Wednesday, June 19, 2024

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HomeIssue 43'Miserable' Federal government rejects Bungalow project

‘Miserable’ Federal government rejects Bungalow project


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).


  1. Readers, please cast an eye back over the revelations through the year about Sports Grants, and Community Development Grants, and honestly answer whether we should feel shame about the rejection of this proposal.

  2. It is sad that the children were taken off their parents (forcefully) and placed here for their own protection and under the protection of the Government, and yet they were abused something terrible by the authorities. Shocking and disgusting.

  3. Good decision. Hundreds of millions are available in ABTA and CentreCorp etc to fund this project. Congress could use their reserves or slip it into their $50m a year funding.
    This project ticks many boxes that are already well funded so why ask for more?

  4. Jason’s suggestion that there is money available for this project via ABTA etc is important to know. Why don’t those who are involved in these programmes prepare a submission for this very worthy project? Do it, someone!

  5. Political spin working overtime to dodge this worthy proposal: “There is not a suitable funding stream currently available.”
    Surely one of the universities could help out here and put some research resources into this?
    Calling ANU.

  6. This is just the latest example of the chronic inability of Aboriginal groups here to help themselves.
    A good project needs funding.
    Don’t consider how the current resources mostly underused with some lying idle, could be put to this purpose. Instead, demand additional funds.
    Complain bitterly when rejected.
    If Wyatt was a whiteman he would be condemned as racist.
    If the request to Wyatt stated “we are doing X towards this project. Could you top up our funding” the response may have been more positive.
    Wyatt would get these “do everything for us” requests daily and he rightly rejects them in line with Government policy.

  7. Hi again. I have just completed a PhD on the first Bungalow.
    “About 10 years ago a PhD student from Turin completed a PhD on the stolen generation.”
    Many Australian students from Australian universities have also conducted such research and many writings are available on aspects of the topic.
    More research and presentation of the information is needed.
    In response to a couple of comments that people have made here, to say that this is an example of Aboriginal people unable to help themselves is completely inaccurate and unfair. From what is written in this article, this Bungalow research is an initiative by a white man, written up by a white journalist.
    This article offers no insights whatsoever into how First Nations people feel about the story of the Bungalow being researched and told.
    That comment is an unfair attack on Aboriginal people for no reason.
    It wouldn’t be the first time now would it? Also, this is a shared history perpetrated by white people.
    Why should it be incumbent upon First Nations people to finance that?
    Secondly, the children were not put in the Bungalow for their own protection. They were put there by and large because the white authorities were obsessed with controlling what they called the “half-caste problem”.
    There are sources of funding for research. They have been slashed by this miserable government and there is limited funding for all the people and their excellent research proposals.
    We just have to keep trying and find ways to fund the research of these pivotal stories of our shared history, working of course with the descendants of the people who feature in them.

  8. Thanks Linda for some sensible and valid points. Based on your research is there a way to find about more about the views of Indigenous people on documenting this Bungalow history ?

  9. @ Linda Wells: I assumed that the ground work such as finding out how Aboriginal people feel about the story of the Bungalow being researched and told, or even if they want it to be told, had been undertaken.
    But it seems that a request for funding has been made without these prerequisites.
    The call for funding is therefore premature.
    As we found with the proposed Aboriginal Art Gallery an Aboriginal consensus is vital right from the start.

  10. It would seem that Linda Wells is a suitable person to be on the research staff for the writing of the history of The Bungalow. Perhaps an organisation like AIATSIS could provide the finance if Minister Wyatt won’t?

  11. @ James: So push ahead without even knowing if the Aboriginal people most closely associated with the Bungalow want their stories to be told?
    If they do then the way in which their stories are told will determine the costs of the project.
    At this stage it is presumptuous to ask for funding.
    A group of relevant Aboriginal people should guide the project from the outset.

  12. There are three sides to every story. Your side. My side, and the truth. And nobody is lying. Memories shared serve each differently.

  13. @ Linda Wells: As a newly qualified PHd student, perhaps you are still in Uni mode.
    I remember, leaving Uni and solving the world’s issues without having the benefit of any real life experiences.
    You mention: “About 10 years ago a PhD student from Turin completed a PhD on the stolen generation.” Are you talking about the Aboriginals or the White people?
    Furthermore, you mention: “There are sources of funding for research. They have been slashed by this miserable government and there is limited funding for all the people and their excellent research proposals.”
    How much money to the majority of us have to provide? There are billion spent on the Aboriginal population in various forms. There is only so much to go around.
    “In response to a couple of comments that people have made here, to say that this is an example: “Aboriginal people unable to help themselves is completely inaccurate and unfair.”
    Perhaps it is that they are unwilling (not unable) to help themselves.
    Do the Aboriginals actually want our help? Or is it just the money the are after.
    Yes, the Stolen Generation was in many cases atrocious, but some good did come from it.
    There are many prominent and well educated Aboriginals that would not have had those opportunities otherwise.
    It was poorly managed but in reality how was it any different to White children becoming wards of the state?

  14. @ Surprised: Because what Aboriginal people want is usually so different from what the majority society wants for them they often do just want the money.
    They have to get something from an offering that is useless to them so they go along with government in supporting just about anything if it makes them a buck.
    The relentless perspective of white Australia that Aboriginal people “just want the money” and waste precious resources is a symptom of the huge divide between the cultures.
    Good advice I received 30 years ago was to not listen to what Aboriginal people say they need but observe what they actually do.
    That is the key to finding out what they really want.

  15. @ Jason: For it to work at all then, surely it makes sense for Aboriginal (leaders?) to at least unite and come to the table with something.
    At least then everyone will have something to work with.
    We can’t keep doing the same thing and at the moment, it’s like a very expensive version of herding cats.

  16. Sorry. My original point wasn’t clear enough.
    The Government could find $100m to spend on Sports Grants (heavily criticised by the
    Auditor General), even more on Community Development Grants, but no money was left for projects like this.

  17. @ Jason: Interesting comment, do not “listen to what Aboriginal people say, but observe what they actually do. That is the key to finding out what they really want”.


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