The National Inquiry into the Forced Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families took oral and written testimony from over five hundred Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Australia, as well as from Indigenous organisations, foster parents, State and Territory Government representatives, church representatives, other non-government agencies, former mission and government employees and individual members of the community. The 524 page final report, tabled in Parliament on 27 May 1997, includes many of these personal testimonies. All of the testimonies quoted in the final report can be read here.
- Confidential evidence 358bLocation:KoonibbaInstitution:Koonibba Lutheran Children's HomeAge at time of removal:Birth
They used to lock us up in a little room like a cell and keep us on bread and water for a week if you played up too much. Stand us on a cement block outside in the rain with raincoats on if you got into trouble - for a month, after school, during playtime (p. 139).
Confidential evidence 358b, South Australia: man removed as a baby in the 1950s; first placed at Koonibba Mission, then a Salvation Army Boys' Home where he experienced the above punishments, then on to reform school and prison.
- Confidential evidence 363Location:South AustraliaInstitution:UnknownAge at time of removal:2
I've received a lot of hostility from other Aboriginal people. They're my own relatives and they really hurt me because ... they have a go at me and say that I don't even know my own relatives, and that I should; that I've got nothing in common with them. The damage is all done and I can't seem to get close to any of them. Confidential evidence 363, South Australia: woman removed at about 2 years in the 1940s; ultimately fostered.
- Confidential evidence 367Location:KoonibbaInstitution:Koonibba Lutheran Children's HomeAge at time of removal:Birth
The other rejection came, of course, from other Aboriginal people in the community. They called us 'whitewashed', 'coconuts' and things like that; also 'Johnny-come latelys'. You then had to justify your identity, or try and find a place amongst all that.
Confidential evidence 367, South Australia: woman removed as a baby to Koonibba in the 1940s.
- Confidential evidence 379Location:South AustraliaInstitution:UnknownAge at time of removal:9
It's wrecking our relationship and the thing is that I just don't trust anybody half the time in my life because I don't know whether they're going to be there one minute or gone the next. Confidential evidence 379, South Australia: woman fostered at 9 years in the 1970s.
- Confidential evidence 382Location:OodnadttaInstitution:UnknownAge at time of removal:10-11
I grew up Oodnadatta area...with my grandmother and she would see the missionary coming ... she would run away with me. She would keep running away and the police ... would come sometimes and shoot the dogs and that and my grandmother would run in the creek and hide me away till about really dark and come back home ... I might [have] been about 10 or 11 years ... we seen one missionary coming ... one of my auntie roll me up like a swag sort of thing, you know, and hid me away...but I must have moved and he got me out and he said to me 'I'll give you a lolly and we'll go for a ride, go to Oodnadatta' ... they put me on a train and my grandmother was following the train - she was running behind the train, singing out for me ... then I was singing out 'I'll be back', I thought I was going for a holiday or something. Confidential evidence 382, South Australia: woman removed from her grandmother's care in the 1960s. She was never informed of the grounds for her removal.
- Confidential evidence 383Location:KoonibbaInstitution:Koonibba Lutheran Children's HomeAge at time of removal:4 years
If you grow up with no love ... I thought sex was love. That's why I probably had all those kids, 'cause I was trying to get all this love, y'know. 'Cause I never got it when I was in the Home (p. 192).
Confidential evidence 383, South Australia: woman removed at about 4 years in the 1940s and raised largely at Koonibba Lutheran Children's Home.
- Confidential evidence 384 - GregLocation:LauncestonInstitution:Omaru Receiving HomeAge at time of removal:12 years
I was born on Cape Barren. At the time I was taken the family comprised mum, my sister and [my two brothers]. And of course there was my grandmother and all the other various relatives. We were only a fairly small isolated community and we all grew up there in what I considered to be a very peaceful loving community. I recall spending most of my growing up on the Island actually living in the home of my grandmother and grandfather. The other children were living with mum in other places.
Until the time I was taken I had not been away from the Island, other than our annual trips from Cape Barren across to Lady Baron during the mutton bird season.
