Inquiry National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families

Alternative Names
  • Bringing Them Home
  • Stolen Generations Inquiry
Inquiry Type
Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) Inquiry, established by the Australian Commonwealth Attorney General

Key Dates

1900 - 1970
Period of investigation
11 May 1995
Announcement date
11 May 1995 - 26 May 1997
Period of operation
4 December 1995 - 3 October 1996
Public hearings
26 May 1997
Final Report


This Inquiry examined the separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families. Its Terms of Reference charged it with tracing the past laws, policies and practices which resulted in the separation of children from their families. It investigated the adequacy of current laws, practices and policies and need for reform. In addition, it considered principles for determining compensation for people affected by separation, services subsequently requested by persons affected and the nature of current laws, practices and polities with respect to the placement of children in out of home care.

The Process
The Inquiry conducted public hearings, confidential hearings and received written submissions.

Governing Legislation
The Inquiry was constituted under section 11(1)(e), (j), and (k) of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986.

Governing Authority
The Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.

Inquiry Locations
Australia; Tasmania: Hobart, Cape Barren Island, Flinders Island, Wybalenna, Launceston, Burnie; Victoria: Melbourne Lake Tyers, Bairnsdale, Morwell, Ballarat, Geelong, Framlingham, Portland, Mildura, Swan Hill, Echuca; South Australia: Adelaide, Cooper Pedy, Glossop, Murray Bridge, Port Lincoln, Ceduna, Raukkan, Mount Gambier, Port Augusta, Berri: Western Australia: Perth, Halls Creek, Broome, Bunbury, Katanning; Queensland: Brisbane, Rockhampton, Palm Island, Townsville, Cairns, Thursday Island; New South Wales: Redfern, Campbelltown, Nowra, Sydney, Grafton, Dubbo, Wilcannia, Broken Hill; ACT: Canberra; Northern Territory: Darwin, Alice Springs.

Public Hearings
Public hearings were held in every capital city and in smaller regional centres and towns. 56 hearings took place at the locations mentioned above and evidence was taken from Indigenous organisations and individuals, government, church and non-state representatives, former mission employees and individual community members.

Private Sessions
Confidential evidence was taken in conjunction with the public hearings, from affected individuals and adoptive and foster parents.

Written Submissions
Over 700 written submissions were received, including 504 confidential submissions.

The Report acknowledges several lawyers, criminologists, historians and research assistants who advised on specialist issues and contributed to the final report.

535 survivors gave evidence either in person or in writing. Representatives of service providers, community and support organisations, government and experts also provided submissions and while some also gave evidence at the public hearings the numbers are not recorded in the final document.

Institutions covered by the Inquiry include government settlements and mission dormitories. The dormitories included both single sex and mixed.

The report documented the impact on Aboriginal society today of past child removal practices and argued for the need for reparation measures.

54 recommendations were made. Key recommendations included the recording of oral testimonies; records preservation and access measures; apology and reparations, including monetary compensation; provision for ongoing commemoration and insertion into school curriculum and professional training; funding of after care and community rebuilding services; funding of ongoing research into overcoming indigenous disadvantage; implementation of Indigenous self determination and standards for Indigenous children in out of home care.

Further Action
The Inquiry indirectly was the inspiration for other groups seeking inquiries.

Related Inquiries
Forgotten Australians


Final Reports


See also

Acknowledgement: this summary was prepared by Shurlee Swain, Australian Catholic University