Publication Date



Recent debates about indigenous child removal policies in Australia and Canada have, for very pertinent local political reasons, constructed indigenous child removal policies as specific to the nation, a particularly destructive subset of the wider genocidal policies of settler governments. Where the existence of similar policies in other settler societies is noted, it is usually only in order to identify and emphasise the differences in both practice and impact and hence to strengthen the argument for particularity in relation to the nation under study. In both countries the policies reached their peak during the twentieth century, long after each had attained dominion status, but indigenous child removal has a much longer history. This paper will step back before the implementation of mass removal policies to look at their colonial or imperial origins in order to locate and identify the discursive shift which made such removals possible and to place such policies in their comparative historical context. While identifying a clear similarity in both the ideology and practice of child rescue and indigenous child removal it will argue for the two policies having parallel rather than common origins. What they shared, however, was a fundamental conviction that in order for 'savage' children to be 'civilised' they needed to be 'rescued' from their parents.


School of Arts and Sciences

Document Type

Book Chapter

Access Rights

ERA Access

Access may be restricted.