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 submission 3Location:VictoriaInstitution:UnknownAge at time of removal:Unknown
I had no idea - like I didn't mix with Aboriginal people at all. I had - and I've admitted this in public before that I was racist towards Indigenous people. I learnt my prejudices from newspapers, from the television, from the radio ... and while my adoptive parents didn't go around criticising, you know, Aboriginal people in front of me, there was certainly no positive comments about Aboriginal people ... Confidential submission 3, Victoria.
- Confidential submission 314Location:TasmaniaInstitution:UnknownAge at time of removal:18 months
I wasn't allowed to go to the same school where my natural siblings were attending school. I knew my siblings' names but I didn't know what they looked like. I was told not to contact my natural family ... My foster family and the Welfare Officer said to me that I shouldn't get in touch with my natural family because they were not 'any good'. Confidential submission 314, Tasmania: woman removed at 18 months with 5 siblings in the 1960s; placed in several foster homes before being adopted by the last of her foster families, where she was physically and sexually abused.
- Confidential submission 316 - RoseLocation:Melbourne (Burwood)Institution:Allambie Reception CentreAge at time of removal:9 years
We always lived by ourselves. Not that we thought we were better than any other Koori family. It's just that the white welfare, if they seen a group of Koori families together, they would step in and take their children away never to be seen again.
We moved from South Gippsland to East Gippsland. By this time I was about 9 years old. My parents pulled me out of school because the Welfare was taking the Koori kids from school never to be seen again.
My parents didn't want this to happen to us. That's why we always lived by ourselves. My parents made a little mia-mia with bushes and sticks around our heads and our feet at the fire which would burn all night. We all shared the 2 big grey government of Victoria blankets and was a very close family. Our little jobs were to gather whatever we could while our parents were picking [bean and pea picking for a local grower].
We were never allowed to walk down to our camp the same way because our parents didn't want the welfare to find us. That's why we couldn't make a beaten track. Then my parents got paid from picking. They went into Lakes Entrance to get a few groceries and left me, being the oldest, to care for my other brothers and sisters, which I always done. I was like their second mother but big sister. [4 younger siblings aged between 6 months and 7 years.]
The baby started crying so I went and got my uncle to come and watch the kids until I walked in town to look for my parents. The town was about 15 ks so I left the camp and walked through the bush. I wouldn't walk along the main Highway because I was scared someone might murder me or take me away. I got into town just before dark and this Koori woman who I didn't know asked me was I looking for my parents. I said yes. She said they got a ride out to the camp with some people. That's how I missed them because I wasn't walking on the highway.
She said to me what are you going to do now. I said I'm going to walk back to the camp. She said it's getting dark, you can't walk out there now. You better come and stay with us and go back out tomorrow. I said OK. I trusted this Koori woman whom I didn't know. She gave me a meal and a bed.
The next day I thought and knew that my parents would be upset with me for leaving the kids but I knew they would be alright because they were with Mum's brother.
While I was walking through the bush the police and Welfare were going out to the camp which they had found in the bush. I was so upset that I didn't walk along the Highway. That way the Welfare would have seen me.
The next day I knew that the Welfare had taken my brothers and sisters. This lady who I stayed with overnight: her brother came that morning and told her the Welfare had taken the kids to the homes. She called me aside and said, babe it's no good of you going out to the camp today because the Welfare has taken your brothers and sisters away to the homes. I started crying and said to her no I have to go back to the camp to see for myself. She got her brother and sister to take me out there and I just couldn't stop crying. All I could see was our little camp. My baby brother's bottle was laying on the ground. And I could see where my brother and sisters were making mud pies in a Sunshine milk tin that we used for our tea or soup. I didn't know where my parents were.
I was sad crying lost didn't know what I was going to do. I wished I had of walked along the Highway so my brothers and sisters would have seen me and told the Welfare just so I would have been with them.
Eventually I found my parents in Lakes Entrance. They were shattered upset crying so they went and got a flagon of wine, which they never ever worried about drink.
They took the kids to Melbourne Allambie Children's Home and bought them back when it was court day. The Welfare and the Police told my parents that they would have to get a house, furniture, plenty of food in the cupboard and my Dad had to get a job. It was very hard in those days what Welfare put on my parents. Just couldn't happen. People wouldn't let black people have a good home. Or give them anything - not like now.
