The Stolen Generations (also Stolen generation and Stolen children) is a term used to describe those children of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent who were removed from their families by the Australian and State government agencies and church missions, under acts of their respective parliaments. The removals occurred in the period between approximately 1869 and 1969,although, in some places, children were still being taken in the 1970s.
The extent of the removal of children, and the reasoning behind their removal, are contested. Documentary evidence, such as newspaper articles and reports to parliamentary committees, suggest a range of rationales. Motivations evident include child protection, beliefs that given their catastrophic population decline post white contact that black people would "die out" , fears of miscegenation and a desire to attain white racial purity.
Terms such as "stolen" were used in the context of taking children from their families - the Hon P. McGarry, a member of the Parliament of New South Wales, objected to the Aborigines Protection Amending Act 1915 which enabled the Aborigines' Protection Board to remove Aboriginal children from their parents without having to establish that they were in any way neglected or mistreated; McGarry described the policy as "steal[ing] the child away from its parents".. In 1923, in the Adelaide Sun an article stated "The word 'stole' may sound a bit far-fetched but by the time we have told the story of the heart-broken Aboriginal mother we are sure the word will not be considered out of place."
Indigenous Australians in most jurisdictions were "protected", effectively being wards of the State. The protection was done through each jurisdictions' Aboriginal Protection Board, in Victorian and Western Australia these boards were also responsible for applying what were known as Half-caste acts.
More recent usage was Peter Read's 1981 publication of The Stolen Generations: The Removal of Aboriginal children in New South Wales 1883 to 1969. The 1997 publication of Bringing Them Home - Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families brought broader awareness of the "Stolen Generations."
The acceptance of the term in Australia is illustrated by the 13 February 2008 formal apology to the Stolen Generations, led by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, and passed by both houses of the Parliament of Australia. Previously apologies had been offered by State and Territory governments in the period 1997-2001.
There however remains opposition to acceptance of the validity of the term "Stolen Generations". This was illustrated by the former Prime Minister John Howard refusing to apologise and the then Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, John Herron controversially disputing the usage in April 2000. Others who dispute the validity of the term include: Peter Howson, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in 1971-72, Keith Windschuttle and Andrew Bolt Others argue against these critics, responding to Windschuttle and Bolt in particular.
On December 11, 2007, the newly installed Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced that an apology would be made to Indigenous Australians, the wording of which would be decided in consultation with Aboriginal leaders. On January 27, 2008, Rudd announced that the apology would be made on or soon after the first day of parliament in Canberra, on February 12. The date was later set to February 13, when it was ultimately issued.