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Who and what does the stolen generation refer to? What are the sociological explanations that underpin this extreme example of state intervention in families?

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Introduction

Sociology - position paper 2. Topic - Who and what does the stolen generation refer to? What are the sociological explanations that underpin this extreme example of state intervention in families? In this essay I will be discussing the stolen generations, and the reasons behind the taking of aboriginal children from their families. I will be focusing on culture, power and history in comparing aboriginal lifestyles to that of the white people, to determine the reasons behind the assimilation that is known as the stolen generation. The stolen generation is a term that refers to the forcible taking of aboriginal children from their families in an Australia-wide government policy "aimed at breeding out aboriginality"1. This practice occurred "from the earliest years of European settlement in Australia" 2, until the early 1970's. However, Kensworthy believes that "the tragic results...is still felt in the lives of aboriginal people"3, even to this very day. It was mainly the half and quarter caste children that were taken, with those with lighter skin being re-socialised into white communities. Those that were able to join the white communities gained some opportunities, such as education. However "the vast majority (of stolen children) ...read more.

Middle

This is partly to do with aboriginal history. Before the white settlers came, the aborigines had the land to themselves, and each tribe would have its own specific culture, its own way of behaving. Aborigines were not used to power, and, when the white settlers came, things changed dramatically for them. Read believes that "white people have never been able to leave aborigines alone"8, and this may be true, mainly because of the power imbalance between the whites and the aborigines. Power is an important aspect in regard to the stolen generation, and the explanations as to why it occurred. Newman suggests that "power is the ability to intentionally influence others to act in a way that is consistent with your wishes, or even to change their beliefs, emotions, behaviours, and identity"9. Newman has summed up an important motive of the white settlers. That is, they had more power than the aborigines, and thus were able to force their culture onto them, leaving many of them questioning their identity. Thus, power can be a dangerous thing. ...read more.

Conclusion

Perhaps, if their parents treated them badly, or were negligent towards them, then I could understand them being taken away to a foster home for a period of time. However, this was not what the policy was about. The government didn't care what kind of family they came from, or how loving the child's parents were. This is obvious in reading the stories of the stolen children, whose whole family were heartbroken when they were taken away. The policy was about imposing white culture on the aborigines in an attempt to breed out aboriginality, and I believe there is no justification for this. Thus, we can see that although the white settlers may have had their reasons for carrying out their policies, there is no justification for doing what they did on such a large scale. As I have illustrated, the repercussions on the aboriginal community were tragic, if not fatal, with many aborigines left questioning their identity. As Bird argues, "this attempt at assimilation was nothing but a policy of systematic genocide, an attempt to wipe out a race of people"14, and it should never have occurred. ...read more.

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