The circumstances of my being taken, as I recollect, were that I went off to school in the morning and I was sitting in the classroom and there was only one room where all the children were assembled and there was a knock at the door, which the schoolmaster answered. After a conversation he had with somebody at the door, he came to get me. He took me by the hand and took me to the door. I was physically grabbed by a male person at the door, I was taken to a motor bike and held by the officer and driven to the airstrip and flown off the Island. I was taken from Cape Barren in October 1959 [aged 12].
I had no knowledge [I was going to be taken]. I was not even able to see my grandmother [and I had] just the clothes I had on my back, such as they were. I never saw mum again.
To all intents and purposes, I guess my grandmother was looked upon as my mother in some respects because of my association with her and when I was taken there are actual letters on my file that indicate that she was so affected by the circumstances of my being removed from the Island that she was hospitalised, and was fretting and generally her health went on her. A nursing sister on the Island had my grandmother in hospital and she was in fact writing letters to the Welfare Department to find out, you know, how I was getting on and that sort of thing, and asking if I could go back to the Island for holidays. That was refused. My grandmother was removed from the Island and placed in an aged care hospital, and I was taken to see her and when I did she had basically lost her mind and she did not know who I was.
It is fairly evident from reading my welfare file that [the teacher] was the eyes and ears of the Welfare Department and that he was obviously sending reports back to them about the conditions on the Island.
There is a consent form on [my] file that mum signed and it did include [my sister and my two brothers] - and their names were crossed out and mine was left. I do not know whether it was because I was at the top or not. I might add that most people that I have spoken to said that mum, whilst she could read her name, could not read or write, and obviously would not have understood the implications of what she was signing. [It] has been witnessed by the schoolmaster.
I was flown off the Island and ... I was flown to where the small planes land at Launceston. I was eventually placed with some people in Launceston. I have some recollection of going to school at some stage. I noted from my file that I was transported to Hobart in 1960 - my recollection of that was being put into a semi-trailer and picked up on the side of the road by some welfare officers down there. I was placed with some people in [Hobart], and I guess, fortunately for me, I could not have been in better hands because I still maintain a relationship with them; they look on me as their son. They had one daughter but Mrs -- used to care for other foster children and the house was full of other non- Aboriginal children.
I had always wanted to return to the Island but I could never bring myself to hopping on a plane and returning. [It was] thirty years before I went back. [The night I returned] I could not settle. I think I had a cup of tea and I decided I would go in a different direction and I walked around the sand spit and - I do not know, something just made me turn around and look back and I looked to the school and - I just looked back to where we used to live as kids. My whole life flashed before me and I just collapsed in the sand and started crying ... And when I composed myself as best I could I just sort of reflected on things and my whole life was just racing through my mind and I guess I just wanted to be part of a family that I never had. I just wanted to be with my mum and my grandmother and my brothers and sisters.
Confidential evidence 384, Tasmania.
The consent form signed by Greg's mother states the reason for his removal: 'I am a widow, in poor health'. After Greg was taken his mother had another daughter but Greg was not aware of her existence until 1994. One of Greg's brothers states that after Greg went their mother 'was in total despair'. They lived in conditions of extreme poverty in 'a run down shanty'. One afternoon their mother went drinking and suffered a fatal accident. Later the police came with a warrant to collect the children and flew them to Launceston. The boys were fostered together but each of the girls went to a different family. The first time the five children were all together was in 1995.
- Confidential evidence 401Location:TownsvilleInstitution:State Children's Department TownsvilleAge at time of removal:3
Pg. 133. My mum had written letters to us that were never forwarded to us. Early when we were taken she used to go into the State Children's Department in Townsville with cards and things like that. They were never forwarded onto us. Confidential evidence 401, Queensland: woman removed and fostered at 6 years in the 1950s. Pg. 205. I went to Link-Up who found my family had all died except one sister. I was lucky enough to spend two weeks with her before she died. She told me how my family fretted and cried when I was taken away. They also never gave up of seeing me again. Confidential evidence 401, Queensland: woman removed at 3 years in the 1950s.
- Confidential evidence 403Location:Alice SpringsInstitution:The BungalowAge at time of removal:18 months
I've come to realise that because of Dad being taken away, grief and all that's been carried down to us. We're not organised. We don't know where we're heading.
