NITV news has uncovered the story of how thousands of Stolen Generation children had their lives permanently affected after they were charged and given criminal records – purely for being an Indigenous child taken away from their family.
Featuring both on The Point tonight at 9pm, and in an investigative story online Guilty of Being Aboriginal, NITV unearths forgotten evidence of the widespread practice and reveals that these ‘offences’ still appear on full police records requested by individuals today.
Research by Woor-Dungin volunteer Elizabeth Proctor and Law Professor Bronwyn Naylor from RMIT University reveals that in Victoria, it was a systematic, standard practice up until 1989 for Aboriginal children to get a police record for being an Indigenous child in ‘need of protection’.
This means for decades, Aboriginal and Torres Strait children were given criminal records by the courts after being forcibly taken away from their families.
In particular, the story follows 63-year-old Larry Walsh and his journey of uncovering the truth behind his criminal record from 1956, when he was only two and a half years old. During the course of going through old court documents, Walsh discovered that he had been branded a criminal because he was a ‘stolen child’.
Walsh says that having a police record has affected his life: “They picked on me as a kid, the police, saying I had a criminal record. If they’d left me alone in peace, who knows what my life would have been.”
As well as leading to him being targeted and harassed by local police, Walsh says that this childhood record meant that Magistrates referred to his ‘criminal record from 1956’ on more than one occasion, for example when he went to court for driving without a licence.
“As far as I’m concerned it has been used against me, as part of painting a picture of me as a very bad person. I’ve been telling people about this for years but nobody believed me. How many other people in my age group, or as young as their 30s, have they done this to?”
The Victorian Children’s Court has published documents stating that there was a “failure of the previous system to distinguish between children [deemed to be] in need of protection and young people who were offending against the criminal law.”
There have been calls for the official removal of the charges from people’s records.
The story airs on The Point tonight, Thursday 24 August, on NITV at 9pm. Visit The Point online or get involved on Twitter and Facebook using #ThePointNITV