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3 Austl. Indigenous L. Rep. 1 (1998)
Removal of Indigenous Children from their Families: The National Injury and What Came before - The Push for Reparation

handle is hein.journals/austindlr3 and id is 9 raw text is: C o       m0
Introduction                                                                       .
The public and political debate concerning the removal of indigenous children from their families has
intensified since the tabling1 of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) report,
Bringing them Home2 (Wilson Report). The Wilson Report is the report of the National Inquiry into the
Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families (National Inquiry) conducted
by HREOC.3
Neither the release of the Wilson Report nor the commencement in 1995 of the National lnquiryA should be
considered as the starting point in the discussion of and push for reparation5 for Indigenous people who were
removed from their families under government policies. Indigenous individuals and organisations have been
active since at least the mid-to-late 1980s in advocating for a national inquiry into removal policies and
practices.6 Some examples of activism follows.
Former Prime Minister of Australia, Paul Keating, drew attention to the removal issue on 10 December, 1992
in a speech at Redfern Park, Sydney where he stated we took the children from their mothers The Prime
Minister said that white Australia had failed to make the most basic human response and enter into the hearts
and minds of the Aboriginal people.
Tony Buti is a law lecturer at Murdock University Law School and a solicitor and barrister of the Supreme Court of
Western Australia. I am grateful for the research assistance of June Kenny in preparing this article.
1   In the Commonwealth Parliament on 25 May 1997.
2. HREOC, Bringing them Home: National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from
Their Families, (Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia, April 1997). Herein referred to as the Wilson Report'
3. Sir Ronald Wilson, the President of HREOC, like all other HREOC commissioners, was a commissioner of the National
Inquiry. Additional female Indigenous commissioners came from all States and Territories.
4. The National Inquiry was launched on 10 August 1995, in Adelaide. The National Inquiry terms of reference were
originally announced on 11 May 1995 by the then Attorney-General of Australia, Michael Lavarch. However, those terms
of reference were revoked and replaced with similar but wider terms of reference, including the examination of
compensation principles on 2 August 1995. The terms of reference of the National Inquiry were:
tracing past laws, practices and policies that lead to the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children
from their families and the effects of those laws, practices and policies;
examining compensation issues;
examining current laws, practices and policies with respect to services and procedures available to those affected
by removal and recommending appropriate changes; and
examining current laws, practices and policies with respect to child placement and care of Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander children and recommending appropriate changes, taking into account the principle of self-
determination. [See 1997 2(2) AILR 286]
5. See below for meaning of the term reparation'
6. Butler R, speaking at the workshop on removal of Indigenous children at the Australian Reconciliation Convention in
Melbourne, 26 May, 1997, stated that the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care, along with other
organisations and individuals had been lobbying governments to hold an inquiry since the late 1980s.

(1998) 3 AILR


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