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 528Location:New South WalesInstitution:UnknownAge at time of removal:8
There's still a lot of unresolved issues within me. One of the biggest ones is I cannot really love anyone no more. I'm sick of being hurt. Every time I used to get close to anyone they were just taken away from me. The other fact is, if I did meet someone, I don't want to have children, cos I'm frightened the welfare system would come back and take my children. Confidential evidence 528, New South Wales: man removed at 8 years in the 1970s; suffered sexual abuse in both the orphanage and foster homes organised by the church.
- Confidential evidence 529Location:New South WalesInstitution:UnknownAge at time of removal:Birth
Pg. 136. We were told our mother was an alcoholic and that she was a prostitute and she didn't care about us. They [foster family] used to warn us that when we got older we'd have to watch it because we'd turn into sluts and alcoholics, so we had to be very careful. If you were white you didn't have that dirtiness in you ... It was in our breed, in us to be like that. Pg. 146. My sister saw our welfare officer when she was grown up and he told her that he'd always thought our [foster] house was abnormal. He thought us kids were abnormal. He thought we were like robots, we had to look at her [foster mother] before we said anything. When an officer comes along they're supposed to talk to you on your own. She [foster mother] insisted that she had to be in the room because they could sexually assault us while she was out of the room, so she wasn't going to allow it. Being the minister's wife, they agreed that she was allowed to sit there. So we never had the chance to complain. Welfare never gave us a chance. Pg. 170. I still to this day go through stages of depression. Not that I've ever taken anything for it - except alcohol. I didn't drink for a long time. But when I drink a lot it comes back to me. I end up kind of cracking up. Confidential evidence 529, New South Wales: woman removed as a baby with her sisters and placed in an emotionally abusive foster home until the age of 13 years. Pg. 195. I have a problem with smacking kids. I won't smack them. I won't control them. I'm just scared of everything about myself. I just don't know how to be a proper parent sometimes. I can never say no, because I think they're going to hate me. I remember hating [foster mother] so I never want the kids to hate me. I try to be perfect. Pg. 209. I was out of control. They [foster parents] wanted to get rid of me. So they packed us on a plane, and dumped us at our mother's place, which we'd never really known. And she never knew we were coming. We were just there and she didn't like us. She didn't talk to us for three days. There was just no connection there. Home never became a home. Confidential evidence 529, New South Wales: woman fostered as a baby in the early 1970s; rejected at 13 years and returned to her mother by welfare officers; rejection by her mother forced her onto the streets.
- Confidential evidence 531Location:KinchelaInstitution:Kinchela Boys' HomeAge at time of removal:9 years
At the time, we used to get a lot of coke. You got to fill the coke bins up. That's what you got to kneel on - on the coke [as a punishment]. You got no long trousers, [only] shorts and bare-footed. You know what we got to eat? Straw and buns. That was our tea. That's besides getting the cane. Get straw and buns. Quite naturally you're going to pull the straw out and chuck it away. You do that and you get caned. You're supposed to eat it (p. 139).
Confidential evidence 531, New South Wales: man removed to Kinchela Boys' Home at 9 years in 1950.
- Confidential evidence 544Location:Alice SpringsInstitution:The BungalowAge at time of removal:5 years
I remember this woman saying to me, 'Your mother's dead, you've got no mother now. That's why you're here with us'. Then about two years after that my mother and my mother's sister all came to The Bungalow but they weren't allowed to visit us because they were black. They had to sneak around onto the hills. Each mother was picking out which they think was their children. And this other girl said, 'Your mother up there'. And because they told me that she was dead, I said, 'No, that's not my mother. I haven't got a black mother' (p. 134).
I found the Methodist Mission [Croker Island] very helpful and myself, from my experience, I really can't condemn the United Church, or Methodist Mission. Because they've been excellent to us. There were one hundred children and they showed a little bit of affection to each of us, y'know. They didn't show any favouritism (p. 354).
Confidential evidence 544, Northern Territory: woman removed to The Bungalow at 5 years in the 1930s; after seven years transferred to Croker Island Mission.
- Confidential evidence 548Location:Beagle BayInstitution:Beagle Bay MissionAge at time of removal:4 years
That's also impacted on my own life with my kids. I have three children. And it's not as though I don't love my kids. It's just that I expected them to be as strong and independent and to fight for their own self like I had to do. And people misinterpret that as though I don't care about my kids. But that's not true. I do love my kids. But it's not as though the Church provided good role models, either, for a proper family relationship (p. 189).
