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Bringing Them Home

Bringing them Home Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families, April 1997

Today marks 25 years since the Bringing Them Home Report was tabled. This monumental moment highlighted the struggles and strength of First Nations people who were forcibly removed from their families under the brutal policies of colonisation.

Children’s Ground Founding Chair Uncle William Tilmouth is a member of the Stolen Generations. He was removed from his family, along with his siblings, when he was five years old, and taken to Croker Island where he lived under Australia’s assimilation policy.

“It started off from an early age. You were told where to live, how to live, what to do, what work you can do, what opportunities you have, you’re very limited and controlled by people who don’t want you to have agency,” Uncle William said.

Me and my brothers would sit there and cry uncontrollably without ever knowing why we were crying, or what we were crying about, and how empty we felt. That was because no one had told us what really went on. And so by denying us the truth we were denied any aspirations to have agency.

Upon the release of the report, nine recommendations were made including acknowledgements, apologies, and reparations schemes.

Although every state in the country now has a reparations scheme, the Northern Territory’s only came to fruition in the last 12 months. Uncle William believes that it has come too late for many.

“I’m very disappointed because I’m the second last of my family left and none of my brothers or sister ever received anything in their lifetime,” he said.

Reflecting on what has changed, Uncle William believes more still needs to be done to keep children at home with their families.

“Not much has changed in the regard that Aboriginal people’s lives are still controlled and managed by Parliament, by governments, by Canberra, and a lot of the money goes to organisations who are not accountable, or to organisations that don’t consider this Stolen Generation an issue,” Uncle William said.

The reality is that out-of-home care is just another form of taking children away. Out-of-home care is another form of the Stolen Generation. It's just a variation of the Stolen generation assimilation policy.

Uncle William says that funding organisations such as Children’s Ground with a community led approach is the answer.

“From a Children’s Ground perspective, our belief is to work with and empower the family, to employ the family, to give family purpose in life.

“We help to give children the opportunity to be with family, and for families to educate children. All those things empower the child and create a situation that there was no real need to take the child away. 

“That’s what Children’s Ground is all about – putting in that prevention measure of building that foundation that children grow up and to hold it and be strong in it, and so there would be no need after welfare to intervene and to be taking children away.”

About the author

Madeline Hayman-Reber

Gomeroi woman, Indigenous affairs journalist and First Nations Communications and Partnerships Coordinator at Children’s Ground.

— Posted on 04 Apr 2023