Confidential evidence 403, Queensland: speaker's father was removed at the age of 18 months to The Bungalow, Northern Territory.
- Confidential evidence 404 - PeggyLocation:Cherbourg , Ayumba, Buramba,Institution:Cherbourg DormitoryAge at time of removal:4
My family went to Cherbourg. They volunteered to go there during the Depression. So I would have been about 6 months old when grandfather, who was, I mean, he was independent. He had eight kids all birthed out in the trees you know, under the stars. My mother spoke her own language. She had me with the promise to marry my father. And then when the Depression came they talked to the policeman. He said go to Buramba. When things get better come back out again. He was the Protector so he sent them there. The thing is though, when we got there you got caught up in the system. You weren't allowed out anymore. The decision that my grandfather made at the time, he didn't know that that would split his whole family up. My Dad was away. He thought we had died. He didn't know what had happened. No-one else seemed to know where we had disappeared to. The whole family went to Cherbourg. Mum said when they got there they were immediately split up. Mum said the superintendent said, 'Agnes, you can't live in the camp with your small baby and you have to go into the dormitory'. Mum thinks that's just ... She won't talk about it. She's in denial. She said they did it for our good because there was no room in the camp. But I said, 'You lived in Ayumba with your old people when you was outside. Why would it now be different that you didn't want to live with them?' She said, 'Well, they offered the dormitory to me, so I took you there'. I was 6 months old. Because the dormitory is such a big place and it's made up, you know ... it's split that way [in half] downstairs with your women that side, your girls that side. I stayed with my Mum for 4 years on that side with the other mothers. The boys went into the boys' home - my grandfather's sons. And he had Mum's younger sister and younger brother - they stayed with the old people. But the rest of them - the boys - were put in a home. Mum was put in the dormitory. I stayed with her until I was 4 years of age. You slept with your mother because there was basically no room for a cot or anything and for the 4 years you're there living with her. But when I turned 4, and because I was such an intelligent child, sneaking off to school because all the other kids are going ... matron made the decision that, 'Peggy has to go to school'. And so immediately that decision was made, I was transferred over to this section. I was taken away from her. Separating her from me was a grill. There was chicken wire across there. That was the extent of how far you could go to this [other] side. Once you were separated from your Mum, you're not to go back to her again. Absolutely no interaction. You have a bed on your own. No contact during the day. I'm out of her control. She is no longer actually my mother type of thing. So you go under the care and control of the Government. That's what happened. No-one said anything to me. No-one said anything to her but everybody else in that section knew that this is what happened. And most of those women, my mother tells me, kept their children on the breast for a long, long time, because that bonding was going to be broken at some stage and so keeping their children close to them was the only thing that they had. I've always been an angry child. Very angry. I don't remember much about this section with my mother. I remember nothing. It embarrasses me when she talks of me running to her for cuddles and she'll say, 'I fed you on my titties'. And I get rather embarrassed because I don't remember that time with her. I can remember sitting here at this grill... But I can remember sitting here at this grill on that side waiting for her to come out of the door of one of these wards here so that I can just see her. She wouldn't come out because it hurt her to see me over this side. I turned 5 around about July. I went to school, but then she had to go to work. So we had that removal from our grandparents, her family, then I was removed from her and I then became the victim. She ate on this side and I ate on that side. Birthdays were arranged. No, I never saw her on birthdays. I got a cake every birthday that was arranged by the Government - only because she fought for it. I didn't get to know her. To me she was just the woman who comes and goes. When I was 5 she went again. They sent her out to work. I remember the night the taxi pulled up to take her. Again, there was nothing emotional because if you were a little girl on this side you got into trouble for crying. You couldn't show emotion. Here at this wire grill I could just hear the director of the management call out to me, 'Is that you Peggy?'. They could just see my little form there sitting at the wire grill. 'You don't get to bed, you'll be punished!' And so, go to bed. If I'm crying at night, 'Is that you Peggy, crying again?'. And so it just went on. You've got about 60 or 70 other kids there, so why cry for your mother because kids are going to look after you and think 'she's crying for her mother'. You got to show your anger some place. I remember that night. We had to sing prayers at night, and I could catch up, I mean, it didn't take me long to know what the system is all about. You're better off living within that system rather than out of it. You go with it. I remember singing prayers that night: Now the day is over Night is drawing near This always upsets me because at the end of singing that prayer, I couldn't remember the words. 'Cause I've got a very high voice - a lot higher than a lot of the kids - they'd hear me first. Meadows of the evening. Creep across the sky. La la la la la la la la. Getting higher and higher. Four and twenty blackbirds. Baked in a pie. That ended the prayer and the old lady called out, 'Is that you, Peggy? Get out here'. And I had to kneel on the floor till everyone went to sleep. It was all about control, reform. The bald head was part of the dormitory system for punishment. If you had lice, you had your head shaved. But you could have your hair cut off for being naughty, doing anything naughty. It didn't matter what it was: speaking back, not doing your chores. Cold baths, getting your hair shaved off if you didn't go for wood in the afternoon so you could warm the baths up. You also got the strap and you got put into jail. There was three components of the punishment that you got. You could even be left without any food. Go without your meal. Stand in the middle of the dining room there while everybody else finished. Many times I stood there. Humiliation, because when you got your head shaved we were not allowed to put a beret or anything on our heads. Not allowed. So you walked to school like this and the camp kids made fun of you and that would bring us closer together as a group. As a group [dormitory kids] we were able to fight off the other kids and their insults to us. We were called the dormitory girls. But the kids who slept out on the veranda - they break my heart and it still upsets me: they were the pee-the-beds. They were called nothing else but pee the-beds. Maybe you'd pee the bed one night because you were upset tummy, fear, no electric light just a flickering light of an old hurricane lamp. It would scare you because old people have the habit of telling you there's people walking around here at night time. All these 'woop-woops' around the place. And you didn't want to go to the toilet and you may wet the bed. It may only have been a one night occurrence, but you transferred from your bed out onto the veranda. You slept on a mattress on the floor and all you were called was pee-the-beds. 'Tell the pee-the-beds they've gotta get their mattresses in off the line.' 'Tell the pee-the-beds they've gotta put their blankets out.' 'Tell the pee-the-beds it's time to get up.' No identity at all. Absolutely nothing. These kids were just grouped together. I was talking to a young girl the other day. I said, 'Your mother never peed the bed but her sister did. She had to go down there to sleep with her sister because the kid was crying. She needed her sister with her'. I could see them on a morning, a winter's morning. No ceiling. Just when the sun hit the tin roof. 'All you pee-the-beds gotta get up!.' And they would get up out of their wet clothing and all you see is steam coming off them. It was absolutely dreadful and I grieve for those kids, honestly. We were cruelly treated. Confidential evidence 404, Queensland, 1930s.
- Confidential evidence 405Location:BomaderryInstitution:Bomaderry Children's HomeAge at time of removal:6 months
I went with my sister to Redfern [aged 17]. I'm walking up the street and my cousin says, 'That's your mum over there'. I'm standing there against the wall ... I had no connection with her. None whatsoever. So that was it. Never bothered about it. Never said hello to her. I stayed against the wall. [Ten years later met her mother.] I didn't get close to her. I didn't do anything. But I spoke to her and I know who she was then. I didn't have any inkling for her. I didn't get near her.
Confidential evidence 405, Queensland: NSW woman removed in the 1940s at about 6 months to Bomaderry Children's Home; transferred to Cootamundra at 8 years; put out to work at 15.
- Confidential evidence 421Location:UnknownInstitution:UnknownAge at time of removal:Unknown
I was trying to come to grips with and believe the stories they were telling me about me being an orphan, about me having no family. In other words telling me just get up on your own two feet, no matter what your size ... and just face this big world ... and in other words you don't belong to anybody and nobody belongs to you so sink or swim. And they probably didn't believe I would swim. Confidential evidence 421, Western Australia.
