The ‘Bringing them home’ documentary

Aboriginal children of Carrolup in the early 1940s. J. S. Battye Library of West Australian History.

Aboriginal children from Western Australia. The photograph has been described as showing children of Carrolup in the early 1940s, but it is likely from an earlier period. J. S. Battye Library of West Australian History. [217091PD]

The documentary Bringing them home: separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, found on the Australian Human Rights Commission YouTube channel, ‘was produced in 1997 and forms part of the Bringing them home education resource for use in Australian classrooms.

This resource is based on ‘Bringing them home’, the report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families, and on the history of forcible separation and other policies which have impacted on the lives of Indigenous Australians.’

In my humble opinion, this film should be seen by all Australians of a suitable age. If we are to understand Australian society today, and help create a better world for our children and grandchildren, then we must understand our past. This film had an enormous impact on me and helped me chart a new course in my professional life. Please spare a half-hour to watch this powerful documentary:

Here are two quotes from Sir Ronald Wilson, Chairman (at the time), Australian Human Rights Commission:

​’As one woman said graphically, “I’m a rotten mother. I cannot cuddle my children. And that’s because I was never cuddled. I never knew what it was to be cuddled. Looking back, I believe perhaps the only time I felt I was being cuddled was when I was being raped. And you would hardly call that a cuddle, would you?”‘ [2’04” – 2’29”]

‘It was genocide. I didn’t know it at the beginning, but I since have no doubt that it was genocide. One of the definitions of genocide is the fifth clause in the definition in the Genocide Convention, and it says ‘The removing of children from their communities with a view to extinguishing their culture.’ Now, you’ve only got to say that to appreciate that it was genocide. That’s exactly what the assimilation policy was all about in its effect.

In taking these children, whatever the motives and however good they were, it nevertheless was a necessary part of the practice, the policy, to separate them from their families and their communities in order to extinguish their culture. And it was not only their culture – their connection with land, that important connection with which is really part of an Aboriginal person’s very being – and it was clearly genocide.’ [21’13” – 22’18”]

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