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Friday, 11 August, 2000, 14:33 GMT 15:33 UK
Vivid memories of a 'stolen generation'
Aboriginal festival
The issue has been raised in protests and festivals
By BBC News Online's Mangai Balasegaram

Lorna Cubillo has vivid memories of the day she was taken from her mother. She was just seven when government authorities put her in a truck lined with barbed wire and took her hundreds of miles away.

While in state care, she was regularly flogged with a leather strap for speaking her traditional language, she says.

The memories of our parents and grandparents have been passed on. It makes you very angry

Michael Anderson
Once, she was beaten so badly for swimming on a Sunday that her face still bears the scars.

These memories are now more than painful events in Ms Cubillo's life - they have become part of a contentious political issue in Australia.

Ms Cubillo took her case to court, seeking compensation and damages.

In a historic ruling, the court found the government not liable.

Issue to remain

Yet the issue will continue to loom large, with 700 other similar claimants.

More than 100,000 children were part of the "stolen generation" - Aborigines forcibly taken from their parents by the state to be brought up as whites in institutions or families.

"Corroboree" feativals have aimed to bring black and white closer together
The policy began in the 1880s, and was continued for almost a century before being finally abandoned in the late 1960s.

Michael Anderson, Convenor of the Sovereign Union of Aboriginal People's of Australia, said: "A lot went to farms or rich Sydney homes to work as housemaids.

"There are some good stories but also some horror stories. Some girls were raped and gave birth."

Numbers disputed

Mr Anderson, who also heads the Aboriginal Native Title Claim, says in his grandmother's family, seven of nine children were taken by the state.

From the age of 13, she scrubbed floors, raised children and cooked

Michael Anderson
He says the state only recorded four children being removed.

"This is why we have difficulties with the government about the numbers of the stolen generation - records weren't always made," he says.

"There is no record for my Aunt Ettie... Yet she can remember every detail from when she was taken, even the colour of the suits the men were wearing."

Beaten with dog-chains

Ettie Dixon, now 84, was taken to a farm where she worked as a housemaid.

Aboriginals say the policy isolated them from their culture
"From the age of 13, she scrubbed floors, raised children and cooked. She even helped muster sheep for shearing.

"She was reasonably taken care of but was treated like a slave," says Mr Anderson.

Two other relatives - Freeda and Douglas Dixon - fared worse. "They were put on a farm where the people were very cruel."

In one incident, he says, a man tried to rouse a sick Douglas from the hay, where he slept, to go and work in the rain. Enraged, Freeda hit the man.

"They were both tied and then flogged with dog-chains. Aunt Freeda showed me the scars on her back."


Mr Anderson says as a child, he lived with the constant fear that he would be taken from his mother.

Prime Minister Howard
Prime Minister Howard has refused to apologise
"We were always under scrutiny. The welfare man came every two weeks," he says.

He says Aborigines will continue to try and seek redress.

"The memories of our parents and grandparents have been passed on. It makes you very angry, sick in your stomach.

"The Australian government has never acknowledged this.

"They continue to argue that we should be thankful because [this policy] protected us and prolonged our lives."

Aboriginal groups are currently trying to use international channels to get the issue addressed.

In 1997, an Australian Human Rights Commission report denounced the policy of forced separation and assimilation as a form of "genocide", and concluded that surviving victims should be compensated.

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See also:

11 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
Court rejects 'stolen children' claim
01 Mar 99 | Asia-Pacific
'Stolen Generation' seek justice
28 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Symbolic march unites Australia
27 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Aborigines in 'poor' housing
02 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Aborigines target Olympics
25 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
Australia rejects UN racism report
28 Feb 00 | Asia-Pacific
Reconciliation deadline dropped
10 Aug 99 | Asia-Pacific
Lost childhood of the 'stolen generation'
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