Last week, I wrote an article about Andrew Bolt.
As I was describing who he was, I included the sentence: Bolt denies there was ever a Stolen Generation (to be clear, there was).
I didn't give that sentence much thought. I just figured it was responsible to counter Bolt's opinion about the Stolen Generations with historical fact.
I received more emails in response to that sentence — or specifically the five words 'to be clear, there was' — than I have about anything I've ever written. The message was clear. There's no such thing as the Stolen Generations you lefty (bleep) why don't you (bleep, bleep) and look at the facts you ugly (bleep).
Up until this weekend, I was blissfully unaware that a debate still existed around the Stolen Generations.
We have the Bringing Them Home report. It was published in 1997, the culmination of a national inquiry into the separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families. When it was presented to Federal Parliament, it was 680 pages long. There were no shades of grey. No ambiguities. The inquiry found that "Indigenous families and communities have endured gross violations of their human rights. These violations continue to affect Indigenous people's daily lives. They were an act of genocide, aimed at wiping out Indigenous families, communities, and cultures, vital to the precious and inalienable heritage of Australia."
It's interesting that there are features of history we do not deny.
The Battle of the Somme took place between July 1 and November 18, 1916. Japan signed their formal surrender on September 2, 1945, bringing World War II to an end.
Yet when it comes to the subject of violence perpetrated upon an ethnic minority, suddenly we decide the history isn't so clear. We can have all the same evidence. The paperwork. Photographs. Eyewitness testimony. In the case of the Jewish Holocaust there are bodies and shoes and hair and maps and recorded speeches and still there are those who deny it ever happened.
What any denier has to ask themselves is: What level of evidence do I require to believe it happened? And when that level is reached, one must be open to having their mind changed.
So here is how to have a conversation with someone who believes the Stolen Generations didn't happen. Here's what they'll try to argue, and how you'll respond.
Who are we talking about when we say 'Stolen Generations'?
Before we begin, let's get on the same page.
The Stolen Generations are the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who were forcibly taken from their families and communities across Australia, as a result of government policies.
There is extensive evidence that such government policies existed. In Western Australia the Aborigines Act 1905 removed any legal guardianship of Aboriginal parents. This meant that all Aboriginal children were wards of the state, legally allowed to be 'relocated' without permission.