My parents knew that what the Welfare wanted them to do they couldn't. We just weren't allowed to be up to white man's standards. That's why they knew that they had my brothers and sisters for good. At court my parents knew that was the last time they would see their kids. So they told the court that they didn't want them split up.
The kids was glad to see Mum and Dad at court. They were jumping all over them. Glad to see them. When the Welfare took the kids off Mum and Dad they were holding out their arms trying to stay with Mum and Dad. Everyone was crying sad. Sad. Sad.
After the kids had gone to the home Mum and Dad hit the grog hard as they had done everything in their power and in their hearts to keep us away from the (predators) the Welfare. But they sniffed us out of the bush like dogs.
My parents couldn't handle the trauma of not having the closest warmth loving caring family we were. They separated. My Mum went one way; my Dad went his way.
And I was 9 years of age left to go my way. I didn't know anyone. So I lived with Koori families who took me in. And in return I would look after their kids while they went picking just so I had some sort of family caring. I done this for years. Still not knowing where my brothers and sisters were. I tried hard to find them but couldn't.
The families that took me in I have a lot of respect for them because they tried to mend a 9 year old's broken heart. I love them dearly.
Eventually I got married when I was 21 years old. I thought maybe I could get my brothers and sisters and give them the home that the Welfare said my parents had to do. My husband worked in a sawmill and we had a sawmill house. After about 14 years my [eldest] brother came to live with us. One sister found us through the Salvation Army about 16 years later. Then my brother [the baby] who died last year who was caught up in the System was like a lost street kid and was bashed by the police in Melbourne a couple of years ago ended up with a tumour on the brain and was never the same again. My second sister who I or my family didn't see for 27 years. What could anyone do now to make up for those 27 years of not having their sister a part of their life. A terrible big hole in my heart that will never be filled.
We all are in contact with each other now and we try to make up for all those lost years. But something's missing. Could you put yourself in the situation that we were put through? (p. 180-183).
Confidential submission 316, New South Wales. These events occurred in 1958.
- Confidential submission 318Location:Cape Barren IslandInstitution:UnknownAge at time of removal:Unknown
So the next thing I remember was that they took us from there and we went to the hospital and I kept asking - because the children were screaming and the little brothers and sisters were just babies of course, and I couldn't move, they were all around me, around my neck and legs, yelling and screaming. I was all upset and I didn't know what to do and I didn't know where we were going. I just thought: well, they're police, they must know what they're doing. I suppose I've got to go with them, they're taking me to see Mum. You know this is what I honestly thought. They kept us in hospital for three days and I kept asking, 'When are we going to see Mum?' And no-one told us at this time. And I think on the third or fourth day they piled us in the car and I said, 'Where are we going?' And they said, 'We are going to see your mother'. But then we turned left to go to the airport and I got a bit panicky about where we were going ... They got hold of me, you know what I mean, and I got a little baby in my arms and they put us on the plane. And they still told us we were going to see Mum. So I thought she must be wherever they're taking us. Pg. Confidential submission 318, Tasmania: removal from Cape Barren Island, Tasmania, of 8 siblings in the 1960s. The children were fostered separately.
- Confidential submission 331Location:QueenslandInstitution:UnknownAge at time of removal:3
I never received any money from my employers or the Protection Board. I did not know what money was. Confidential submission 331, Queensland: child removed at 3 years in 1915.
- Confidential submission 332Location:CootamundraInstitution:Cootamundra Girls' HomeAge at time of removal:Unknown
I remember all we children being herded up, like a mob of cattle, and feeling the humiliation of being graded by the colour of our skins for the government records (p. 162).
Our home was out in the bush, many miles from Kempsey. It was an old wooden shack consisting of only two rooms. It may not sound like much but it was the only home I ever knew. We children were little free spirits, exploring the bush surrounding our home, building cubbie houses, and just being allowed to enjoy our childhood. Our big brothers were always our protectors, we could rely on them to look after us and not let us come to any harm (p. 366).
Confidential submission 332, Queensland: woman removed in the 1950s to Cootamundra Girls' Home.
