Wyatt must support Bungalow history to help Stolen Generation legal action




The Stolen Generation’s case for compensation from the Commonwealth for the personal trauma caused by being forcibly removed from their families and placed in institutions like The Bungalow is a very timely reminder that its history needs to be initiated now by the Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt.

Aboriginal artist, Heather Alley, now 84, is one who is seeking compensation via the class action.

She was forced to live away from her mother at the age of 10 in Alice Springs where she says that she was badly treated.  She spent only eight years with her mother whom she dearly loved. 

After her mother died Heather Alley was heart-broken and it was 30 years before she could even say her mother’s name.  How cruel is that?

Mrs Alley’s daughter finds it “extremely disrespectful” given the way that the Stolen Generation has been treated.

Another stolen child, Mrs Eileen Cummings, gives a very telling summary of the suffering. 

She says: “We had nothing.  We didn’t even have our parents, we didn’t have our community, we didn’t have our country, and we were put on a mission that we didn’t know anything about.”

One thing that makes it difficult to win such cases is the lack of records and the loss of records. 

In the Gunner / Cubillo case of 2000 there were quite a lot of documented records available to support their case.  There were also various people alive who gave critical information. However, even with these written and verbal records the case failed. 

One of the stumbling blocks was the fact that the Commonwealth Government had acted lawfully if not morally. 

This is one of the critical reasons why the definitive history of The Bungalow needs to be done; needs to be done now and needs to be managed and financed by the Federal Government.

The Gunner / Cubillo case was vigorously contested by the Commonwealth Government.  They engaged the services of a Sydney based legal firm that specialised in ethnic litigation with some of their lawyers having had overseas experience in this type of litigation. 

This law firm virtually left no stone unturned in their quest to dig out every detail via documentation and interviews that would give strength to the government’s case. 

There is little doubt that the work of this law firm contributed significantly to the government’s success. At least one key person interviewed has since died.

This present class action will probably face similar stiff opposition from the Federal Government which could impact on the final outcome.

While the Federal Government has every right to put its case, its actions could come across as showing little regard for the suffering of the Stolen Generation. 

This then is also a reason why the government needs to take responsibility for initiating a definitive history of The Bungalow.

Minister Wyatt has responded to the news of the class action by saying that given the legal implications he is not in a position to make any comment.  What a great position for a Minister to be in!  He can’t make any comment!

However, he could make a positive move simply by initiating the Bungalow history proposal!

John P McD Smith is the Chair of the St Francis’ House Project.

PHOTO: Children in 1934, with Aboriginal assistants at “The Bungalow” Alice Springs, 1934.


  1. Good Lord! Loss of record’s – how did that happen? Yet we can still find records of the Roman times!

  2. Anyone with doubts about the victims of the Stolen Generation need only go to here.
    This is one of the most comprehensive records of what really went on during the period 1914 to 1939 when The Bungalow was located in Stuart / Alice Springs, Jay Creek and at the Old Telegraph Station.
    The pic in your article is probably from the Stuart / Alice Springs 1914-1928 period, not from The Bungalow at the Old Telegraph Station where the dormitories were of stone, not corrugated iron.

  3. “The Commonwealth Government had acted lawfully if not morally.”
    There is a lesson there for the Minister.

  4. When is all this blaming of “White Australia” for their actions of faith and caring years ago going to stop?
    There are thousands of young and not so young neglected Aboriginal kids running wild in towns and truck stops throughout the Territory and elsewhere that could be removed and placed in safe accomodation to much better their chances of fitting into the Australia we know today, tomorrow and the distant future.
    We could call it the “Caring Generation”.
    No negative replies please, as it only feeds division.

  5. I’ve been collecting, over the last couple of years, quite a few old research papers and books and discarded correspondence from the tip shop that were written generally from between 1930 and 1977
    All tell a similar story of a history of terrible violence between tribes and the pleading (in letters to authorities at the time) by some communities for missions to be established to help control the violence.
    Given the quantity of historic published reference material being discarded (our reference library and local schools) I trust these written records and letters have been digitised for a complete and balanced view on history.

  6. When I lived and worked in the Territory, northern South Australia and outback West Australia I saw many instances of over the top beatings and assaults of Aboriginal women by their fellow men folk.
    I’ve seen groups of people fighting each other for an hour or so, blood everywhere, both male and females lying motionless on the ground still being kicked and belted with numerous objects.
    On one occasion visiting a neighbouring cattle station I was in a vehicle that was stopped by the driver, an Aboriginal, who pulled a black fella out of the back of the ute and beat the life out of him.
    Next morning at our cattle station destination we were quietly told at breakfast the Aboriginal died during the night. We were told it was common and don’t interfere in their “tribal” affairs.
    As far as I know nothing was done about it! Everyone who lives in the outback knows what I’m talking about, don’t you?
    I have keenly followed the Aboriginal culture since 1969 and dare I say the “culture” died in the 1970s when the group in question were placed on a see-saw of politics, radicalisation and modernism that they weren’t ready for and in many remote communities are still not ready.
    I often wonder where this will be heading in two hundred years from now. I fear, not a good result.

  7. Allen, why I asked is that what you described doesn’t tally with present day Yuendumu.
    I’m not saying that bad things don’t happen here, just that they’re far outweighed by good things which don’t make it in the media.
    Since 1973 when I started living here I’ve witnessed many changes but I can assure you that “culture” is far from dead.
    I’m more optimistic than you as to what this is heading for in 200 years, that is assuming there will be a liveable planet in 200 years from now.


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