Why are the stolen generations important

Aboriginal author May O’Brien - The woman who gave the "stolen generation" a story

Fremantle in Southwest Australia: In the port city on the Indian Ocean lives and works an author who has achieved outstanding achievements: 85-year-old May O’Brien.

She looks small and delicate in her blue dress with the floral patterns, the gray, frizzy short hair, the winning smile on her face.

The stolen generation

May O’Brien is an Aboriginal child and grew up among whites from the age of five. She looks back on a time long past.

«The whites thought we were the dust of the earth. They looked down at us like dogs. " And yet she looks anything but bitter.

In front of her are her children's books, which she has been writing since the 1990s. In addition, black and white photos from the 1930s.

May O'Brien's face still looks outraged when she thinks about the injustices of her childhood. May grew up in the heart of the Eastern Goldfields, an outback region in the Western Australian bush.

O'Brien is a child of the “Stolen Generation”, referring to one of the darkest chapters in recent Australian history: From 1910 to 1970, a significant number of Aboriginal children, especially those of mixed race, were forcibly placed in homes or were adopted released by whites.

Uprooting and alienation

The aim was to adapt them to the "white way of life", to assimilate the fair-skinned offspring for a life in white Australia.

This often happened with the idea of ​​shrinking the indigenous population. People were forced to move to churches that were established for them.

Most were built a long way from those of the European immigrants.

The families affected were initially not aware of the background to the forced relocations. Safe accommodation, better care, education for their children - all of this seemed attractive to them. The consequences only became apparent later: uprooting and alienation.

Fables with clear messages

O'Brien himself spent twelve years in the Mount Margaret Mission and then was sent to Perth High School. There she discovered her love for language and literature.

These childhood experiences flowed into her work, says May O’Brien. They made their children's books popular in Australia. Stories that, as fables, always have a clear moral.

The “Bawoo Stories”, for example, is about showing that arrogance spoils character and leads to the loss of power and prestige.

For decades there was no understanding, no empathy in Australian society for how difficult life was for the children of the “Stolen Generation”. May O’Brien's stories address this in a light but also serious way.

May O’Brien's children's books reflect traditional life in the outback as the author has experienced it. They should explain to children nature and their living space, which for many no longer exists today.

Fighter against racism

May O'Brien taught at elementary schools in Western Australia for 25 years, became the head of Aboriginal Education for the government and responsible for educational efforts towards the indigenous population.

In addition, she continued to write books - in addition to children's books, teaching material for schools, treatises on indigenous topics such as assimilation and Aboriginal history, on racism and feminism.

From dust child to honored intellectual

May's life was full of ruptures and changing baths: Born in the outback under the poorest conditions, raised by white missionary sisters according to Western ideas, university in the metropolis of Perth as one of very few indigenous students, a career in school administration and later in politics.

Finally, recognition at national level and international honors. A unique career in Australia.

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