- Confidential evidence 436 - JohnLocation:BomaderryInstitution:Bomaderry Children's HomeAge at time of removal:Infant
We didn't have a clue where we came from. We thought the Sisters were our parents. They didn't tell anybody - any of the kids - where they came from. Babies were coming in nearly every day. Some kids came in at two, three, four days old - not months - but days. They were just placed in the home and it was run by Christian women and all the kids thought it was one big family. We didn't know what it meant by 'parents' cause we didn't have parents and we thought those women were our mothers.
I was definitely not told that I was Aboriginal. What the Sisters told us was that we had to be white. It was drummed into our heads that we were white. It didn't matter what shade you were. We thought we were white. They said you can't talk to any of them coloured people because you're white.
I can't remember anyone from the welfare coming there. If they did I can't remember ... We hardly saw any visitors whatsoever. None of the other kids had visits from their parents. No visits from family. The worst part is, we didn't know we had a family.
When you got to a certain age - like I got to 10 years old ... they just told us we were going on a train trip ... We all lined up with our little ports [school cases] with a bible inside. That's all that was in the ports, see. We really treasured that - we thought it was a good thing that we had something ... the old man from La Perouse took us from Sydney - well actually from Bomaderry to Kinchela Boys' Home. That's when our problems really started - you know!
This is where we learned that we weren't white. First of all they took you in through these iron gates and took our little ports [suitcases] off us. Stick it in the fire with your little bible inside. They took us around to a room and shaved our hair off ... They gave you your clothes and stamped a number on them ... They never called you by your name; they called you by your number. That number was stamped on everything.
If we answered an attendant back we were 'sent up the line'. Now I don't know if you can imagine, 79 boys punching the hell out of you - just knuckling you. Even your brother, your cousin. They had to - if they didn't do it, they were sent up the line. When the boys who had broken ribs or broken noses - they'd have to pick you up and carry you right through to the last bloke. Now that didn't happen once - that happened every day. Before I went to Kinchela, they used to use the cat-o'-nine-tails on the boys instead of being sent up the line. This was in the 30s and early 40s.
Kinchela was a place where they thought you were animals. You know it was like a place where they go around and kick us like a dog ... It was just like a prison. Truthfully, there were boys having sex with boys ... But these other dirty mongrels didn't care. We had a manager who was sent to prison because he was doing it to a lot of the boys, sexual abuse. Nothing was done. There was a pommie bloke that was doing it. These attendants - if the boys told them, they wouldn't even listen. It just happened ... I don't like talking about it.
We never went into town ... the school was in the home ... all we did was work, work, work. Every six months you were dressed up. Oh mate! You were done up beautiful - white shirt. The welfare used to come up from Bridge St, the main bloke, the superintendent to check the home out - every six months.
We were prisoners from when we were born ... The girls who went to Cootamundra and the boys who went to Kinchela - we were all prisoners. Even today they have our file number so we're still prisoners you know. And we'll always be prisoners while our files are in archives (p. 143-145).
Confidential evidence 436, New South Wales. John was removed from his family as an infant in the 1940s. He spent his first years in Bomaderry Children's Home at Nowra. At 10 he was transferred to Kinchela.
- Confidential evidence 439Location:Melville IslandInstitution:Garden Point MissionAge at time of removal:3 days
It was this kind of instant recognition. I looked like her, you know? It was really nice. She just kind of ran up to me and threw her arms around me and gave me a hug and that was really nice. And then suddenly there was all these brothers coming out of the woodwork. I didn't know I had any siblings. And uncles and aunts and cousins. Suddenly everyone was coming around to meet me (p. 203).
Confidential evidence 439, New South Wales: NT woman removed to Garden Point Mission at 3 days in the 1960s; adopted into a non-Indigenous family at 3 years; reunited with her birth mother in the presence of her adoptive mother at 21.
- Confidential evidence 441 - GrahamLocation:WestbrookInstitution:Westbrook Training CentreAge at time of removal:Birth
The only problem which I had at that [Aboriginal] TAFE was that the Aboriginal community there wanted me to go to these dances and get involved in Aboriginal dances in the community and all that sort of thing. But I couldn't do it because I hadn't had any contact with people before and all the whites told me they were this and this and that I should stay away and all that sort of thing; they're bad people. So it was sort of very difficult to get involved with Aboriginal people at that stage still (p. 210).