I was in this four bed ward and there was myself [aged 9] and a lady, an old woman who was very sick with tubes hanging out of her. And she seemed really, really ill. And one of my relations who was a nursing aide told me that that old lady was my mother. I hadn't seen her since I was four years old. But she was so sick, and all she could do was just look at me and cry. But I just kept looking at her and I was just angry at her, I was feeling shame, I was frightened, I was happy, I was sad, I was all sorts of things. But I was also starting to feel guilty about feeling like that. Anyway, I stayed in the hospital about four days I think, and then I went back to Beagle Bay Mission. And two days later my Mum died. So that was the last I ever saw her (p. 205).
At the age of 16, when most of us left the care of the Church, we were young girls; we were very vulnerable. We didn't have much skills in terms of preparation for life or life experiences. So consequently most of us had kids, went from one relationship to another, from one broken marriage to another. Most of us have ended up being drunks and alcoholics at early ages. But there's been nothing there to help us through, to unshackle that shame and blame. And what the Church has done, it just continuously reinforced to us all the negative things about us. And it makes us feel guilty. And it's done nothing to remove any of that guilt. And what I'm saying is that the apology isn't enough. There's got to be some sort of public statement to say to us, 'You are not to blame for it. And we were wrong' (p. 354).
Confidential evidence 548, Northern Territory: Western Australian woman removed at 4 years in the 1950s and placed at a north-west Catholic orphanage and then at Beagle Bay Mission.
- Confidential evidence 549Location:Darwin (Larrakeyah)Institution:Kahlin CompoundAge at time of removal:3 years
When anybody come to pick up a worker they used to line us up and they'd make you flex your muscles. If you were big and strong they'd pick you - like a slave market. I was sent out at 11. I worked there for seven and a half years, never got paid anything, all that time. We used to bring the cattle in ... we didn't get nothing. So I had to join the army to survive (p. 99).
There's where food was scarce again. Hardly anything ... night time we used to cry with hunger, y'know, lice, no food. And we used to go out there to the town dump ... we had to come and scrounge at the dump, y'know, eating old bread and smashing tomato sauce bottles and licking them. Half of the time our food we got from the rubbish dump. Always hungry there. That's another thing - culture was really lost there, too. Because religion was drummed into us, y'know, when we'd be out there and we'd have knuckle-up and that, we were that religious we'd kneel down in prayer ... We had to pray every time you swear or anything, you'd go down on your hands and knees ... they pumped that religion into us (p. 117).
There was no food, nothing. We was all huddled up in a room ... like a little puppy-dog ... on the floor ... Sometimes at night time we'd cry with hunger, no food ... (p. 138).
I was sent out when I was eleven years old to [pastoral station]. I worked there for seven and a half years. Never got paid anything all that time. [Even] Aboriginal people I was working with used to get 30 bob. Yet we didn't get nothing. I used to say, 'Where's my money?' 'Oh, they put it into the trust account.' So I worked there for them. Oh rough, hardly any food or anything, put out in remote area on me own, drawing water and that, looking after cattle ... no holiday, no pay. I never received one pay that seven and a half years I was there (p. 150).
Confidential evidence 549, Northern Territory: man removed to Kahlin Compound at 3 years in the 1920s or 1930s; subsequently placed at Pine Creek and The Bungalow.
- Confidential evidence 553 - WilliamLocation:Adelaide (Semaphore South)Institution:St Francis HouseAge at time of removal:6 years
I can remember this utility with a coffin on top with flowers. As a little boy I saw it get driven away knowing there was something inside that coffin that belonged to me. I think I was about six years old at the time. This was the time of our separation, after our mother passed away. My family tried to get the Welfare to keep us here ... trying to keep us together. Aunty D in Darwin - they wouldn't allow her to keep us. My uncle wanted to keep me and he tried every way possible, apparently, to keep me. He was going to try and adopt me but they wouldn't allow it. They sent us away.
As a little kid I can't remember what was going on really, because I was a child and I thought I was going on a trip with the other brothers. I just had excitement for going on a trip. That's all I can think of at the time.
When St Francis [orphanage] closed up, they sent us out to different places. My second eldest brother and I went to a Mrs R. And my only recollections of that lady was when we first went there. We were greeted at the door. The welfare officer took us into this house and I can remember going into this room, and I'd never seen a room like it. It was big, and here me and my brother were going to share it. We put our bags down on the floor. We thought, 'This is wonderful'. As soon as the welfare officer left, Mrs R took us outside that room and put us in a two bed caravan out the back.
I was sleeping in the caravan. I was only a little boy then. In the middle of the night somebody come to the caravan and raped me. That person raped me and raped me. I could feel the pain going through me. I cried and cried and they stuffed my head in the pillow. And I had nobody to talk to. It wasn't the only night it happened.
Oh God, it seemed like night after night. It seemed like nobody cared. I don't know how long it went on for, but night after night I'd see the bogey man. I never saw the person. I don't know who that person was.
Then we were all taken away again to a new home, to another place. We were shunted from place to place, still trying to catch up with schooling, trying to find friends. I had none. I just couldn't find anybody. And when I did have a friend I was shunted off somewhere else, to some other place. Wanting my mother, crying for my mother every night, day after day, knowing that she'd never come home or come and get me. Nobody told me my mother died. Nobody ...
They shifted us again and that was into town again. And then they put us in with this bloke ... They've got records of what he did to me. That man abused me. He made us do dirty things that we never wanted to do. Where was the counselling? Where was the help I needed? They knew about it. The guy went to court. He went to court but they did nothing for me, nothing. They sent us off to the Child Psychology Unit. I remember the child psychologist saying, 'He's an Aboriginal kid, he'll never improve.
He's got behavioural problems'. I mean, why did I have behavioural problems? Why didn't they do anything?
Why did I have behavioural problems?
I hit the streets of Adelaide. I drank myself stupid. I drank to take the pain, the misery out of my life. I couldn't stop. I smoked dope, got drugs. I tried everything. I did everything. I just couldn't cope with life. I lived under cardboard boxes. I used to eat out of rubbish bins. I'm so ashamed of what I've done.
I suffer today. I still suffer. I can't go to sleep at night. It's been on for years. I just feel that pain. Oh God, I wake up in the middle of the night, same time. My kids have asked me why I get up in the middle of the night and I can't explain it, I can't tell them - shamed. I can't sleep too well with it. I can't go to bed. I leave it 'til 12 o'clock sometimes before I go to bed. I lay there awake, knowing I'm gonna wake up at that time of the morning, night after night. I often wish I was dead. I often wish I was gone. But I can't because of my children. You can't explain this to your kids. Why did this happen? I had nobody.
I've had my secret all my life. I tried to tell but I couldn't. I can't even talk to my own brothers. I can't even talk to my sister. I fear people. I fear 'em all the time. I don't go out. I stay home. It's rarely I've got friends.
I wish I was blacker. I wish I had language. I wish I had my culture. I wish my family would accept me as I am. We can't get together as a family. It's never worked. We fight, we carry on. I've always wanted a family (p. 321-322).
Confidential evidence 553, Northern Territory: man removed from Alice Springs to Adelaide in the 1950s.
- Confidential evidence 557 - EvieLocation:Alice SpringsInstitution:The BungalowAge at time of removal:Birth
My grandmother was taken from up Tennant Creek. What gave them the right to just go and take them? They brought her down to The Bungalow [at Alice Springs]. Then she had Uncle Billy and my Mum to an Aboriginal Protection Officer. She had no say in that from what I can gather. And then from there they sent her out to Hermannsburg - because you know, she was only 14 when she had Uncle Billy, 15 when she had Mum. When she was 15 and a half they took her to Hermannsburg and married her up to an Aranda man. That's a no-no. And then from there, when Mum was 3, they ended up taking Mum from Hermannsburg, putting her in The Bungalow until she was 11.
And then they sent her to Mulgoa mission in New South Wales. From there they sent her to Carlingford Girls' Home to be a maid. She couldn't get back to the Territory and she'd had a little baby.
Agnes [witness's sister] and I have met him [their older brother]. We met him when he was 35. He's now 42 so that's not that far away. Mum had him and she was working but she doesn't know what happened to her money. When she kept asking for her money so she could pay her fare back to Alice Springs they wouldn't give her any.
I've got paperwork on her from Archives in New South Wales. There's letters - stacks of 'em - between the Aboriginal Protection Board, New South Wales, and Northern Territory. All on my mother. They were fighting about which jurisdiction she was in - New South Wales yet she was a kid from the Northern Territory. So one State was saying we're not paying because she's New South Wales, they should pay.
In the end New South Wales said to Mum, 'I'll pay your fare back on the condition that because you haven't got a husband and you've got a baby, you leave that baby here'. So she left her baby behind and came back to the Territory.
And then she had me and then my brother and another two brothers and a sister and we were all taken away as soon as we were born. Two of them were put in Retta Dixon and by the time they were 18 months old they were sent down south and adopted. She had two kids, like they were 15 months apart, but as soon as they turned 18 months old they were sent down south and adopted out.
One of them came back in 1992. He just has that many problems. The others we don't know where they are. So it's like we've still got a broken family.
I was taken away in 1950 when I was 6 hours old from hospital and put into Retta Dixon until I was 2 months old and then sent to Garden Point. I lived in Garden Point until 1964. And from Garden Point, Tennant Creek, Hermannsburg. While in Garden Point I always say that some of it was the happiest time of my life; others it was the saddest time of my life. The happiest time was, 'Yippee! all these other kids there'. You know, you got to play with them every day. The saddest times were the abuse. Not only the physical abuse, the sexual abuse by the priests over there. And they were the saddest because if you were to tell anyone, well, the priests threatened that they would actually come and get you.
Everyone could see what they were doing but were told to keep quiet. And just every day you used to get hidings with the stock-whip. Doesn't matter what you did wrong, you'd get a hiding with the stockwhip. If you didn't want to go to church, well you got slapped about the head. We had to go to church three times a day. I was actually relieved to leave the Island.
In 1977 I had three children. In 1977 my oldest was three years old then. I had another one that was twelve months and another one that was two months old. All those kids were taken off me. The reason behind that was, well, I'd asked my girl-friend and so-called sister-in-law if she could look after my kids. She wouldn't look after my daughter because my daughter's black. So, she said she'd take the two boys and that was fine. And while I was in hospital for three months - that's the only reason I asked them to take 'em 'cause I was going to hospital because I had septicaemia.
I couldn't get my kids back when I came out of hospital. And I fought the welfare system for ten years and still couldn't get 'em. I gave up after ten years. Once I gave up I found out that while I was in hospital, my sister-in-law wanted to go overseas with my two boys 'cause her husband was being posted there for 12 months from foreign affairs. And I know she brought some papers in for me to sign while I was in hospital and she said they were just papers for their passports. Stupid me, being sick and what-have-you didn't ask questions - I signed 'em and found out too late they were adoption papers. I had 30 days to revoke any orders that I'd signed.
And with my daughter, well she came back in '88 but things just aren't working out there. She blames me for everything that went wrong. She's got this hate about her - doesn't want to know. The two boys know where I am but turned around and said to us, 'You're not our mother - we know who our real mother is'.
So every day of your bloody life you just get hurt all the time ... (p. 127-129)
Confidential evidence 557, Northern Territory
- Confidential evidence 56Location:LauncestonInstitution:Omaru Receiving HomeAge at time of removal:2 months
We seemed to have a lonely existence at the Home. They had children there who were under Legacy and things like that. Sadly, we didn't have any relatives to come and see us and, you know, we used to get a bit upset when other children could have relatives come, their mothers, and bring them toys and things, perhaps some fruit (p. 84).
I often used to ask my foster mother who she was, this old lady who would come to the gate, and the answer I always got was, 'She is some silly old black woman' (p. 184).
... it took me a long time to be accepted back into the Aboriginal community. Actually I hadn't had any contact with the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre until I was approached about some part-time work and from there on I felt that I started to get back into the community. I often felt at times people thought I was different. I feel proud that I'm accepted into the Aboriginal community and that I can stand up and be counted now. It makes me feel worthwhile. I've certainly lost a lot of time (p. 210).
Confidential evidence 56, Tasmania: man removed at 2 months from grandmother's care on Cape Barren Island in the 1930s; placed in a group home in Launceston where only he and his siblings were Aboriginal. His grandmother died before he was able to find her.
- Confidential evidence 580Location:QLDInstitution:UnknownAge at time of removal:Unknown
Pg. 17 & 155 It never goes away. Just 'cause we're not walking around on crutches or with bandages or plasters on our legs and arms doesn't mean we're not hurting ... I suspect I'll carry these sorts of wounds 'til the day I die. I'd just like it not to be so intense, that's all. Confidential evidence 580, Queensland.
- Confidential evidence 613Location:BomaderryInstitution:Bomaderry Children's HomeAge at time of removal:Birth
I remember another friend of mine in St Ives. She wanted to adopt a little Aboriginal baby. And she was telling me when she got this little one that she went out to the mission and said she wanted a little baby boy. The mission manager said, 'Mrs J has a couple of boys [already], we'll take her third one'. So they adopted that child. If Mrs J would have objected, she said the welfare officer says, 'Well, if you don't give us that child, we'll take the other two' (p. 6).
There was a big poster at the end of the dining room and it used to be pointed out to us all the time when religious instruction was going on in the afternoon. They had these Aborigine people sitting at the end of this big wide road and they were playing cards, gambling and drinking. And it had this slogan which they used to read to us and point to us while they're saving us from ourselves and giving our souls to the Lord. It had, 'Wide is the road that leads us into destruction', which lead up into hell. The other side they had these white people, all nicely dressed, leading on this narrow road, and 'Narrow is the road that leads us into the kingdom of life or the Kingdom of God'.
When I was 14 years old and going to these foster people, I remember the welfare officer sitting down and they were having a cup of tea and talking about how they was hoping our race would die out. And that I was fair enough, I was a half-caste and I would automatically live with a white person and get married. Because the system would make sure that no-one would marry an Aborigine person anyhow. And then my children would automatically be fairer, quarter-caste, and then the next generation would be white and we would be bred out. I remember when she was discussing this with my foster people, I remember thinking - because I had no concept of what it all meant - I remember thinking, 'That's a good idea, because all the Aborigines are poor' (p. 136).
Confidential evidence 613, New South Wales: woman removed to Bomaderry Children's Home as a baby in the 1940s; foster placement organised from Cootamundra broke down after 17 months and she was then placed in various work situations.
- Confidential evidence 629Age at time of removal:Birth
A lot of people think I'm very, very easy on my children. I don't smack them because I really used to get belted. A lot of people think a smack's not going to hurt them but I just remember it as a child, you know. They've got a lot of spirit in them and I won't knock it out of them. I just won't knock anything out of them that's in them already like
I had it all knocked out of me. Confidential evidence 629, Queensland: WA woman removed as a baby in the 1960s and eventually fostered at 10 years.
- Confidential evidence 657Location:NSWInstitution:Crown Street Women's HospitalAge at time of removal:Birth
I was taken off my mum as soon as I was born, so she never even seen me. What Welfare wanted to do was to adopt all these poor little black babies into nice, caring white families, respectable white families, where they'd get a good upbringing. I had a shit upbringing. Me and [adopted brother who was also Aboriginal] were always treated different to the others ... we weren't given the same love, we were always to blame. ... I found my mum when I was 18 - she was really happy to hear from me, because she didn't adopt me out. Apparently she did sign adoption papers, but she didn't know [what they were]. She said to me that for months she was running away from Welfare [while she was pregnant], and they kept finding her. She remembers being in - it wasn't a hospital - but there were nuns in it, nuns running it. I was born at Crown Street. They did let her out with her brother one day and she run away again. Right from the beginning they didn't want her to have me. Confidential evidence 657, New South Wales: woman taken from her mother at birth in 1973 and adopted by a non-Aboriginal family.
- Confidential evidence 678 - SarahLocation:Perth (Queen's Park)Institution:Sister Kate's HomeAge at time of removal:4 years
When I accessed my file, I found out that the police and the station people at B... Station felt that my mother was looking after me. And they were unsure of why I was being taken away. They actually asked if I could stay there. But because I was light-skinned with a white father, their policy was that I had to be taken away. I was then the third child in a family of, as it turned out to be, 13. I was the only one taken away from the area [at the age of 4 in 1947].
The year that I was taken away, my [maternal] uncle wrote a letter to the then Native Welfare and asked if I could be returned to him, because he had an Aboriginal wife and he was bringing up his child. And he gave an undertaking to send me to school when I was of school age and to ensure that I was looked after. The letter that went back from the Commissioner of Native Affairs said that I was light-skinned and shouldn't be allowed to mix with natives.
My mother didn't know what happened to me. My eldest brother and my auntie tried to look for me. But they were unable to find out where I'd been sent.
When I was sent to Sister Kate's in '47, the policies of Sister Kate, even though she'd died the year previous, were still very much in hand. There was possibly something like one hundred kids there and we were brought up in various stages by various house mothers - who were usually English ladies who were not really interested in us. So it was a situation where the younger kids were looked after by the older kids and they were really the only parents that we knew.
We were constantly told that we didn't have families and that we were white children. It wasn't until we went across the road to school that we were called the names of 'darkies' and 'niggers' and those sorts of names. So when we were at school we were niggers and when we were home we were white kids. The policy of the home was to take only the light-skinned children because Sister Kate's policy was to have us assimilated and save us from natives.
We were sent to school. We were given religious instruction seven days a week. We were all baptised, then confirmed in the Anglican faith. Usually the boys were sent out at an early age to work on farms; and the girls too, as domestics. So all of our training was consistent with the aim that we would become subservient to white people as domestics or farmhands. We started doing our own washing and things like that from the time we went to school. And we were also involved in the main washing at the big laundry - that's the sheets and things.
But generally your own washing was done on a weekly basis at the house that you lived in, which was a cottage arrangement.
You all had chores before and after school. There was a main kitchen which did all the meals for the home, and once you started school you were old enough to go over early in the morning and peel vegetables for one hundred kids. So that was all part of the training to be domestics.
We had cows at Sister Kate's. So the boys had to milk the cows and make sure the milk was ready every morning. The boys did the gardening and the general labouring work. The boys were basically being trained as farmhands or labourers and the girls as domestics. There was no thought of any other alternative.
We were discouraged from any contact with Aboriginal people. We had to come into Perth to go to the dentist and the hospital and we would usually be sent in with a house parent or one of the older girls. And you'd come in on the train to East Perth. Our instructions were quite explicit: run across the park, don't talk to the natives. Go to Native Welfare, get your slip, go across the road to the dentist, get your dental treatment done, back to the Native Welfare to report in, run across the park and catch the 3.15 home. You were never allowed to catch the next train. If you missed that train you'd be in trouble when you got home because you might have talked to natives.
But the problem was that a lot of the people who were in the park, while they were drinking or just in groups, actually knew some of the kids, and used to yell out to you. And you had then little hints that somebody knew you. Not so much me, because I was from the country. But other kids had a feeling that those people must know somebody.
As we got older, some people's family used to turn up and they were discouraged, they were sent away, or the kids were removed from that particular area.
We were sent out to families for holidays. That didn't occur until my upper primary school years. And I used to go to a place in G. And they had one little girl there. I wasn't overly sure why I was being sent there because I didn't like it. It came to a head one Christmas when I found out. I got up in the morning - Christmas morning - and the little girl had been given this magnificent bride doll, and I'd been given a Raggedy Ann doll. So I asked could I go home and I was taken home. I got a good hiding and was sent to bed and told how ungrateful I was because those people wanted to adopt me. I didn't know what 'adopt' meant. But I said I couldn't go somewhere where I didn't get the same as the other kid.
There was no love or anything in the home. That only came from the other kids. But you never really had a chance to confide in anybody about your problems. You found out the hard way about the facts of life. Girls with menstrual problems, things like that, nobody ever told you about it, they just happened.
Children would disappear from Sister Kate's in the early '50s but we didn't know where they went to. We later found out. The scars on the kids are still there. If you were naughty - and naughty could mean anything - if you were extra cheeky or if you ran away overnight or played up with the boys - if you were just caught mixing with the boys too much - the girls were sent to the Home of the Good Shepherd. One girl that I grew up with was sent there for three years from the age of eleven. She never knew why. She just disappeared one morning. That was a lock-up situation at the Home of the Good Shepherd. They were never allowed out of the compound itself. At that time, they did all the washing and ironing for the private schools. That's the sort of hard life those kids had and there was constant physical abuse of the kids ...
Some of the boys that disappeared, we discovered they'd gone up to Stoneville, which was the boys' institution at that time. One boy at one time ended up in Heathcote [psychiatric institution]. I don't think we know to this day why he ended up in Heathcote. But it just seemed to be that the power was enormous. We were able to be dealt with just like that.
In 1957, with two other children, I was told that I had to go to court. I couldn't remember doing anything wrong. But I was taken down to the Children's Court. I was made a State ward because I was declared to be a destitute child. And I still to this day can't work out how I was declared to be a destitute child when the Government took me away from a mother who was looking after me. Being made a State ward gave Sister Kate's another income, a regular income until I was the age of 18. They then didn't have to depend on Native Welfare for the six pounds a year or whatever they used to get for us. They got extra money and when I turned 18 I'd be eligible for a clothing allowance, even though I was going to be sent out to work earlier.
I was told I was going to be sent out as a domestic. I was told if I didn't do well I'd go out as a domestic. I put my head down with about six other kids. And we got through second year [high school] and then third year, so we were saved from being domestics.
When the Presbyterians took over the home in the mid '50s, they then added an extra lot of religion to us. We used to have religion from the Presbyterian faith as well as the Anglican faith. So we weren't sure what we were. And the policies of Sister Kate's were still adhered to in as much as we were discouraged from having any contact with families.
In my second year [high school] I received a letter from my second eldest brother and a photograph telling me he'd had information from a girl my same age who was in Sister Kate's but had gone home [about] where I was and all that sort of information. So he sent me a letter asking me to write back. I don't know how I managed to get the letter. But I went to see Mr D. [the superintendent] and was told that people do that all the time; I should ignore that because some of these people just want us and they would take us away and we'd be with natives. We had a fear of natives because that had been something that had been part of our upbringing. So we were frightened.
[Sarah was finally traced by a nephew when she was in her thirties.]
And suddenly I met a mother I never knew existed and a whole family that I didn't know. My mother blamed herself all those years for what happened. Because I was the only one who was taken away, she thought it was her fault somehow.
Confidential evidence 678, Western Australia.
- Confidential evidence 679 - TonyLocation:Perth (Wilson)Institution:CastledareAge at time of removal:Birth
When I was at Castledare I was badly interfered with by one of those brothers. I still know the room [in the church]. I was taken, selectively taken, and I was interfered with by one of those brothers. And if you didn't respond in a way, then you were hit, you were hit. I never told anyone that (p. 142).
When I worked on the wheat bins at the age of 18 there was this Noongah boy and he says, 'My name's Jim Milner. What's your name?' And I said, 'My name's Tony Milner'. And I was just stunned. And he says, 'You're one of our people'. And I said, 'No, I'm not!'. 'No, you're one of our people'. And I had to fight it, and say, 'No, that can't be right' (p. 205).
Confidential evidence 679, Western Australia: Tony was removed at birth in the 1940s; he was eventually identified by another relative who recognised his surname; he has been unable to trace his mother, locate his file or find out why he was removed.
- Confidential evidence 681Location:Mount MargaretInstitution:Mount Margaret MissionAge at time of removal:5 years
Every morning our people would crush charcoal and mix that with animal fat and smother that all over us, so that when the police came they could only see black children in the distance. We were told always to be on the alert and, if white people came, to run into the bush or run and stand behind the trees as stiff as a poker, or else hide behind logs or run into culverts and hide. Often the white people - we didn't know who they were - would come into our camps. And if the Aboriginal group was taken unawares, they would stuff us into flour bags and pretend we weren't there. We were told not to sneeze. We knew if we sneezed and they knew that we were in there bundled up, we'd be taken off and away from the area. There was a disruption of our cycle of life because we were continually scared to be ourselves. During the raids on the camps it was not unusual for people to be shot - shot in the arm or the leg. You can understand the terror that we lived in, the fright - not knowing when someone will come unawares and do whatever they were doing - either disrupting our family life, camp life, or shooting at us (p. 21).
Confidential evidence 681, Western Australia: woman ultimately surrendered at 5 years to Mt Margaret Mission for schooling in the 1930s.
- Confidential evidence 689Location:Sydney (Parramatta)Institution:Parramatta Girls HomeAge at time of removal:13 years
Because [my mother] wasn't educated, the white people were allowed to come in and do whatever they wanted to do - all she did was sign papers. Quite possibly, she didn't even know what she signed ... The biggest hurt, I think, was having my mum chase the welfare car - I'll always remember it - we were looking out the window and mum was running behind us and singing out for us. They locked us in the police cell up here and mum was walking up and down outside the police station and crying and screaming out for us. There was 10 of us (p. 40).
