Year four students at a Sydney school were told they would be taken away from their parents during a class discussion on the Stolen Generation.

A nun told the Year 4 class at St Justin’s Catholic Primary School in Oran Park at 9:30am that their parents weren’t taking care of them and they would be taken away on orders of the prime minister, reports Sydney Morning Herald.

It wasn’t until 2.50pm that children were told they had been tricked as part of a lesson on the Stolen Generation.

Students were then asked to write down how they felt about the hoax.

The exercise left many children deeply upset, with one parent describing the hoax as “emotional abuse”.

“He came home and he said, ‘Mum, I got really scared at school today’. This should never happen to another child,” one angered parent said.

Another parent at the school, who did not want to be named, said she supported the aim of the activity but thought it could have been done better.

“I don’t have a problem with the idea of it because empathy’s a great thing to have,” she said.

“But I have some questions around if they made it clear that it was just a re-enactment.

“My son didn’t seem that upset when he got home but he got a bit distressed when I asked him about it.

“A lot of people were saying, ‘Can they do that, is that allowed?”‘

The schools response.

“This was intended to give students experience of a scenario that was part of our nation’s history,” diocese spokesperson Tim Gilmour said.

“It was done without incident last year and quite a lot of parents said the activity was a good one.

“If it’s deemed it’s no longer appropriate, we’ll look at whether it needs to be changed significantly or just amended to include more context.”

“Inducing similar or simulated trauma on children is completely unacceptable”

Many people are outraged with comments flooding in on the SMH Facebook page including,

“As an Aboriginal man, and a lecturer in Aboriginal Studies I find this outrageous. Inducing similar or simulated trauma on children is completely unacceptable for a whole range of moral and ethical reasons. Inducing guilt on anyone for what has happened does nothing to advance people’s understanding of the impact of these policies on Aboriginal people’s.”

“Upset my child like that I would be raging. They have no idea what some children are going through. What if a patent is dying or just died. What if the parents split up the night before GRR!!! I know we need to explain about the stolen generation and we should. But to install fear like that is just not on.”

“They weren’t told it was a lesson- they were made to believe it was real. All day. What a disingenuous teacher, how could one not understand the mental torment that this would cause a 10 year old. No matter the lesson to be learnt.”

“No this is wrong – anyone with an ounce of knowledge about child brain development would know this is harmful – children DO believe what they are told – to just say ‘oh it’s not true’ after the fact is too late – this could have harmful ramifications and I will be making a report to Helpline.”

“Completely Outrageous and Unacceptable. As an Aboriginal women and a Post Graduate Student in Indigenous Health and a suffer of Intergenerational Trauma inflicted by this Assimilation Policy. This not how to “Teach a lesson ” about the stolen generation. ”

What do you think about this activity? Did the teacher go too far?

Share your comments below.

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  • that is a ridiculous way to teach a lesson and shouldn’t be encouraged to happen again.


  • Those poor children! What a traumatic thing for them to go through, it was really going too far. I understand what they were trying to achieve, but surely there could have been a much better way than how it was done.


  • Sorry, but as far as I am concerned they went to far. In SA that would be classed as Child Abuse – physcological and emotional. If parents can be charged so should teachers.


  • I think the school went out too far. children now days have emotional issues etc compared back to the early days but its not just that, its the fact that they didn’t do the subject a little better than what they should have done.. maybe have a better understanding of the generation, is there a movie that’s similar to the stolen generation? read a book about it? don’t emotional abuse children as you will have to cope with them the next day! a trust in a teacher will be lost.


  • I think this was way out of line – children have a right to feel safe in the school environment and I think that was way to traumatic to scare them like the Nun did.

    It’s great that the school wanted to educate them about the Stolen generation, but it really could have been done in a much for informative way rather than scaring the wits out of them – these kids could be so traumatised that going back to school might be an extremely serious issue for them, there will be separation anxiety and other issues that the parents will now have to face to get their children feeling comfortable again – I hope this never ever happens to my children


  • It would be interesting to know how this became a part of the curriculum? There is way to teach to children and a way to teach to adults. Children do not have the maturity to learn this way. Similar teaching has occurred with adults and they have the maturity to understand the concepts.


  • So wrong !
    I have 4 kids in fostercare at the moment who have been removed from those they loved the most. An exercise like this could trigger an escalation from emotions that have been functionally covered.
    Just hearing about the stolen generation with maybe some film fragments makes impression enough, however I dare to say an exercise like this can be dangerous !


  • I understand what they were trying to teach but I don’t think they went about it the right way, especially for such a long time


  • I think this is apalling. Scare tactics on young children. Education, awareness, understanding … isn’t that how we should be teaching our children. If this had happened at my school, I would certainly have been complaining and taking them to task.


  • I saw this on Sunrise this morning and like the Sunrise team I was appalled. I did not know however that the school did this last year as well…simply horrifying and so very very wrong on so many levels. mom206279 said it well and I agree 100%.


  • What a terrible decision they made in that school. Poor kids. And they thought it was real. I would be so upset if my child was in that school. Unacceptable.


  • Outrageous my son is my foster son he had already been removed from his biological parents then to have some idiot telling him he would be removed again im disgusted
    My son had separation anxiety for a long time what this would do to him would set him back s long way


  • Appalling. This would have lasting effects. Not the way to do it.


  • The idea of learning about the stolen generation is that we don’t repeat it! What an awful thing to do to kids!


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