News / Asia

Australia Still Grapples with 'Stolen Generations' Legacy

Levon Ennis
Levon Ennis

In Australia there are still strong emotions around a contentious social policy that ended in the 1970s. For nearly 100 years, the Australian government forcibly took children from Aborigine families.  A small number of them were raised abroad, without knowing their biological family. Levon Ennis, 42, was raised in West London before his involvement with gangs saw him jailed for more than 10 years.  He has returned to Australia full of remorse for his crimes but is still struggling to discover his true identity.



Apology

“As prime minister of Australia, I am sorry. To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry,” said Kevin Rudd, then-Australia Prime Minister.

In 2008, Rudd publicly apologized for the forced removal of Aboriginal children from their families.  He said it was an act of “sheer brutality.”  These youngsters became known as the “Stolen Generations”.  Many were sent to state or church-run boarding schools across Australia, while a very small number ended up with foster parents overseas.  Some went to Holland, while others were sent to Britain.

Lost identity


“All the time that I spent in England I’ve had this feeling of where do I belong, what are my people, who am I, not knowing my identity," Ennis said. "It plagued me for 35 years of my life, without a shadow of doubt.”

Ennis was taken from his Aboriginal mother when he was born in Sydney in 1969.  She was told he was stillborn, but within weeks he was adopted by a family in London and was oblivious to his Aboriginal heritage.  He went to a private school and studied art at Warwick University in the English Midlands.  Despite a privileged upbringing, he became caught up with football hooligans and spent 12 years in prison for drugs and weapons offenses. On his release from prison he came back to Australia to reclaim his lost identity.

“I got involved with the Chelsea supporters and I ended up being a member of the Chelsea Head Hunters," Ennis explained.  He admits, the experience lead him down some fairly dark alleys.

"Yes, some dark alleys.  It got me into not only violence but the distribution of firearms and drug distribution and on top of those both come violence.  And, this was all just to sort of find acceptance of who I am, where I am, that lostness in me I think.  And, my close companions in the gang were my family, what I thought were my family, you know.  That’s where I found acceptance in them, trying to obviously fulfill what had been taken away from me in this country.”

Restoring dignity

Ray Minniecon, an Aboriginal pastor, says the authorities are failing to help such vulnerable people.

“The government has still a long way to go in trying to resolve some of those issues of the past because they don’t go away," he said. "They live in our spirits and in our minds, and in our families and in our history.  And we carry them into the future anyways and even though we’re trying our hardest to overcome them, they still trip us up.”

The removal of Aboriginal children went on for almost a century and it remains a contentious part in Australia’s history. Was it a deliberate attempt to kill off indigenous culture or was it an act of compassion by those seeking to protect the vulnerable?

Alison Holland from Macquarie University says the debate continues. “There were a lot of people -- missionaries, ex-missionaries, people who’d been involved in it, patrol officers, people who, for example, might have had to actually gone to collect the children -- who swore that it was not about a process of diluting Aboriginal culture, but that it was about taking care of children who were neglected," she said. "And then there are, of course, other people who, including many Aboriginal people themselves, of course, who say that it was very much about diluting and eradicating Aboriginal culture.”

Robbed of culture

What is beyond doubt is that tens of thousands of youngsters were spirited away.  They were forcibly separated from their families, stripped of their identity and robbed of their culture. Some have had to wait until middle age to try to find those missing pieces.

“Within the hours of landing and walking the streets of Sydney I felt a connection, a spiritual connection, a belonging," Ennis stated. "I realized I was home, I was where I belong and I shouldn’t have been taken from here in the first place.”   

Ennis’ found his biological mother, whom he says is not interested in getting to know him. He has also been rejected by several of his seven siblings. He says he still hopes his family members change their mind and choose to get to know their long-lost sibling.

You May Like

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces Chaotic World, Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid