Accepted Paper:

“In the best interests of the child”: the Intergenerational legacy of past indigenous child welfare policies in Australia  


Tiffany McComsey

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the intergenerational legacies of past Aboriginal child removals in Australia. These legacies will be examined in relation to contemporary Aboriginal child and family welfare practices. Comparisons with Canadian First Nations' and American Indians' experiences will be explored.

Paper long abstract:

The welfare of Indigenous children in western settler nations has been, and continues to be, a focus of state intervention. In Australia, since 1998, May 26 is acknowledged as National Sorry Day. Sorry day is a day of commemoration for the Stolen Generations. The term 'Stolen Generations' refers to those Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who were removed from their families as a result of Indigenous child removal policies, dating from 1910 through the 1970s. May 26th is the day when in 1997 the Bringing them home Report was tabled in the Australian Federal Parliament. It was from this Report, the subsequent media coverage and political debating that the Stolen Generations and the intergenerational legacies of these removals entered into the forefront of public discourse.

While past Indigenous child removals are acknowledged as having significantly affected Aboriginal families and communities throughout Australia, the intergenerational legacies of removals - how to address them and by what means - either through Aboriginal and or non-Indigenous approaches - is less cogent. This paper will examine these issues by focusing on the relational dynamic that exists between government policy and government department practices and the work of Aboriginal community organisations. Teasing out these dialogical relationships will allow for the unpacking of multiple perceptions and approaches that exist in relation to understanding the Stolen Generations and how traces relating to past Aboriginal child removals and their intergenerational legacies are interspersed through the day-to-day work of Aboriginal child and family welfare practices. This will be ethnographically explored in an Aboriginal community located in Redfern, an inner city suburb of Sydney, Australia.

Panel W077
Care, welfare and mutuality: anthropological perspectives on shifting concepts, boundaries and practices