People go on about compensation and all this. And they don't seem to get the real reason as to why people want some sort of compensation or recognition. I need to be given a start. I just need something to make the road that I'm on a little bit easier (p. 261).
I was adopted as a baby by a white European couple. They were married at the time. They couldn't have children and they'd seen the ads about adoption and were keen to adopt children. There were seven of us altogether. They adopted four people and had two of their own. The first adopted person was Alex. He was white. The next one down from that is Murray who was American Indian. Next down from that was me, Graham. The next person down from that was Ivan and they were the five who were adopted into this white family. The next two after that were their own.
My adopted mother loved children and that's why she wanted to do this so-called do-gooder stuff and adopt all these children. After that, from what I can gather is she did the dirty on my adopted white father and they broke up. He walked out and started his own life, and she was left with seven children. Alex was 10 years older than me and he had to take on many of the roles.
Then from there on in, one by one we were kicked out at the ages of 13. It wasn't her own family members [the two youngest] that were kicked out. It was the five that were adopted. I must say Alex never got kicked out, although he suffered. He had to look after us and he couldn't go out and do what a teenager did and go roller skating or ... So he never got kicked out because she needed him to look after us basically.
Twelve, thirteen was the age at when she decided like we're uncontrollable, we've got this wrong with us, we've got that wrong with us, we've got diseases, we're ill all the time, we've got mental problems, we've got this, we've got that. She used to say that to us, that we had all these things wrong with us.
Murray was the first to go. When he turned 13 he got booted out because she made out that he had this wrong with him again. He stole things, he did this, he did that. He went to an institution. So seeing that we're Indigenous we all had the double effect: one was adoption and one was institutionalisation.
They took Murray. He went to [a Queensland boys' home]. Murray got caught up in the prison scene because he started stealing and whatever. He was angry. He was in the Home for two years. He got involved in a few stealings and he had to go to Westbrook institution which is a lock-up. There's a difference between care and protection and care and control. Where Murray first went into care and protection and then he had to go into care and control.
After that the next person to go wasn't me. I wasn't quite 12, 13, the uncontrollable age. Ivan, who was the one aged below me, wasn't adopted properly. He was sort of fostered in a way. There was a legal technicality there. So because he wasn't adopted properly, another family took him over and he's still with them today [now an adult].
So I didn't realise my time was coming, but basically when I hit the ages of 12 and 13 I was next to go. She met this new fellow. She wouldn't marry him until I was out of the scene. She basically said, 'Oh Graham is uncontrollable'. So she got rid of me as best way she could without her feeling that she was doing wrong (p. 417-418).
Confidential evidence 441, New South Wales: Graham was placed in short term respite care but his adoptive mother did not retrieve him. The court stepped in and an order for care and protection was made in 1985. He was placed in the same boys' home as his brother Murray. He was 13 years old. He remained in the Home until he turned 18. Having failed almost every subject in secondary school, Graham is now about to complete a university degree.
- Confidential evidence 444Location:BomaderryInstitution:Bomaderry Children's HomeAge at time of removal:4 years
I have six children. My kids have been through what I went through. They've been placed. The psychological effects that it had on me as a young child also affected me as a mother with my children. I've put my children in Bomaderry Children's Home when they were little. History repeating itself.
Confidential evidence 444, New South Wales: woman removed at 4 years and suffered sexual abuse in one foster home and emotional abuse in the other.
- Confidential evidence 450Location:CootamundraInstitution:Cootamundra Girls' HomeAge at time of removal:2 years
My mother told us that the eldest daughter was a twin - it was a boy. And in those days, if Aboriginals had twins or triplets, they'd take the babies away. Mum swore black and blue that boy was alive. But they told her that he had died. I only found out a couple of years ago - that boy, the nursing sister took him. A lot of babies were not recorded (p. 5).
If we got letters, you'd end up with usually 'the weather's fine', 'we love you' and 'from your loving mother' or whatever. We didn't hear or see what was written in between. And that was one way they kept us away from our families. They'd turn around and say to you, 'See, they don't care about you'. Later on, when I left the home, I asked my mother, 'How come you didn't write letters?' She said, 'But we did'. I said, 'Well, we never got them'.