- Confidential submission 338Location:VictoriaInstitution:UnknownAge at time of removal:Unknown
Pg. 4. Our life pattern was created by the government policies and are forever with me, as though an invisible anchor around my neck. The moments that should be shared and rejoiced by a family unit, for [my brother] and mum and I are forever lost. The stolen years that are worth more than any treasure are irrecoverable. Pg. 166. They grew up to mix up with other troubled children in Tardon and didn't know how to mix with us their mother and family, they only knew how to mix with other boys that they grew up with and these boys were into stealing, so my sons went with them, they couldn't do without the crowd that they grew up with. I couldn't tell them anything at this stage cause they felt that coloured people were nothing and that is when they went on the wrong road. One of my sons was put into jail for four years and the other one died before he could reach the age of 21 years. It hasn't done my sons any good, the Welfare making them wards of the State and taking them away from me, they would have been better off with me their mother. Pg. 166. They grew up to mix up with other troubled children in Tardon and didn't know how to mix with us their mother and family, they only knew how to mix with other boys that they grew up with and these boys were into stealing, so my sons went with them, they couldn't do without the crowd that they grew up with. I couldn't tell them anything at this stage cause they felt that coloured people were nothing and that is when they went on the wrong road. One of my sons was put into jail for four years and the other one died before he could reach the age of 21 years. It hasn't done my sons any good, the Welfare making them wards of the State and taking them away from me, they would have been better off with me their mother. Confidential submission 338, Victoria: Western Australian mother speaking of two sons taken in the 1950s. Pg. 187. It has left me sick, also my son sick too, never to be the same people again that we were before, being separated from one another, it has made our lives to be nothing on this earth. My sons and myself went through a lot of pain and heartbreak. It's a thing that I'll never forget until I die, it will always be in my mind that the Welfare has ruined my thinking and my life. I felt so miserable and sad and very unhappy, that I took to drinking after they took my sons. I thought there was nothing left for me. Confidential submission 338, Victoria.
- Confidential submission 384Location:TasmaniaInstitution:UnknownAge at time of removal:Unknown
... even though I had a good education with [adoptive family] and I went to college, there was just this feeling that I did not belong there. The best day of my life was when I met my brothers because I felt like I belonged and I finally had a family. Confidential submission 384, Tasmania: woman removed in the 1960s and adopted by a non- Indigenous family; no contact with brothers for 35 years.
- Confidential submission 437 - JenniferLocation:CootamundraInstitution:Cootamundra Girls' HomeAge at time of removal:5 years
My grandmother, Rebecca, was born around 1890. She lived with her tribal people, parents and relations around the Kempsey area. Rebecca was the youngest of a big family. One day some religious people came, they thought she was a pretty little girl. She was a full blood aborigine about five years old. Anyway those people took her to live with them.
Rebecca could not have been looked after too well. At the age of fourteen she gave birth to my mother Grace and later on Esther, Violet and May. She married my grandfather Laurie and at the age of twenty-three she died from TB.
Grandfather took the four girls to live with their Aunty and Uncle on their mother's side. Grandfather worked and supported the four girls.
Mum said in those days the aboriginals did not drink. She often recalled going to the river and her Uncle spearing fish and diving for cobbler. Mum had eaten kangaroo, koala bear, turtles and porcupine. She knew which berries were edible, we were shown by her how to dig for yams and how to find witchetty grubs. My mother also spoke in several aboriginal languages she knew as a small girl. The aboriginals had very strict laws and were decent people. They were kind and had respectable morals. Even though the girls fretted for their mother they felt secure with their own people.
Years later Grandfather told my mother a policeman came to his work with papers to sign. The girls were to be placed in Cootamundra Home where they would be trained to get a job when they grew up. If grandfather didn't sign the papers he would go to jail and never come out, this was around 1915.
My grandfather was told he was to take the four girls by boat to Sydney. The girls just cried and cried and the relations were wailing just like they did when Granny Rebecca had died.
In Sydney my mother and Esther were sent by coach to Cootamundra. Violet and May were sent to the babies' home at Rockdale. Grace and Esther never saw their sister Violet again. She died at Waterfall Hospital within two years from TB.
My mother was to wait twenty years before she was to see her baby sister May again.
Cootamundra in those days was very strict and cruel. The home was overcrowded. Girls were coming and going all the time. The girls were taught reading, writing and arithmetic. All the girls had to learn to scrub, launder and cook.
