Thousands of years of history behind us, a resilient race, a cultural legacy and an initiative to preserve it. Yokai is all about history, the history we have written, the history we are writing and the history we will write.
Yokai was born out of almost 20 years of effort by WA Stolen Generations people, their families and other concerned West Australians to advocate for the actioning of the 54 recommendations of the Bringing Them Home Report (Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families April 1997).
Despite this effort, to date, there has been concerted effort on only five of the 54 recommendations made for the Stolen Generations to achieve truth, justice and healing from racist laws allowing the removal of an estimated 100,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their parents, extended families and communities, beginning early last century and lasting until the early 1970’s, basically until the enactment of the Racial Discrimination Act in 1975.
The location of the “hub” for this approach is in the former office of the Chief Protector, AO Neville, and is highly symbolic of our approach. It is about Aboriginal community controlled organisations taking control of the former locations of their initial trauma – the offices and the Missions, in order to use them to deliver healing and restore the strong connection to the culture that was stolen from them!
It is heavily ironic that an Aboriginal organisation initiated by Stolen Generations people now occupies AO Neville’s office and from there and the Missions, is working to reverse some of the damage that originated from his dreadful policies of cultural genocide.
In 1947 AO Neville, the WA Commissioner of Native Affairs/Chief Protector of Aborigines published Australia’s Coloured Minority, a text outlining his plan for the biological absorption of Aboriginal people into non Aboriginal Australia. The book defends his policy but also acknowledges that Aborigines had been harmed by European intervention. For this reason, he said, more must be done to assist them.
Some quotes from Mr Neville and others of the day follow:
“I make no apologies for writing the book, because there are things which need to be said. So few of our own people as a whole are aware of the position [of Aboriginal]. Yet we have had the coloured man amongst us for a hundred years or more. He has died in his hundreds, nay thousands, in pain, misery and squalor, and through avoidable ill-health. Innumerable little children have perished through neglect and ignorance. The position, in some vital respects, is not much better today than it was fifty years ago. Man is entitled to a measure of happiness in his life. Yet most of these people have never known real happiness. Some are never likely to know it. The causes of their condition are many. Mainly it is not their fault, it is ours, just as it lies with us to put the matter right.”
Plainly, Mr Neville couldn’t imagine a time when mainstream Australia had failed to put the matter right and Aboriginal people were becoming empowered to do so!
“We will do all in our power to prevent the mating of a half-caste with a half-caste, and especially with a black. We will on the other hand do all in our power to displace the black strain by an infiltration of white blood”. Cecil Bryan medical practitioner giving evidence at the Moseley Royal Commission in 1934
In the same report the Australian Federation of Women Voters in rejecting the government’s “neglect” justification for child removals, noted that “government administrators … were forcibly removing children because it was cheaper than providing the same system of support which operated for neglected white children.”
Bringing Them Home
Bringing Them Home WA Inc (BTHWA) is incorporated in Western Australia under the State’s Associations Incorporation Act. It has recently amended its constitution but has otherwise been a not for profit organisation with a reconciliation structure for almost 20 years. The organisation has a general committee with the chairing role split equally between an Aboriginal Co-convenor and a non-Aboriginal Co-convenor. Supporting these are a treasurer and secretary and a Deputy Chair.
The BTHWA came into being soon after the handing down of the 54 recommendations of the Bringing Them Home Report (1997), recommendations made to ensure that the people of the Stolen Generations and their intergenerationally traumatised families received assistance to regain equity in emotional and social wellbeing after decades of successive governments attempting to “breed out the colour” of Aboriginal people. Several community-based reconciliation groups came together to form the organisation and the need for BTHWA will remain until these recommendations are fulfilled. To date only 4 of the 54 recommendations have been fully met – the Apology being one.
BTHWA has also parented other organisation and forums required for gaining Aboriginal equity. We defined the need and strategic objectives and achieved initial funding for Reconciliation WA. Our committee members were also the majority of its founding board members and this organisation has an acute awareness of the social disadvantage of the Stolen Generations and their families today.
We founded the Yokai Employment Forum, an unincorporated assembly of 200+ organisations and individuals concerned with employing Aboriginal people and retaining them in the workforce. This is perhaps the only employment forum in Australia that has the necessary understanding of working with people suffering from post-traumatic stress and intergenerational trauma disorders.
More lately we auspiced the activities of the WA Stolen Generations Alliance which has recently become the West Australian Stolen Generations Aboriginal Corporation and which works directly through Aboriginal leadership groups collectively supporting Mission survivors. We still assist this organisation in its endeavours and co-manage its operational arm, Yokai Healing Our Spirit.