We were all rostered to do work and one of the girls was doing Matron's office, and there was all these letters that the girls had written back to the parents and family - the answers were all in the garbage bin. And they were wondering why we didn't write. That was one way they stopped us keeping in contact with our families. Then they had the hide to turn around and say, 'They don't love you. They don't care about you' (p. 134).
Confidential evidence 450, New South Wales: woman removed at 2 years in the 1940s, first to Bomaderry Children's Home, then to Cootamundra Girls' Home; now working to assist former Cootamundra inmates.
- Confidential evidence 5Location:South AustraliaInstitution:UnknownAge at time of removal:5
She [foster mother] would say I was dumb all the time and my mother and father were lazy dirty people who couldn't feed me or the other brothers and sister. Confidential evidence 5, South Australia: man fostered at 5 years in the 1960s.
- Confidential evidence 504 - CarolLocation:Beagle BayInstitution:Beagle Bay MissionAge at time of removal:1 year
[Carol's grandmother was removed to Beagle Bay at the age of 10. She and her husband had 10 children. When her husband was transferred to the Derby leprosarium, all ten children were placed in the Beagle Bay dormitories. Carol's mother was 8 years old when she was removed. Carol was born in Broome in the mid-1950s. When she was three, her mother died leaving four children. Although her grandmother was still alive, Carol and her siblings were removed to the Beagle Bay dormitories. Carol spent the next 14 years there.]
Five generations of my family have been affected by removal of children. Four generations of my family have been removed from their mothers and institutionalised. Three generations of my family have been put into Beagle Bay Mission dormitories. Four generations of my family went without parently love, without mother or father. I myself found it very hard to show any love to my children because I wasn't given that, so was my mother and grandmother.
When I think back on my childhood days - sad, lonely and unloved childhood days - we should have been treated better than we were by the Church. We were mistreated badly. I was abused by the missionaries from all angles - sexual, physical and mental. I am a strong person in myself. I had to be strong, I had no-one to turn to, no-one to guide me through life.
6.30am every morning, straight from bed, we had to kneel and say our morning prayers. 7am we had to go to church for mass. If we didn't we would be punished, like going without a piece of bread for breakfast or get the strap or whipped on our palms. 7.30am we had to thank God before and after our breakfast. 8.30am before and after class we said our prayers. 10am we had to say another prayer before we had our cups of milk and morning tea break. 11am we had catechism taught to us which was part of praying and learning the history of our church. 12pm again we said our prayers before and after our lunch. 1pm we said another prayer before and after class. 5pm we prayed again before and after our supper. 6pm most times we had to go to church for Benediction or rosary. 7pm we would kneel and say the last prayer of the day, which was our night prayers.
We were locked up every night. Also during the day on weekends and public holidays. That was only when we didn't go out on picnics.
7am breakfast - very light which was only sago with milk or most times porridge. 10am morning tea time: one cup of Carnation milk. 12am lunch, very light sometimes one piece of bread covered with lard along with a small piece of boiled meat. We loved it all the same. 5pm supper, very light which was 'bubble-bubbles' which was only flour, sugar and water, and if we were lucky we would have a piece of fruit.
We had nothing else to eat, only if we stole vegetables from the garden. We had two big vegetable gardens. Every vegetable was grown there yet we were never given any. We never had vegetables. Things that we never saw on our meal table yet were sold elsewhere from Beagle Bay Mission. When it was my turn to work in the convent kitchen I saw that all the vegetables that our people grew were on their meal tables.
Everyone would think we were doing the laundries for a big hospital, how many times and how we washed the missionaries' laundry. Every Sunday evening we had to soak the missionaries' laundry. Every Monday morning we washed clothes by hands or scrubbing board. We then had to rinse and put it into the big boilers. Then rinsed, then starched, then rinsed, then squeezed and hung out to dry. We had to iron all the clothes, plus mending and darning.
