture
and what he calls ‘contractualist’ liber alism, making it possible for us to both ‘celebrate children’s
growth,theirhappiness,health,andintelligence’attheverysametimethatwe‘renderthelivesof
vast numbers of children deadly, diseased, ignorant, and ravished by every kind of exploitation’
(1995: 1). Rather than simply
being an error in judgement, a mistake for which Australians today
shouldorshouldnotapologise,thepoliciesandpracticessurroundingthe‘stolengenerations’reveal
twomuchmorefundamentalflawsburieddeepwithin ‘civilize d’,‘juridical’liberalism,:thedifficulty
whichits‘juridical’or‘contractual’individualism‐theconceptionofhumanbeingsas
‘disembodied,
defamilialized, and degendered’ criticised by O’Neill (1995: 3)‐produces fo r a comprehension of
individualsassociallylocated,intergenerational,intersubjectivebeings,theiressentiallycommunal
identities ‘stretched’ over time both backwards and forwards (van Krieken 1997), and its mono
cultural and organicist conception of ‘society’, which allows only for assimilation
to a single,
individualised and decommunalised ‘way of life’. It is only to extent that both these features of
‘juridical’liberalismareaddressedthatwecanhopeforanydegreeofcertaintythatsimilarhistories
willnotre emergeinrelationtoanygroupwithouttheprotectionaffordedby
avisibleandpublicly
respectedculturalandpoliticalpresence.
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Australia in the early 1960s straddled two worlds. The tie with Britam both in terms of trade and in the less tangible area of a sense of heritage and identity was still strong. The British Empire defined and shaped an Australian view of the world. For many, it was a symbol of security and good in a world divided by the Cold War. In the 1960s, however, Australia's view of itself within the Empire was fundamentally challenged by three factors which I will examine in this article, namely: relations between new nations and fanner colonial powers; the spread of Communism, especially in Asia; and the perceived role of the United States of America safeguarding democracy. Neil JiIIett, writing in a prominently displayed feature article in the Age on Australia Day, 1961, reminded readers that if we 'reflect deeply upon our nationhood, we remember that we are part of the Commonwealth of nations'. I This comforting view of Australia as a 'distant outpost of Empire' displayed a blinkered nostalgia which took little account of events outside Australia's borders. Australian diplomats in politically sensitive posts, and their Departtnent of External Affairs colleagues back in Canberra whose job it was to guide them, were interrogated about Australian policy with regard to Aboriginal people. Some of the questions asked of Australian diplomats in Africa, the United Nations and eastern Europe proved difficult to answer. This article is a study of the effect on Australia of the emergence of race issues in international diplomacy during 1961 and 1962, and the responses of senior staff in the Department of External Affairs to those issues. Prime Minister Menzies was responsible for the External Affairs portfolio from February 1960 with Garfield Barwick taking over from him in December 1961. Paul Hasluck, as Minister for Territories, was responsible in turn, for the development and implementation of special policies for Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory. The period under discussion is prior to the 1967 referendum so, consequently, the Commonwealth did not have power to 'make special laws' for 'the Sue Taffe completed a Masters degree in History in 1995 and is currently working on an oral history of the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders (FCAATSl) in partnership with the Melbourne based Koori Arts Collective. This project has been funded by the Australia Foundation for Culture and the Humanities, the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies and the Lance Reichstein Foundation and is supported by the Department of History, Monash University. N. Jillett, 1961:2.
Article
[Extract] By 1951 A.P. Elkin, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Sydney, had acquired an international academic reputation, as well as being the dommant figure within his discipline in Australia. In that year he published 'Reaction and Interaction: A Food Gathering People and European Settlement in Australia', in which he set out the phases through which the relations between Aborigines and Europeans had supposedly passed since first colonisation of this country. 1 It was the most comprehensive study of what Elkin termed 'culture contact' that he had yet published, and remained probably the most detailed and best-known of his many articles on this topic. According to his biographer, Tigger Wise, Elkin chose American Anthropologist for the publication ofthis article because he felt that this prestigious journal 'would give it the most exposure', and he 'fiercely' defended his words against the editorial intervention of Melville Herskovits.2 Certainly, Elkin regarded this article as important. Unlike many of his other published works, 'Reaction and Interaction' was drafted and revised many times, apparently over a period of some years, before finally appearing in print.3 Its argument, the phases of contact and the terminology used to describe it, were recycled again and again in the numerous lectures, addresses and articles which Elkin gave and published in the 1950s and 1960s. Of the terms employed in 'Reaction and Interaction', the most memorable - and subsequently the most frequently repeated - was 'intelligent parasitism', coined by Elkin to describe the employment situation on northern Australian pastoral stations where Aborigines exerted a minimum of effort in exchange for bare subsistence.
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Introduction. 1. The Scandal of Ambivalence. 2. Social Construction of Ambivalence. 3. Self--Construction of Ambivalence. 4. A Case Study in the Sociology of Assimilation (I):. Trapped in Ambivalence. 5. A Case Study in the Sociology of Assimilation (II):. Revenge of Ambivalence. 6. Privatization of Ambivalence. 7. Postmodernity, or Living with Ambivalence.