The Stolen Generations are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who, when they were children, were taken away from their families and communities as the result of past government policies. Children were removed by governments, churches and welfare bodies to be brought up in institutions, fostered out or adopted by white families.
The removal of Aboriginal children took place from the early days of British colonisation in Australia. It broke important cultural, spiritual and family ties and has left a lasting and intergenerational impact on the lives and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Government policies concerning Aboriginal people were implemented under different laws in the different states and territories of Australia. These laws meant nearly every aspect of the lives of Indigenous people was closely controlled by government: relationships and marriage, children, work, travel, wages, housing and land, and access to health care and education.
Records about the Stolen Generations and their families were kept by governments, as well as by churches, missions and other non-government agencies. Many records have been lost as the result of poor recordkeeping practices, fires, floods, and in some cases, due to deliberate destruction. Changes to the structure of government departments and within non-government organisations can also make it very difficult to trace records to assist with finding family connections.