8 books about Australia’s Stolen Generations

National Sorry Day occurs on May 26 every year in Australia.

On this day in 1997, a report called Bringing Them Home was tabled in Parliament. It recommended that the Prime Minister issue a public apology to Australia’s Stolen Generations. It wasn’t until Kevin Rudd was elected as Prime Minister, 10 years later, though that this official apology was actually delivered.

In Rudd’s February 13, 2008 speech, he apologised to the members of the Stolen Generations and their families for the past, present and future grief, suffering and loss caused by the Australian government’s laws and policies to forcibly remove them from their families, communities and cultures.

This removal took place between 1910 and 1970 and affected an enormous 10-30% of Aboriginal children at the time.

(Note: If you’re interested in learning more about the specific history and experiences of the Stolen Generation in your state, you can visit this website and select your state on the left hand side.)

Here are 6 books you can share with your students to ensure they learn about this ‘blemished chapter of our nation’s history’ (Rudd, 2008).

NOVELS

My Australian Story: The Diary of Mary Talence- Anita Heiss

Also called: Who am I? (My Australian Story)

This was the book that opened my eyes to a whole portion of Australia’s history that I’d never known existed. I couldn’t believe I’d never heard about the ‘Stolen Generations’ before, despite the enormous span of time it took up in Australia’s history.

This historical fiction tells the story of a young girl who is removed from her family and sent to live at the Bomaderry Aboriginal Children’s Home. It provides a sensitive and gentle introduction to the impacts of our government’s assimilation policy in a way that leaves the reader wanting to learn more.

This is a fantastic book to read as a class novel while reading other, shorter texts to build further background knowledge on the topic. I recommend combining this novel with any of the picture story books below.

Novel about Australia's Stolen Generations

Sister Heart- Sally Morgan

This verse novel tells the story of a young Aboriginal girl who is removed from her family and sent to live at a government run children’s home. The story is told in the first person and gives insight into the main character’s feelings at being separated from her people and place. I loved the fact the entire story is told in verse and found that I absolutely couldn’t put it down (which is probably why it has stickers for 4 different awards on the cover).

I’d recommend this for students in year 4+.

Verse novel about stolen generations

PICTURE BOOKS

They Took the Children- David Hollinsworth

When I read The Diary of Mary Talence to my year 5 students before Kevin Rudd’s official apology, I recognised that like me, they wanted to know more about this terrible topic. I did a search for ‘child friendly non-fiction books on the Stolen Generations’ and stumbled upon with this one. 

This short and easy to read picture book gives an overview of the reasons behind forced removal as well as giving background information the camps and missions were children were sent. It also explains the ‘Bringing Them Home Report’ that was released on May 26, 1997.

This book is the perfect accompaniment when reading the Diary of Mary Talance as a class novel. It provides a good amount of context and factual information that all enable deeper comprehension of the novel (and any other learning you do on the topic).

picture book about stolen generation

Sorry Day- Coral Vass and Dub Leffler

This is a compelling picture story book about the Australian government’s apology to the Stolen Generations. It’s cleverly written as a double narrative- with one story focusing on the formal apology announcement by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and the other story focused on a group of aboriginal children who are stolen from their families by white government officials.

Download my mentor text teaching suggestions for this book

sorry day book carol vass

Took the Children Away- Archie Roach and Ruby Hunter

This song and picture story book by Archie Roach is a must-listen/read for anyone learning about the Stolen Generations in the upper primary school years and beyond. Archie Roach reflects on his own experience of being forcibly removing from his parents in the song and the picture story book version gives details of his partner Ruby Hunter’s experiences as well. The song is incredibly heart wrenching and provides deep insight into the impact of the policy on the stolen children and their families. Keep the tissues nearby when listening to this and studying the lyrics with children.

Download my mentor text teaching suggestions for this book

Click here to watch Archie sing this song on YouTube

Took the children away picture book

Found- Bruce Pascoe and Charmaine Ledden-Lewis

This beautiful picture story book tells the story of a young calf who is separated from its family and tries to find its way back to them.

Although Bruce Pascoe says that the inspiration from this book wasn’t actually the Stolen Generations, it could be a useful text for helping introduce the topic to younger students. (FYI: the story was actually based on a real event that happened to a calf on Pascoe’s farm. You can view a short clip of him talking about it here).  

Stolen generations picture book

Lowitja- Lowitja O’Donoghue

In this short autobiography, prominent indigenous elder Lowitja O’Donoghue shares her own story of being taken away from her parents as a child, growing up at Colebrook Home, getting her first job as a domestic helper and becoming a nurse before going on to become the first chairperson of ATSIC.

Download my mentor text teaching suggestions for this book here

autobiography mentor text

Stolen Girl- Trina Saffioti

This picture story book includes a page of background information on the Stolen Generations at the start of the book. The story itself follows the life of a young Aboriginal girl who is removed from her family and forced to grow up on a children’s mission. The book outlines all the things she did with her family before she was taken and highlights how her life changed once she was at the mission. The ending is left open with the girl seeking a way to get back to her family. (Reading Rabbit Proof Fence after this ending would be a good combination).

This book would be great for starting discussions about what life was like for the children who were stolen. I could imagine some great ‘turn and talk’ conversations coming out of this book.

stolen girl picture book sorry day

I’m sure there are plenty of other books to help build knowledge on Australia’s Stolen Generations and the government’s eventual apology, but these are 8 books I have used and can recommend.

Do you have any others to recommend? Let us know in the comments below.

Related Links

Download a list of mentor texts with an Indigenous perspective

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2 thoughts on “8 books about Australia’s Stolen Generations”

  1. Hi Riss,
    Another book on this topic that I have used for many years is ‘The Burnt Stick’ by Anthony Hill. It tells the story of an indigenous boy, John Jagamarra, who was taken from his mother. It is a powerful telling of this shameful period in Australia’s history.

    Reply

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