Mum remembered once a girl who did not move too quick. She was tied to the old bell post and belted continuously. She died that night, still tied to the post, no girl ever knew what happened to the body or where she was buried.
Aunty Esther was a big girl for her age, so she was sent out as a cook to work at twelve years of age. Mum being of smaller build was sent out as children's nurse at fourteen. She had responsibility for four young children; one only a baby for 24 hours a day. Mum said they used to put girls ages up if they were big for their age and send them out to work on properties. Some girls were belted and sexually abused by their masters and sent to the missions to have their babies. Some girls just disappeared never to be seen or heard of again.
Eventually after several years Mum was sent to Rose Bay to work. Whilst in Sydney she met her sister Esther who was working in the Chatswood area. As far as I know neither Mum or Aunt Esther ever got paid for those hard working years under the Board.
My mother often recalled the joyous time Aunty May came to Kempsey to see her sisters and father. The three young women hugged one another and cried with happiness and sadness for their sister and their mother.
Early one morning in November 1952 the manager from Burnt Bridge Mission came to our home with a policeman. I could hear him saying to Mum, 'I am taking the two girls and placing them in Cootamundra Home'. My father was saying, 'What right have you?'. The manager said he can do what he likes, they said my father had a bad character (I presume they said this as my father associated with Aboriginal people). They would not let us kiss our father goodbye, I will never forget the sad look on his face. He was unwell and he worked very hard all his life as a timber-cutter. That was the last time I saw my father, he died within two years after.
We were taken to the manager's house at Burnt Bridge. Next morning we were in court. I remember the judge saying, 'These girls don't look neglected to me'. The manager was saying all sorts of things. He wanted us placed in Cootamundra Home. So we were sent away not knowing that it would be five years before we came back to Kempsey again.
Mum used to write to us every week. Sometimes it would be 2 months before we received the letters, of course they were opened and read first. Sometimes parts would be torn out of the letters by matron or whoever was in charge.
Cootamundra was so different from the North Coast, it was cold and dry. I missed the tall timbers and all the time I was away there was this loneliness inside of me. I had often thought of running away but Kate was there and I was told to always look after her. I had just turned eleven and Kate was still only seven. I often think now of Cootamundra as a sad place, I think of thousands of girls who went through that home, some girls that knew what family love was and others that never knew; they were taken away as babies.
Some of the staff were cruel to the girls. Punishment was caning or belting and being locked in the box-room or the old morgue. Matron had her pets and so did some of the staff. I look back now and see we were all herded together like sheep and each had to defend themselves and if you didn't you would be picked on by somebody that didn't like you, your life would be made a misery. I cannot say from my memories Cootamundra was a happy place.
In the home on Sundays we often went to two different churches, hymns every Sunday night. The Seventh Day Adventist and Salvation Army came through the week. With all the different religions it was very confusing to find out my own personal and religious beliefs throughout my life.
My mother sent us a new outfit every change of season, we only received one parcel. The matron kept our clothes and distributed them to her pets. In winter it was icy cold and for the first time in my life I didn't have socks to wear to school.
One day the matron called me to her office. She said it was decided by the Board that Kate and myself were to go and live with a lady in a private house. The Board thought we were too 'white' for the home. We were to be used as an experiment and if everything worked out well, more girls would be sent later on.
We travelled all day long. We didn't know what place we were going to, all I knew was we were going further and further away from home. Late afternoon we stopped at this house in Narromine. There lived Mrs S., her son and at weekends her husband Lionel.
The twenty months Kate and I spent at Narromine were honestly the worst time of my childhood life. I often thought I would not survive long enough ever to see my mother again.
The Scottish woman hated me because I would not call her 'Mum'. She told everyone I was bad.
She made us stay up late sewing, knitting and darning that pillowcase full of endless socks. Often we weren't allowed to bed 'till after 11 p.m. I was always late for school, the headmaster used to greet me with 'Good afternoon Jennifer'. Mrs S. did not allow me to do homework, therefore my schoolwork suffered and myself - a nervous wreck.
When I was thirteen years old Mrs S. called this middle-aged male doctor to the house and said she wanted an internal examination of me. That was terribly shameful for me, I will not say anymore. During the time [with her] I was belted naked repeatedly, whenever she had the urge. She was quite mad. I had to cook, clean, attend to her customers' laundry. I was used and humiliated. The Board knew she was refused anymore white children yet they sent us there.
