Richard Campbell is one of the more than 17,000 surviving Indigenous Australians who were removed from their families. (Supplied: Peter Solness)
Richard Campbell was taken from his family as a young boy and placed in a brutal children’s home.
- For the first time, study shows link between forcible removal of Indigenous children and real life experience of intergenerational trauma
- Stolen Generations members experience higher levels of adversity in relation to nearly all health and welfare outcomes looked at
- The analysis was commissioned by Federal Government
“I was strong enough to survive … but many of the brothers, they never survived to talk about it,” he said.
At the notorious Kinchela Boys’ Home, on the New South Wales mid-north coast, Mr Campbell was abused, beaten and starved.
He has struggled to deal with the trauma of his childhood for his whole life.
The 62-year-old and other Stolen Generations members know their pain and suffering has also affected their children’s and grandchildren’s lives.
Now, for the first time, there has been a comprehensive analysis of the social and economic impacts being felt by Stolen Generations members and their descendants.
Today there are more than 17,000 surviving Indigenous Australians who were removed from their families, according to a report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) and the Healing Foundation.
“This is the first time we’ve had a large data set to prove the link between forcible removal of children and the real life experience of intergenerational trauma — like family violence, suicide and mental health issues,” said Richard Weston, chief executive of the Healing Foundation.
Compared to other Indigenous Australians, the report found Stolen Generations members were:
- three times more likely to have been jailed in the past five years
- almost twice as likely to rely on welfare payments or experience violence
“They experience higher levels of adversity in relation to most of the 38 health and welfare outcomes that were looked at,” Mr Weston added.
The report found the descendants of Stolen Generations members also face poorer health and social outcomes compared to other Indigenous Australians.
And relatives of Stolen Generations members were almost twice as likely to experience discrimination and violence, according to the report.
“It’s a compelling picture of the high level of disadvantage and trauma that exist in our communities. We can use it as an opportunity to find a way forward,” Mr Weston said.
‘My life was just a hurricane’
After Mr Campbell left Kinchela he battled addiction and was in and out of prison. He knows his trauma was passed on to those he loves most.
“My life was just a hurricane. I had that hatred for anything, all I wanted to do was belt someone because that was the only thing I was taught how to do, to control people through pain,” he said.
“It affected a lot of people, I had few partners, I was never taught how to respect woman, or how to love a woman, growing up in the home.
“I had four daughters, they were into alcohol and drugs in a big way … one girl, they took her boys and she couldn’t handle it. She [killed] herself.
“That’s that cycle.”
Calls for national compensation scheme
This analysis of Stolen Generations members was commissioned by the Federal Government to establish how many survivors were living in Australia and the level of need.
It is seen as one of the first steps to understanding what a national compensation scheme might look like.
About three quarters of surviving Stolen Generations members live in either New South Wales, Queensland or Western Australia, according to the report.
New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania have established state-based reparations schemes.
Michael Walsh was removed from his family as child, and also lived at the Kinchela Boys’ Home.
Michael Walsh said a national compensation scheme could help the next generations. (Supplied: Kinchela Boys Home Aboriginal Corporation)
He said little had been done for survivors since Kevin Rudd’s apology to the Stolen Generations more than a decade ago.
“Rudd got up and apologised, it was a step, and that’s all it was, it just stopped there it didn’t go anywhere,” he said.
“We have an understanding of the pain we’ve gone through, and we’ve passed it on to our children and grandchildren, but we need the resources so we can accept and learn.”
He said a national compensation scheme would never erase the wounds, but could help set up prosperity for the next generations.
The Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, said the report was long overdue.
“The Australian Government commissioned this important body of work … to inform how we can better understand and respond to the contemporary needs of members of the Stolen Generations,” he said in a statement.
The Government would seek advice from their Indigenous advisory council and other peak bodies and then respond, he said.
This research should provide a roadmap for healing, Mr Weston said.
“We haven’t had any sort of policy response that focused on the Stolen Generations, and the impacts of trauma on their descendants,” he said.
“I hope this will suggest we need some re-thinking about Indigenous policy and service delivery across the board.”