On 20 March 1969, 51 years ago today, the Aborigines Protection Act 1909-1969 was repealed and replaced by the Aborigines Act 1969.
What did this mean for Coota Girls and Stolen Generations children?
Aborigines Protection Act 1909-1969: The Aborigines Protection Act 1909 and its amendments had devastating impacts on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, their families and communities. It gave the Board control over Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders’ lives and granted them power to remove any child at any time for any reason. Cootamundra Domestic Training Home for Aboriginal Girls was one of the Homes for removed Aboriginal girls established under the Act, along with many others.
While the purpose of removals under the Aborigines Protection Act was stated to ‘provide for the protection and care of Aborigines’, it was used to forcibly remove Aboriginal children to be trained and ‘apprenticed’ as domestic servants and farm hands, sent out to live under harsh conditions in wealthy non-Aboriginal households.
Aborigines Act 1969: The Aborigines Act 1969 saw the abolition of the Aborigines Welfare Board and the beginning of closures of the Childrens’ Training Homes constituted under the previous Aborigines Protection Act, including Cootamundra Domestic Training Home for Aboriginal Girls. Aboriginal Children were moved into the same Welfare system as non-Aboriginal children.
Today, the legacy of the Aborigines Protection Act 1909-1969, and the removals it enabled, remains for Stolen Generations survivors, their families and whole communities.