Australia doesn't need more 'Stolen Generations'. We need to stop validating broadcasters like Alan Jones

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Alan Jones stands by stolen generation comments

Radio shock jock Alan Jones explains why he believes certain children should be taken away from their parents' care.

PT2M16S 620 349

As an Aboriginal commentator, I needn't worry about ever being short of material regarding public instances of racism in this country.

Since the start of 2016, the stream of examples came thick and fast. First there were the "Operation Boomerang" ads. Then came the downplaying of Invasion Day rally attendances. Then blackface made a comeback complete with the shows of blackface solidarity and the online abuse of two Aboriginal musicians who took a stand against it.

I'd hoped after what felt like a depressing start that there would be a few days peace. Perhaps Australia would use the eighth anniversary of the Federal Government's Apology to the Stolen Generations to reflect upon the damage racism has done to this country? 

Alan Jones has reiterated his claim that Australia needs more stolen generations.

Alan Jones has reiterated his claim that Australia needs more stolen generations. Photo: Jessica Hromas

But then Alan Jones took to the airwaves on Monday and my hopes were dashed.


The 2GB breakfast host was discussing Saturday night's Indigenous All Stars rugby league match with a talk-back caller when the latter began to describe the pre-match Indigenous commemorations -- including a minute's silence to acknowledge the stolen generation --  as a "load of twaddle"

That "proud Australians" will act reverential when witnessing a Haka performed by a New Zealand sporting team yet dismiss similar displays of Aboriginal culture as "twaddle" never ceases to amaze me. What is it about the public performance of Aboriginal culture and the commemoration of significant historical events like the Apology that makes them so fearful?

The group 'Grandmothers Against Removals'

The group 'Grandmothers Against Removals' Photo:

Yet this statement by a talk-back caller pales in comparison to the wilful ignorance displayed in Alan Jones's response to her. His comment that "we need Stolen Generations" for the good of kids at risk today because children back then were taken for "their own protection" was reprehensible.

I wonder what my grandmother, a stolen generation child back in the 1930s, would make of Jones's claim that it was "for her own good"? She passed away several years ago so I will never know the answer to this. But thanks to the benefits of modern technology though, I am able to hear her first-hand recollections of her time at the Jay Creek mission. If being removed from family and sleeping on hard concrete floors while being educated solely in domestic servitude is for a child's own good then I clearly have my definitions of "beneficial" and "brutal" mixed up.

Yet it runs deeper than this. The suggestion that there be an apology to the Stolen Generations was only one of the many recommendations contained within the 1997 "Bringing Them Home" report.

This report; prepared following the national inquiry into the laws and policies of successive governments which led to the forcible removal of many Indigenous children from their families and communities between 1910 and 1970; contains not only details of the implementation of these removal practices, but also a number of gut-wrenching submissions from Aboriginal people who were taken.

It's breath-taking that even now, nearly 20 years after the tabling of this report and eight years after that overdue Apology was finally delivered, these issues are still fair game for flippant and offensive discussion on talk-back radio.

I also have serious doubts that Jones's comments were made to highlight the plight of at-risk Aboriginal children and not because he simply wished to denigrate an Indigenous-focussed public commemoration.

As academic and writer Larissa Behrendt pointed out last week, "More Indigenous children are being removed today than at any other time in Australian history". "Neglect" is still the most cited reason for removal – an issue which could probably be better addressed by reducing poverty. As many of the recommendations of the Bringing Them Home report remain ignored, this perhaps goes some way to explain why history seems to be repeating.

Additionally, Jones seems largely unaware of community movements trying to counter these horrific statistics. Late last year a group called Grandmothers Against Removals were successful in negotiating a deal with NSW Government to ensure that elders are consulted in cases of children at risk.

This initiative was created in the hope of finding alternative solutions to continually removing children from family and community. Better solutions may, for example, lie within the networks of extended family that many of these children have. This movement has now spread nationally and a convergence was recently held in Canberra. Through better community consultation and collaboration, culturally-beneficial programs for our most vulnerable children will lead to a drop in rates of removals in the years to come.

Alan Jones has already fallen foul of the law for inciting racial hatred prior to the Cronulla Riots. The fact that he continues to show a similar disregard for Indigenous people shows he has learnt little. It's nothing short of horrific that he is calling for the return of policies which devastated several generations and still impact Indigenous communities today, while ignoring the reality that we are still fighting to keep our families together in a country which continues to ignore these legacies. 

If the main purpose of Jones' show is to fuel social ignorance then I have to wonder why he is continually given a pass by broadcasters. Certainly, I question the prospects for change in an Australia which remains comfortable with the propagation of such ignorance.