Nine possible mass graves have been discovered at a former children’s institution in Australia. The government of New South Wales, where the Kinchela Aboriginal Boys’ Training Home is located, became aware of the discovery six months ago when it received a report that ground-penetrating radar found questionable sites on the institution’s grounds.
Ground penetrating radar (GPR) technology is a non-invasive method used to identify below-ground objects. The government report, entitled The Missing Children Project, said there were “suspicious anomalies” at the Kinchela Training Home and recommended excavation.
The report’s authors did urge caution, however, and said the anomalies could be archeological, but the only way to be sure is to dig up the grounds.
The Kinchela Boys’ Home Aboriginal Corporation, which represents survivors of the institution, is calling on the federal government to provide funding for excavation as a matter of priority. Its spokesman, James Michael “Widdy” Welsh, said, “I’m hoping that there’s nothing there. Just as simple as that. But with the way that those people were and the way that they flogged us, it wouldn’t surprise me at all.”
The children incarcerated in the institution were part of Australia’s “Stolen Generations.” The phrase refers to the unknown number of children who were removed from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families by state and federal governments who believed the families could not sufficiently care for them. The practice was undertaken between 1910 and the 1970s and was approved by churches and welfare bodies who thought the children’s life chances would improve if they were assimilated into white society.
The children were sometimes placed with white families, while others went to institutions and orphanages. Many survivors claim they suffered physical and psychological abuse and were made to believe they were inferior. It is estimated that between one in 10 and one in three children were affected.
In 2008, then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd issued the nation’s first formal apology for the practice.