Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who were removed from their families, during practices that led to the Stolen Generations, experience significant health and social disadvantage, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) in partnership with The Healing Foundation.
The report, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Stolen Generations and descendants: Numbers, demographic characteristics and selected outcomes, shows that, compared to Indigenous Australians who were not removed from their families, members of the Stolen Generations experience poorer outcomes across a range of measures.
This report analyses data from a series of surveys conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and finds that among all Indigenous people born before 1972 (when forced removal policies were abandoned) around 1 in 10, or 11%, reported being removed from their families. This leads to an estimate that about 17,000 members of the Stolen Generations are still alive in 2018.
Over half (56%) are female, and the majority (79%) live in non-remote areas. Most live in New South Wales (30%), Western Australia (22%) and Queensland (21%). Two-thirds are aged 50 and over, while 20% are over 65.
‘The data shows poorer health and social outcomes among this group of Indigenous Australians compared to those who were not removed from their families,’ said AIHW spokesperson Dr Fadwa Al-Yaman.
‘For example, Indigenous people who were removed from their families are more than 3 times as likely to have been incarcerated in the last 5 years, and 1.8 times as likely to rely on government payments as their main source of income and 1.7 times as likely to experience violence compared to those who were not removed.’
They are also more likely to have experienced discrimination, be unemployed or not own a home, and less likely to report good general health.
The Healing Foundation Board Chair Professor Steve Larkin welcomed the report’s release as the first detailed study of its kind and noted the importance of the report in establishing the intergenerational impacts of removal from family.
‘The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report has filled in a lot of gaps and importantly, uncovered a very concerning level of health, social and economic disadvantage across generations,’ he said.
‘Today’s report is significant in showing that the negative effects of past practices are not limited to those directly removed, with descendants also consistently experiencing poorer health and social outcomes than other Indigenous Australians.’
In 2014–15, close to 115,000 Indigenous Australians aged 18 and over were descended from relatives in older generations who had been removed from their families. This includes around 15,000 who were also removed themselves from their families as children.
The descendants were twice as likely to report they felt discriminated against in the last 12 months, twice as likely not to speak an Indigenous language, and 1.9 times more likely to have experienced violence, compared with a reference group of Indigenous people aged 18 and over who had not experienced any kind of removal from family.
Professor Larkin said the data clearly demonstrates the urgency in addressing the unique needs of the Stolen Generations and tackling intergenerational trauma as the underlying cause of many social and health problems faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities today.
‘Before this report, we didn’t know how many Stolen Generations members were still alive, or the full impact of ongoing trauma in people’s lives, which made it difficult to determine needs and plan services to address them.
‘Through this data, we’ve been able to compare health and social outcomes for members of the Stolen Generations and their descendants to effectively show the “gap within the gap”,’ he said.
Professor Larkin said that the data will help determine future priorities for the Stolen Generations, and assist policymakers and service delivery agencies better meet the complex needs of this group of Indigenous Australians.