Most of us went to Crown St. Hospital. That's where my son was born, and then we went back to the hostel with the baby. Once we were there, we had the Welfare coming in, asking you what you was going to do - telling you most of the time that your parents didn't want you, the father of the baby didn't want you ... they said to me they couldn't find anyone that wanted me, and they couldn't find anywhere for me, like a live-in job where I could take the baby. And then they said the only one they could find that was willing to take me was my eldest sister, who I'd never seen since I was a little girl - she'd gone before us: she went away with some white people that were supposed to take her away for a good education - and they said she was the only one who was willing to take me, but she didn't want the baby. So they brought the papers in and told me to sign and that was it (p. 41).
The thing that hurts the most is that they didn't care about who they put us with. As long as it looked like they were doing their job, it just didn't matter. They put me with one family and the man of the house used to come down and use me whenever he wanted to ... Being raped over and over and there was no-one I could turn to. They were supposed to look after me and protect me, but no-one ever did (p. 146).
That's another thing that we find hard is giving our children love. Because we never had it. So we don't know how to tell our kids that we love them. All we do is protect them. I can't even cuddle my kids 'cause I never ever got cuddled. The only time was when I was getting raped and that's not what you'd call a cuddle, is it? (p. 195).
Confidential evidence 689, New South Wales: woman removed to Parramatta Girls' Home at the age of 13 in the 1960s and subsequently placed in domestic service.
- Confidential evidence 696Location:UnknownAge at time of removal:13 months
I went through an identity crisis. And our identity is where we come from and who we are. And I think, instead of compensation being in the form of large sums of money, I personally would like to see it go into some form of land acquisition for the people who were taken away, if they so wish, to have a place that they can call their own and that they can give to their children. My wife and I are trying to break this cycle, trying our hardest to break this cycle of shattered families. We're going to make sure that we stick together and bring our children up so they know who they are, what they are and where they came from. Confidential evidence 696, New South Wales: man happily adopted into a non-Indigenous family at 13 months in the 1960s.; p. 258 I think compensation for me would be something like a good land acquisition where I could call my own and start the cycle of building good strong foundations for Aboriginal families. Because the whole thing started from people coming to this country and stealing the land, and then everything fell apart from then on. So I think for people who have been dispossessed of land, but more importantly dispossessed of our identities and dispossessed of where we came from ... I think to give us compensation in the form of some land acquisition would go very well into helping start stable family relationships and stable generations from here on in.
- Confidential evidence 71Location:CootamundraInstitution:Cootamundra Girls' HomeAge at time of removal:5 months
I had to relearn lots of things. I had to relearn humour, ways of sitting, ways of being which were another way totally to what I was actually brought up with. It was like having to re-do me, I suppose. The thing that people were denied in being removed from family was that they were denied being read as Aboriginal people, they were denied being educated in an Aboriginal way (p. 176).
For the first time I actually felt like I had roots that went down into the ground. But not only into the ground - that went through generations. And it was like I was connected through. And instead of being disconnected as the person that arrived earlier that week, by the end of the week I was connected (p. 210).
Confidential evidence 71, New South Wales: woman who lived from 5 months to 16 years in Cootamundra Girls' Home in the 1950s and 1960s.
- Confidential evidence 8Location:CootamundraInstitution:Cootamundra Girls' HomeAge at time of removal:Unknown
Your family don't care about you anymore, they wouldn't have given you away. They don't love you. All they are, are just dirty, drunken blacks.' You heard this daily ... When I come out of the home and come to Redfern here looking for the girls, you see a Koori bloke coming towards you, you cross the street, you run for your life, you're terrified (p. 135).
I've seen girls naked, strapped to chairs and whipped. We've all been through the locking up period, locked in dark rooms. I had a problem of fainting when I was growing up and I got belted every time I fainted and this is belted, not just on the hands or nothing. I've seen my sister dragged by the hair into those block rooms and belted because she's trying to protect me ... How could this be for my own good? Please tell me (p. 139).
When people use the word 'coconut' in front of me I go right off the planet, because there are some of us that have no choice of being one (p. 210).
Confidential evidence 8, New South Wales: woman removed to Cootamundra Girls' Home in the 1940s.