Their pain, legal shame? The removal of Aboriginal children in Queensland’s past

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Conference Paper

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Interim status: Citation only.

Robinson, S. (2005). Their pain, legal shame? The removal of Aboriginal children in Queensland’s past. Paper presented at the 24th annual conference of the Australia and New Zealand law and history society: Trajectories of law in history: The future behind us, Auckland, New Zealand.

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© Copyright Shirleene Robinson, 2005


The forced removal of Indigenous Australians from their family groups in the past remains one of the most contentious issues in Australian public debate. Most commentators though, have emphasised only the role of the government and welfare agents in removing these children without considering the role played by individual settlers. This paper aims to correct this imbalance by providing an overview of the removals process as it occurred in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Queensland. It finds that many of the Indigenous children who were taken from their family groups were taken by individual settlers who wished to use them as cheap form of forced labour. The paper questions the extent of the procedure of removing Aboriginal children from their families and the role of the government and individual settlers in allowing such an activity to happen. It finds that the removal of Aboriginal children was accepted as 'the custom of the place' in colonial Queensland and that individual settlers and government agents held little regard for the feelings and welfare of Aboriginal children and Aboriginal families.

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