We made our own clothes for the girls and the boys that were in the dormitory. We never was given footwear, only when and if we were making our first communion, confirmation or crowning of Our Lady. It felt real good to wear shoes and nice dresses for only an hour or so.
We were treated like animals when it came to lollies. We had to dive in the dirt when lollies were thrown to us. The lollies went straight into our mouths from the dirt. We had to, if it was birthday or feast day of the missionaries, wish them a happy day, take our lollies and run, knowing what could happen. We had to sometimes kiss the missionaries on the lips, or touch their penises. I remember clearly on one occasion, I was told to put my hands down his pants to get my lolly.
The nuns taught us that our private parts were forbidden to touch. If we were caught washing our private parts, we would get into trouble from the nuns. I grew up knowing that our private parts were evil, yet missionaries could touch us when they felt like it. That is why when I grew up that I automatically thought when a man wanted sex that I had to give it to him, because that's what, y'know. Sometimes I had sex not for pleasure, but just to please the man.
Even at the dormitory, when we used to complain to the nuns about what the brothers and the priests had done to us, we were told to shut our mouths. That's why they used to always tell me I'm a troublemaker. Those same priests, they're still alive, they're still working down south. Even the nuns are still here in Broome; there's a couple of them still there.
It never happened to me, but I remember the priest ... used to just walk into the dormitory and pick any girl out of the crowd, 'You, come with me', and take them. And I noticed, when those girls used to come back they were very upset. I can't say what really happened there, but 'til this very day, those people don't go to church.
The thing that hurt me the most while growing up is that we were pulled away from our sisters and brothers. My sister's a year younger than I, yet I could not hold her, cry with her, play with her, sleep with her, comfort her when someone hit her, and eat with her. We weren't allowed to be close to our sisters or brothers. The missionaries pulled and kept us apart.
I was taken out of school when I was only 15 years of age by the nuns and placed with the working girls. I had no further education. To leave the mission I had to have two people to sort of say they'd look after me. [Carol lived with an aunt and worked as a domestic for a family in Broome.] I remember being reminded many times about being sent back to Beagle Bay if I did not do my work properly or not listening to them. I did not want to go back there, so I had no choice but to listen. This is one of many times I felt trapped. I was treated like a slave, always being ordered to do this or do that, serving visitors and being polite to them.
[At 19, Carol gave birth to a son.] I had no-one to guide me through life, no-one to tell me how to be a good mother. A year later I fell pregnant with my second child. My son was only a year old and I kept being reminded by the Welfare and by my so called family that they'd take my babies away from me. So instead of giving them the pleasure of taking my baby, I gave her up. I was still working for the M family and I was encouraged by a few people. My daughter was removed from my arms by policy of Welfare 5 days after she was born. I never saw my daughter for 20 years, until 2 years ago. He [Carol's employer] more or less encouraged me to put my baby up for adoption. Two months after that, he got me in bed. We had a relationship for so long - 4 or 5 years. And then I had a daughter to him. And this is what my trouble is now. I found my daughter, the one I gave up for adoption; but the last one, Tina, she's about 18 now, Mr M never gave me one cent for my daughter for the last 16 years. About a year ago he started helping me out, but then his wife found out, so now he won't help me. So my daughter now has to live in the same town as Mr M, knowing her father's in the same town, yet we could go without food. I reckon he should recognise her, stand up to his responsibilities.
[Carol has tried to document her stay at Beagle Bay but has been told there is no record she was ever there.] I haven't got anything to say I've been to Beagle Bay. It's only memories and people that I was there with. I don't exist in this world. I haven't got anything, nothing to say who I am (p. 351-353).
Confidential evidence 504, Western Australia.
- Confidential evidence 505Location:Kimberley, PerthInstitution:Department of Community Services Perth & KimberleyAge at time of removal:Unknown
I know that in 1984-85 there was an instruction went out to all the welfare offices to burn all the files. There were instructions from Perth head office to all the DCS offices instructing them to destroy files. And a couple of the officers here [East Kimberley] started to burn them. And then they started reading some, and then they informed other people and they saved a few. The Derby office [West Kimberley] was burnt down and that's where our [family's] files were. Confidential evidence 505.