The Stolen Generations In New South Wales
In 1912, the Cootamundra Domestic Training Home for Aboriginal Girls was established as a training institution for Aboriginal girls who had been removed from their families under the Aborigines Protection Act 1909-1969.
The Cootamundra Girls Home was fundamental to the process of removing Aboriginal girls. When removed, Aboriginal girls were trained to become domestic servants and farm hands in wealthy non-Aboriginal households. Girls in the homes were referred to as ‘inmates’ and parents were unable to regain access to their children until they turned 18yrs.
An average of 40 children were accommodated in the Cootamundra Girls Home at a time, with children living in dormitories, divided by age. The Girls experienced systematic racial discrimination to remove their Aboriginal identity and alienate them from their families.
At the age of 15yrs and 18yrs the children were sent out as servants to “white” households under arrangements that did not meet child welfare in those days. Over 570 children carried out duties, from scrubbing floors, washing and looking after children, for over 1200 employers. The children were not protected in these work environments, subjected to harsh conditions, and their wages were paid to Board trust accounts.
In 1937, the time in which the assimilation policy was adopted, 2600 children had already been removed from a population of 7370 to 10,593 on Aboriginal stations and reserves under the control of the Aborigines Protection Board.
Between 1939 and 1969, an additional 825 children were removed and placed in the Children’s Training Homes. From 1940, the systemic programs to remove Aboriginal identity and enforce assimilation were implemented by NSW public servants. For 22 years, from 1945 until 1967, the Cootamundra Girls Home was administered by Matron Ella Hiscocks. The Home was a harsh place run along military lines, with daily life revolving around a strict routine, covered by a bell.
Aboriginal children in NSW continued to be removed, trained and “apprenticed” in this way until the machinery of forcible removal was dismantled with the Aborigines Act 1969. this included the repeal of the Aborigines Protection Act, the abolition of the Aboriginies Protection Welfare Board and the closure of the Children’s Training Homes constituted under the Act. The Aborigines Act 1969 had the effect of moving Aboriginal children into the same welfare system as the non-Aboriginal children, for the first time. This followed the national referendum in 1967 that transferred responsibility for the legislation relating to the Aboriginal people to the Commonwealth Government and authorised their inclusion in the Australian census.
Coota Girls Aboriginal Corporation, ‘All One’Statement.(2015)