Abuse of Aboriginal Children at Adventist Mission in Mid 20th Century Reported
By AT News Team, December 5, 2014: A public broadcasting service in Australia published a story on Wednesday (December 3) reporting the abuse of children at the Mona Mona Mission some seven or eight decades ago. The mission was located in Far North Queensland on a peninsula that reaches from Australia toward New Guinea. It started in 1913 with the goal of reaching the aboriginal people in the area, according to the Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia. The Aborigines are the native peoples of Australia who were present when the first settlers arrived from England.
Mona Mona was one of 14 missions operated by various Christian denominations in collaboration with the government of the State of Queensland. The children of Aborigines were taken from their families at an early age in placed in dormitories at the mission stations where they were educated. These children are now senior citizens, many in their 80s. They recall the loneliness of being separated from their parents, harsh conditions in the dorms and instances of physical and sexual abuse.
Mona Mona Mission was closed in 1962. “A large-scale state government inquiry into the treatment of children in [these] institutions in Queensland, known as the Forde Inquiry, found wide-scale allegations of abuse,” the report published this week by Australia’s Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) states. “This led to thousands of claimants receiving compensation from the state from 2007 to 2010.”
The claimants from the church-run missions were left out of this compensation because the missions were “unlicensed” despite the funding they had from local government. Earlier this year a law firm in the city of Cairns filed a petition on behalf of more than 70 of these senior citizens with the Australian Human Rights Commission which has resulted in compensation, but some of the seniors “believe that the Seventh Day Adventist Church should be held accountable” as well, the SBS reported.
The report states that Judy Enoch is an Adventist who has been lobbying the denomination’s administrators in Australia “to officially recognize what happened at Mona Mona. She says that while the Adventist Church issued a general apology a few years ago to Aboriginal people for any wrongs that had been done in the past, it’s still not enough.”
Enoch is quoted in the report, “There has been no attempt made by the Church to come and hear their stories. The elders are being let down by the Church.” She told the SBS that the senior citizens who were children at the Mona Mona Mission “are now set on pursuing legal action against the Seventh Day Adventist Church for the mistreatment they suffered at the mission.”
The SBS report also quotes a representative from the Seventh-day Adventist denomination in Australia. “We are very concerned about any allegations of misconduct in the past and welcome the opportunity to dialogue with anyone who may have concerns that have not been addressed.”
The SBS report includes stories from several senior citizens in the local aboriginal community near Mona Mona. They tell of being housed in dormitories without sufficient heat and going hungry from lack of food, as well as being locked in for 12 hours a night and jailed for up to three weeks at a time if they ran away to see their families. One man states that he was sexually abused by older aboriginal children at the Mona Mona Mission.
There is nothing unique about the Adventist involvement in this story. The concept that native children should be separated from their families and “civilized” in mission schools was widely practiced throughout the 19th and 20th centuries in many places around the world. It has left a bitter legacy which Christian leaders in several denominations now regret and has led to financial compensation plans in several countries, including the United States and Canada as well as Australia.