CATHOLIC and other Church organisations have expressed outrage at Federal Government attempts to downplay the number of Aborigines who were part of the stolen generation.
Federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister Senator John Herron, a Catholic, on March 31 described the stolen generation as “a simplistic concept”.
In a submission to a Senate inquiry into the stolen generation, he said there were “two basic flaws in the ‘stolen generation concept’. The first was that, as the Bringing them Home report (on the stolen generation) acknowledges, between at least 70 and 90 per cent of Aboriginal children were not subject to separation. “Secondly, the evidence that a proportion of those removed fitted within the stereotype of ‘forcible removal’ is only anecdotal and not subject to proper scrutiny.”
Bringing them Home was the report from the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s inquiry into the removal of Aboriginal children. It estimated that between one in three and one in 10 children were removed forcibly from Aboriginal families between 1910 and 1970.
Australian Catholic Social Justice Council (ACSJC) executive officer Sandie Cornish described the denial of the stolen generation as “truly appalling”.
Ms Cornish said the very first necessity for reconciliation was acknowledging the truth of what happened.
National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council chairman Peter Smith of Mt Isa, described the Government’s claims as “cruel, unjust, untruthful and un-Australian, and said one of the Jubilee Year themes was healing. Archbishop John Bathersby of Brisbane called for the issue to be put in a wider context.
He said any discussion about the past or present situation of Australia’s indigenous people must be “situated within the fundamental truth and reality of their prior existence in and possession of this land before European settlement”.