Near the end of our stay she got Mr F. from Dubbo to visit. She tried to have me put in Parramatta Girls' Home. By this time I knew other people had complained to the Board. Mr F. asked me if I wanted to go to a white home or back to Cootamundra. So a couple of days later we were back in the Home. It was hard to believe we had gotten away from that woman.
It wasn't long after we were back at the Home and Matron called me to her office. She wanted to know what had happened at Narromine. I told her everything. She said the experiment did not work and she would write to the Board for fear they would send more girls out. It did not do any good though because more than half the girls were fostered out over the next three years. Some of the girls were sexually abused, belted and called names by their foster parents. Of course the brainwashing continued about Aboriginals being lazy, dirty and of low intelligence going nowhere.
In December 1957 our mother finally got us home. She was the first Aboriginal to move into a Commission house. My mother died four years later, she suffered high blood pressure, she was 54 years old. It was fight all the way to survive because she was born an Aboriginal.
I still can't see why we were taken away from our home. We were not neglected, we wore nice clothes, we were not starving. Our father worked hard and provided for us and we came from a very close and loving family.
I feel our childhood has been taken away from us and it has left a big hole in our lives (p. 44-47).
Confidential submission 437, New South Wales.
- Confidential submission 450Location:BomaderryInstitution:Bomaderry Children's 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 submission 483Location:SAInstitution:UnknownAge at time of removal:18 months
Pg. 135. I grew up sadly not knowing one Aboriginal person and the view that was given to me was one of fear towards [my] people. I was told not to have anything to do with them as they were dirty, lived in shabby conditions and, of course, drank to excess. Not once was I told that I was of Aboriginal descent. I was told that with my features I was from some Island and they [foster family] knew nothing of my family or the circumstances. Pg. 171. I now understand why I find it so very hard to leave my home, to find a job, to be a part of what is out there. I have panic attacks when I have to go anywhere I don't know well and feel safe. Fear consumes me at times and I have to plan my life carefully so that I can lead as 'normal' an existence as possible. I blame welfare for this. What I needed to do was to be with my family and my mother, but that opportunity was denied me. Confidential submission 483, South Australia: woman removed to a children's home at 18 months in the 1960s and subsequently fostered by the caretakers. Pg. 194. I now understand the way I am and why my life is so full of troubles and fears. I find it hard to take my children to hospital for the fear of being misunderstood and those in authority might take my children away as I was. Confidential submission 483, South Australia: woman removed at 18 months in the 1960s.
- Confidential submission 522Location:BomaderryInstitution:Bomaderry Children's HomeAge at time of removal:3 years
There were a lot of families on the outside who were saying my daughter hasn't come home, my son hasn't come home. You had a lot of families still fighting and then you had the bloody welfare saying to these families, 'We're not doing what was done in the sixties'. Bomaderry Home was left open as a big secret by the government and the welfare. And it must have been one of the best kept secrets that the Government kept. It was hard for the people on the outside to prove we was there when the government said we weren't. My grandparents waited for me to come home and I never came home. My grandfather died in 1978 and my grandmother died in 1979. I came home in 1980. This was the last generation that went through the system and it really hurt. I thought our people forgot us. If Bomaderry Children's Home was closed down at the same time those other two homes, my generation would not have gone through that. We could have avoided that. A lot of the churches and government wanted to say that it's all over. It happened in 1930, 1920 was when children was going through the homes. This is what they were saying in the 70s to my people that it was all over. Yet me and a lot of other Koori kids was in the bloody Home screaming, pulling our hair out, 'Somebody come and get us'. But nobody could hear us and that was really frustrating (p. 367).
Confidential submission 522, New South Wales: woman removed at 3 years in 1969 and placed in Bomaderry Children's Home.
- Confidential submission 617Location:CootamundraInstitution:Cootamundra Girls' HomeAge at time of removal:8 years
When the girls left the home, they were sent out to service to work in the homes and outlying farms of middle class white people as domestics ... On top of that you were lucky not to be sexually, physically and mentally abused, and all for a lousy sixpence that you didn't get to see anyway. Also, when the girls fell pregnant, their babies were taken from them and adopted out to white families, they never saw them again (p. 37).
