Challenges to Aboriginal Identity Construction in Australia: Stolen Generations Responses to the Absence of Identity Documents

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Lyons, Rebecca (2022) Challenges to Aboriginal Identity Construction in Australia: Stolen Generations Responses to the Absence of Identity Documents. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


The Stolen Generations are generally understood as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children forcibly removed under Government race-based policies from their families between 1910 and the 1970s. After removal they were put into homes, adopted or fostered out to non-Indigenous families. The effects of removal have been well documented and include ongoing suffering, grief, and trauma that have been passed down from one generation to the next. The aim of the study is to explore the ongoing effects of dispossession that took place through the practices of child removal that resulted in the Stolen Generations, practices which included the denial and removal of primary legal documents. The study focuses on the effects of not having access to primary legal documentation such as birth certificates. This thesis explores the questions regarding the absence of birth certificates for Stolen Generations survivors and notes the mechanisms that are enacted today through the framework of administrative violence and its impacts on reclaiming identity, belonging and culture for Aboriginal people. The research was informed by Indigenous methodologies, using yarning and in particular the Wiradjuri ethical approaches of Winhangadhurinya and Yindyamarra Winhanganha. Through the process of storytelling 14 participants, Stolen Generations survivors and their families living in Victoria and New South Wales, provide accounts of how family members living without a birth certificate and identity documents have been affected in their lives. Through critical narrative analysis of the stories shared by participants, the study highlights the complexities and challenges associated with efforts to legally affirm one's identity. Key themes identified in the literature include: Theme 1: Being made Nobody, Theme 2: Intergenerational Grief, Theme 3: Fear of History Repeating/ Intergenerational Fear, Theme 4: Belonging/ Practices of Recovery and Healing. Additionally, the study contributes to the understanding of how the absence of legal documentation and the difficulty in obtaining and accessing documentation can be seen as administrative violence. This ongoing violence is both structural and administrative and continues to impact the lives of Stolen Generations survivors, their families and communities. This understanding of the continued experiences of violence contributes to the literature on experiences of administrative violence for the Stolen Generations and their families and community.

Additional Information

Cultural Sensitivity Warning
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that this resource contains images and names of people who have since passed away. -- pg. v

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
Subjects Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 4501 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, language and history
Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 4504 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing
Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 4505 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, society and community
Current > Division/Research > Institute for Health and Sport
Keywords stolen generations, legal documentation, birth certificates, identity documents, administrative violence, violence, colonisation, Aboriginal peoples, yarning, Winhangadhurinya, Yindyamarra Winhanganha, critical narrative analysis, identity, belonging, intergenerational, grief, fear, recovery, healing
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