The Aborigines Protection Act was used first by the Aborigines Protection Board (1909-1939) and then the Aborigines Welfare Board (1940-1969) to establish a system that supported the forcible removal of First Nations babies and children in New South Wales. This occurred over a period of sixty years, from 1909 until 1969, and this system of removal had lifelong consequences for its survivors and their descendants.
Thousands of First Nations babies and children in New South Wales were stolen by governments, welfare bodies and private organisations using trickery, manipulation and abduction.
In 1912, the Cootamundra Domestic Training Home for Aboriginal Girls was established as a training institution by the Aborigines Protection Board in a disused hospital. An average of 40 stolen First Nations children were accommodated in the Home at a time, with children separated and living in dormitories divided by age. Girls in the Home were referred to as ‘inmates’, and parents were unable to regain access to their children until they turned 18, and in many cases, never again.
The girls experienced systemic racial discrimination to remove their First Nations identity and alienate them from their culture, Country, families and communities.
The Home was a harsh place, run along military lines, with daily lives revolving around a strict routine regulated by a bell. The Home was constituted to ‘receive, maintain and train children’. Once sufficiently trained, around age 15, the girls were indentured and apprenticed by the Board and sent out as domestic slaves to wealthy non-First Nations families. In most cases, the working and living conditions did not meet child welfare standards, the children were not protected and were subjected to physical, psychological and sexual abuse, and their wages were stolen and paid directly to the Board trust accounts.
First Nations children continued to be stolen, trained and apprenticed in this way until the system and structure that underpinned the forced removal of First Nations babies and children in New South Wales was dismantled by the enactment of the Aborigines Act 1969. The Aborigines Protection Act, the Aborigines Welfare Board and the Children’s Homes constituted under the Act were closed.
Cootamundra Domestic Training Home for Aboriginal Girls officially closed in 1969. It was registered on the NSW State Heritage Register in 2012.
To arrange a Stolen Generations: Truth-telling and Education session please contact Meagan@cootagirls.org.au