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Media release - Professor Lowitja O'Donoghue, 28th February

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The Murdoch press coverage of my lengthy interview with journalist Andrew Bolt has been simplistic, sensationalist, misleading and mischievous.

This is both personally distressing and, more importantly, potentially very damaging to the causes I have devoted my life to working for.

Let me make the following points absolutely clear:

1. Significant numbers of Aboriginal children were removed, or stolen, from their families. And such practices were enshrined in the policies of the time and endorsed by government.

2. The legacy of these policies and practices has been devastating for my people. This legacy continues to impact on each successive generation, causing immeasurable grief and trauma and loss of culture.

3. The term 'stolen children' covers a wide range of different circumstances. In all cases there was compulsion, duress or undue influence.

4. Whether children were forcibly removed by the authorities or whether parents were encouraged by force of circumstances to surrender their children is largely irrelevant. The consequences have been equally tragic.

5. For my own personal circumstances, in which my white father appears (as far as I know) to have relinquished his five children, I now prefer to use the term 'removed'. I have always tried to represent this situation accurately to the public, to the best of my limited knowledge, for I was only two years of age at the time. I absolutely understand and respect that for many others the term 'stolen' more accurately describes their circumstances.

6. I know that my Aboriginal mother would have had no legal recourse, nor any moral support, in resisting our removal. I also know that her grief was unbearable. Our removal would have been seen as consistent with the policies of the time which effectively sought to erase or assimilate the Aboriginal population.

7. I do not caution others against using the word 'stolen'. For many it is the most accurate description of what happened. I absolutely respect their right to use the term and I acknowledge that the term has come to have a broad meaning that encompasses a variety of circumstances of removal.

8. I still believe that Aboriginal people are owed a formal apology. In no way should my comments about my personal circumstances be used to imply that the past should not be acknowledged and apologised for.

9. Similarly, my comments should not be construed to discredit legitimate claims for compension. I have always said, and I reiterate, that I believe that a reparation tribunal is preferable to the adversarial court process. But I respect the right of others to seek redress through the courts.

10. Finally, I am very angry and upset at the selective way in which some of my comments have been reported. I deeply regret that some subtle distinctions I made in a legthy and manipulative interview have been taken out of context and distorted by Andrew Bolt and the Murdoch press. That this report will be used by some as a 'divide and rule' strategy to hurt my people and undermine the legitimacy of the claims of the stolen generations is doubly distressing.

Lowitja O'Donoghue

Please feel free to contribute to this discourse.


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