Most of us girls were thinking white in the head but were feeling black inside. We weren't black or white. We were a very lonely, lost and sad displaced group of people. We were taught to think and act like a white person, but we didn't know how to think and act like an Aboriginal. We didn't know anything about our culture. We were completely brainwashed to think only like a white person. When they went to mix in white society, they found they were not accepted [because] they were Aboriginal. When they went and mixed with Aborigines, some found they couldn't identify with them either, because they had too much white ways in them. So that they were neither black nor white. They were simply a lost generation of children. I know. I was one of them (p. 131).
But a lot of girls didn't know where home was because their parents were moved and resettled miles away from their traditional homelands. They didn't know where their people were and it took them a long time to find them. Some of them are still searching down to this present day (p. 206).
Confidential submission 617, New South Wales: woman removed at 8 years with her 3 sisters in the 1940s; placed in Cootamundra Girls' Home.
- Confidential submission 64 - EricLocation:AdelaideInstitution:UnknownAge at time of removal:1
Eric's story is told by his psychiatrist. Eric was removed from parental care in 1957 when he was aged one. [All of his mother's children were eventually removed: one younger sister went to live with her grandmother; the other sister and a brother were fostered and later adopted. Eric and his older brother Kevin were placed in an orphanage in South Australia.] Eric recalls being in an institution from the age of two and a half to six before he and Kevin were placed in the care of foster parents who Eric stayed with until the age of 11. Apparently he was then transferred to the care of an uncle and aunt. Kevin in the meantime had become 'out of control', and Eric and Kevin had been separated, with Kevin being sent to a boys' home while Eric remained in the care of his foster mother. When Eric was sent to his uncle and aunt he stayed with them until about the age of 13 or 15 when he recalls running away because 'there was too much alcohol and violence'. He ran back to Adelaide and refused to return to the care of his uncle and aunt. He was then placed in a further foster placement which he remembers as being slightly better for the next 3-4 years, but left there at the age of 17. At 17, Eric became a street kid and once again he met up with his brother Kevin. Not surprisingly, Eric felt very attached to his brother Kevin because it was the only family contact available to him at that time. He tells me that Kevin was mixing with criminals in Adelaide and that in 1972 Kevin just disappeared. Eric never saw him again, but Eric then returned to stay with his foster parents for a while at the age of 18 or 19. He then recalls becoming an itinerant for a few years ... When he returned to South Australia, he was told that Kevin had died in the custody of police in Castlemaine whilst an inmate of the prison there. Eric is brought easily to tears as he recalls the events in his life. In his own words, the most significant pain for him has been the loss of family and the separation from his own kin and his culture. When speaking of members of his family he feels a great emotional pain, that in fact he doesn't believe that there is anyone left close to him, he feels as if he has been deprived of contact with his mother and his siblings by the separation at a young age, and he feels acutely the pain of his brother's death in custody. The cumulative effects of these events for him are that he feels a great difficulty trusting anyone. He finds that when he turns to his own people their contact is unreliable. Whilst at some levels supportive, he doesn't feel able to trust the ongoing contact. His brothers have no long term training to be part of a family so that from time to time, out of their own aching, they will contact Eric, but they do not maintain contact. Eric finds these renewed contacts and separations from time to time painful because in a sense they give him a window of what was available to him in the form of family support and what has been taken from him. In some ways he yearns to be closer to his family and in other ways he feels that whatever contact he has, always ends up being painful for him. He tells me that he feels constantly afraid with a sense of fear residing in his chest, that he is usually anxious and very jumpy and uptight. He feels angry with his own race, at the hurt that they have done to him, he feels that particularly the members of his own tribe exposed him to a life of alcohol, drugs and violence which has quickly turned against him. He says looking within himself that he's a kind-hearted person, that it's not him to be angry or violent, but he certainly recalls a period of time in his life when it was the only behaviour that he felt able to use to protect himself ... He feels that throughout his life he has had no anchor, no resting place, no relationship he could rely on or trust, and consequently he has shut people out of his life for the bigger proportion of his life. He tells me that the level of rejection he has experienced hurts immensely. In fact, he says, 'it tears me apart'. He tries very hard not to think about too much from