Publication Date



While the completion of two different inquiries, along with separate apologies and reparation packages, might suggest that the policies justifying the removal of Indigenous and non-Indigenous children in Australia were distinct, the situation is far more complex. Both child and ‘native’ welfare were colonial and later state responsibilities, creating the potential for policies and practices to be informed by different forces and to vary by jurisdiction. However, by analysing the debates around legislation from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, this article establishes commonalities as well as differences in both the arguments used to justify Indigenous and non-Indigenous child removal and the practices that evolved in the implementation of such legislation. By interrogating such arguments through the lens of whiteness and race, the article identifies the role which child removal was imagined to play in the process of building the settler colonial nation.

Document Type

Open Access Journal Article

Access Rights

Open Access


Authors accepted manuscript. This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Australian Historical Studies on 15 May 2016, available online: