By ERWIN CHLANDA
Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt has rejected a proposal by the St Francis’ House Project where many stolen generations member from The Centre received education over decades and many rose to national prominence.
St Francis chairman John P McD Smith argued in the Alice Springs News on August 31 that a professional and extensive historical account needs to written about The Bungalow and its impact: “It is something Australia owes to the stolen children,” says Mr Smith.
After much hand wringing about “healing from past traumas … the distress and harm suffered by members of the Stolen Generations and their families sadly has a continuing legacy” Mr Wyatt comes to the point in a letter to Mr Smith: “With regards to your request for Commonwealth support, there is not a suitable funding stream currently available.”
Mr Wyatt gave his inaugural speech to Parliament in 2010 wrapped in a kangaroo skin coat that was given to him by elders of the Noongar people, the traditional occupants of south-west Western Australia.
“A federal minister carries a high responsibility regarding the decisions he or she makes in all matters to do with the respective portfolio,” says Mr Smith.
“Perhaps this is never of more importance than the responsibility that lies with the Minister for Indigenous Australians.”
“As a follow-up I wrote to Ken Wyatt outlining a proposal that he consider authorising funding for a research programme focusing on the history of The Bungalow’.”
Mr Smith says the points he made to Minister Wyatt eh included:-
• There needs to be continuing acknowledgement of the suffering of the stolen children, which will take various forms.This acknowledgement is necessary because the healing process needs to continue and will take a long time.
• To overcome suffering by definition is a long process that probably never reaches a conclusion. Closure is a very elusive outcome. Many Aboriginal people work out their own ways to deal with their personal trauma, but in addition to this Australian society needs to keep doing things that will contribute to the healing process.
• The Bungalow site is now a memorial to the stolen children containing photographs, documents and other memorabilia. While this is entirely appropriate it is not enough in terms of memories. A detailed, definitive and accurate historical account of The Bungalow needs to be written by professional historians as a documented record of all that happened there.
• A formal historical account would be a fitting tribute to the stolen children who resided there. It needs to be done soon, while key people who know the history are still living. The Morrison Government should consider taking on this project and provide full funding. It was the Commonwealth Government who established this tragic place.
Mr Smith says three agencies the Minister suggest may assist “work within set guidelines and have a complicated process of application and approval, which makes the chances of success for this far reaching proposal not very good.
“It is surely miserable of the federal government to show virtually no interest in taking on this significant indigenous national project. They don’t even offer to establish an investigative process.
“The advent of the stolen children is a circumstance that now attracts international interest and obviously something of which the government and the minister appear not to be aware of,” says Mr Smith.
“International interest alone should be enough for the government to be sufficiently motivated to place priority upon this proposal.
“About 10 years ago a PhD student from the University of Turin in Italy completed her thesis on the stolen generation issue.
“While quite recently academics from the University of Oxford visited Australia with the express purpose of gathering primary source information on the story of the stolen generation.
“Perhaps the Alice Springs Town Council, Territory and Federal members of parliament and local indigenous groups need to take up this issue as a matter of urgency?”
PHOTO at top: Bungalow children 1937, Father Percy Smith (right), Father Ken Leslie (left).