the past because it hurts too much, but he finds all the anger and the hurt, the humiliation, the beatings, the rejection of the past, from time to time boil up in him and overflow, expressing itself in verbal abuse of [de facto] and in violent outbursts. Eric often relates feelings of fear. He remembers from his childhood, feelings of intense fear. He has related to me incidents from his foster mother who he was with from the age of 6-11. He specifies particular details of physical cruelty and physical assault as well as emotional deprivation and punishment that would, in this age, be perceived as cruel in the extreme. Eric describes to me that, throughout his childhood, he would wet himself and that he had a problem with bed wetting, but he also would receive punishment for these problems. He lived in fear of his foster mother. When he was taken away from her and brought again before the welfare authorities he was too afraid to tell them what had happened to him. At that stage, he and his brother Kevin were separated and Eric found that separation extremely painful because he was too frightened to be left alone with that foster mother. One of the effects that Eric identifies in himself is that, because of the violence in his past, when he himself becomes angry or confused, he feels the anger, the rage and the violence welling up within him. He tells me 'I could have done myself in years ago, but something kept me going'. In the light of the research findings, Eric's experiences of separation were both highly traumatic for him and also occurred at an age when he would have been most vulnerable to serious disturbance. For Eric too the separation involved a disruption to his cultural and racial identity. It is apparent to me that a fundamental diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is fitting. Eric's symptomatology is obviously severe and chronic. In addition, it is clear that he deals with many deep emotional wounds that do not clearly fit [this] diagnostic classification. His deep sense of loss and abandonment, his sense of alienation, and his gross sense of betrayal and mistrust are normal responses to a tragic life cycle. Having said this, it is also apparent that he deals from time to time with Major Depressive Episodes. Confidential submission 64, Victoria.
- Confidential submission 667Location:BallaratInstitution:Baxter HouseAge at time of removal:Birth
My Mum became pregnant in Alice Springs. She knew a minister in Ballarat. They brought her to Baxter House. She was about 16 when she had me. My adoptive Mum knew Mum was upset. My adoptive Mum was a nurse at Geelong Hospital and knew of it. My Mum signed papers. My adoptive mum says the minister told the doctor that she couldn't look after me because she was a single mother and not working ... My adopted parents are fantastic. But it would be nice to know my cousins. I would have liked to know about my Dad ... I don't think Mum had any options. I don't know where I'd have ended up.
- Confidential submission 695Location:NSWInstitution:UnknownAge at time of removal:10
We was bought like a market. We was all lined up in white dresses, and they'd come round and pick you out like you was for sale. Confidential submission 695, New South Wales: woman fostered at 10 years in the 1970s; one of a family of 13 siblings all removed; raped by foster father and forced to have an abortion.
- Confidential submission 756Location:Palm IslandInstitution:Palm Island DormitoryAge at time of removal:4 years
My mother did a terrible crime - she spoke back to the authority and she was sent to Woorabinda settlement as punishment. It was there that she met and married my father, two years later I was born. They were married in 1933 and my mother and I went back to Palm Island as told to me by my mother (p. 64).
One day the Superintendent [of Palm Island] sent for my mother and told her she would have to go and work on a cattle station. Arrangements were already made for me and my brother to live with another Aboriginal family who had no children of their own. I was four years old and my brother was 4 months old at the time. Later we were put in the dormitory when I was five years old and my brother one year old.
My mother had written several letters to the Superintendent on Palm Island to have my brother and I sent out to her on the station but to no avail it fell on deaf ears. She also wrote to the Superintendent to make arrangements for us to live with our grandmother in Ingham as she was getting a job there. But they wrote back to her and said my grandmother was a drunk and unfit person to be in charge of two young children and living in a gunyah was out.
Mother felt isolated, depressed and very upset and it affected her work. Because of this her bosses tried to have her removed back to Palm Island but the Superintendent would not hear of it so he ignored it. Mother finally had permission to come home to visit us after one year was up. When she finally came home to Palm Island I was five and my brother one year old. Our mother had become a stranger to us and we cried and cried because we had become very frightened of her. We clung to the skirts of our foster mother but our mother took us gently in her arms and kissed our tear stained face and cradled us close to her breast (p. 66-67).
Confidential submission 756, Queensland: woman removed to Palm Island in the 1930s.
- Confidential submission 762Location:Wagga Wagga, Broken HillInstitution:Riverina Juvenile Justice CentreAge at time of removal:Unknown
My own grandson's been taken down to Wagga to the Riverina Juvenile Justice Centre. We was only able to visit him once [from Broken Hill] because of the distance - the miles, and the money. We just haven't got the money ... to go down there. And they are locked away from us. We got no access to them ... Because we're very isolated it doesn't give us the chance to get down and see our kids. Confidential submission 762, New South Wales.
- Confidential submission 776 - MurrayLocation:Palm IslandInstitution:Palm Island DormitoryAge at time of removal:7 years
I do remember my mother showing up for visits, supervised visits. We used to get excited. I just wanted her to take us away from there. Then the visits suddenly stopped. I'm told the authorities stopped them because she had a destabilising effect on us.
That didn't deter my mother. She used to come to the school ground to visit us over the fence. The authorities found out about those visits. They had to send us to a place where she couldn't get to us. To send us anywhere on mainland Queensland she would have just followed - so they sent us to the one place were she can't follow 'Palm Island Aboriginal Settlement'. By our mother visiting us illegally at that school ground she unknowingly sealed our fate. I wasn't to see my mother again for ten nightmare years.
I remember when I learnt to write letters, I wrote to my mother furiously pleading with her to come and take us off that island. I wrote to her for years, I got no reply then I realised that she was never coming for us. That she didn't want us. That's when I began to hate her. Now I doubt if any of my letters ever got off that island or that any letters she wrote me ever stood a chance of me receiving them.
At that time Palm Island was regarded by many both black and white as nothing more than an Aboriginal Penal Colony. Our only crime was coming from a broken home. Palm Island was ruled with an iron fist by a White administration headed by a Superintendent whose every word was law which was brutally enforced by Aboriginal Policemen who were nothing more than a group of thugs and criminals in uniform.
If I were to write a book of my childhood experiences, I would write of my arrival as an eight year old boy. I would write of how I was spat on by Aboriginal adults, all complete strangers. Of being called a little White bastard and names much too vile to mention. It didn't matter to those people that I was just a kid. The colour of my skin and eyes were enough to warrant their hostile attentions.
I would write of regular beatings and of being locked in a cell on many occasions on the whim of a Black Woman who was a female guardian of that home. I would tell of a White headmaster belting the living daylights out of me because he overheard me tell a Black classmate not to crawl to White teachers; of how I felt his hot stinking breath on my face as he screamed 'how dare I say such a thing being White myself'.
That island was seething with hatred for the White Man and his System so why in Gods name were three fair skinned children condemned to such a place?
Eventually, my siblings and I got off that terrible place. Towards the end of our unpleasant stay on that island the populace finally accepted us. The harsh treatment subsided and eventually ceased as did the swearing and suspicious looks. Today many people from that island are our closest and dearest friends. But I'll never go back to visit, it holds too many painful memories for me.
Confidential submission 776, Queensland.
- Confidential submission 788Location:New South WalesInstitution:UnknownAge at time of removal:3
Pg. 142. I led a very lost, confused, sad, empty childhood, as my foster father molested me. He would masturbate in front of me, touch my private parts, and get me to touch his. I remember once having a bath with my clothes on 'cause I was too scared to take them off. I was scared of the dark 'cause my foster father would often come at night. I was scared to go to the outside toilet as he would often stop me on the way back from the toilet. So I would often wet the bed 'cause I didn't want to get out of bed. I was scared to tell anyone 'cause I once attempted to tell the local Priest at the Catholic church and he told me to say ten Hail Mary's for telling lies. So I thought this was how 'normal' non-Aboriginal families were. I was taken to various doctors who diagnosed me as 'uncontrollable' or 'lacking in intelligence'. Confidential submission 788, New South Wales: woman removed at 3 years in 1946; experienced two foster placements and a number of institutional placements. Pg. 194. I feel I have been totally denied of a childhood, but I could never repeat the cycle that happens to so many Aboriginal children that have been removed. It happened to my eldest brother: he had his five children removed. My other brother suffers from alcoholism ... Even though I drink, it's probably once or twice a year. I believe I got it out of my system when I had my first child. Even though I continued to drink when I had my first child, the drinking binges started easing up [to the point] where I didn't need to be drunk every weekend, cause my little boy needed me to be sober. Confidential submission 788, New South Wales.