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.
- Submission 345b (quoted by Kimberley Land Council)Location:Halls Creek, Moola BullaInstitution:UnknownAge at time of removal:Unknown
I can't remember anything much about the day we were evicted from Moola Bulla [in July 1955] because they just came and told us to go. There was no explanation, we don't know what happened. We were stunned. There were four kids and no money to feed them. A transport contractor, took all the people into Halls Creek. We camped around the race course for a few days, whilst asking for jobs on other stations ... The welfare gave us some rations, that's all. It was July and pretty cold and we camped, waiting, just like a refugee camp. We were brought to Moola Bulla as children without our consent nor our mother's and the later kicked off the land after living there for so long. It caused us a lot of pain inside. We were displaced and lost with no sense of belonging.
- Submission 345c (quoted by Kimberley Land Council)Location:Port Hedland, Moola BullaInstitution:UnknownAge at time of removal:5-6
The welfare just grabbed you where they found you. They'd take them in threes and fours, whatever. The Native Welfare blokes used to come to every station and see where our half caste kids were. They used to drive right down to Port Hedland. Our people would hide us, paint us with charcoal. I was taken to Moola Bulla. The Welfare bloke ... sent his son ... to pick up me and Colin Swift. We were about 5-6 years old, and my mother was allowed to come with us in the manager's car and then he took her away. Quoted by Kimberley Land Council submission 345 on page 60.
- Submission 58 (quoted by Stuart Rintoul)Location:UnknownInstitution:UnknownAge at time of removal:Unknown
When they came, they had things like balloons and party hats. They told us that we were going on a big party, all the kids. I didn't realise what was happening. They took some of my cousins out of school and put us in the van. I could see Mum was crying. That's when I got frightened. I knew something was wrong. And Dad was running through, and he was like a madman (quoted by Stuart Rintoul submission 58).
- Submission 766 - James family - Baby Mary (3 months)Location:VictoriaInstitution:NAAge at time of removal:NA
Mary was born at full-term and considered to be a normal, healthy baby. However, due to her mother Jenny's depression and high level of stress she was emotionally unavailable to mother her child. Breast milk failed and she had difficulty organising regular bottle feeds. Mary lost weight and became listless and pale, ie. failed to thrive. Mary cried constantly which stressed mother Jenny further and reduced her ability to cope even more. Such severe deprivation in the first year of life can lead to disturbances in attachment process and the development of trust and does not bode well for this child's future development.
- Submission 766 - James family - Grandmother HelenLocation:VictoriaInstitution:UnknownAge at time of removal:4
Helen was removed from her family at the age of four and placed in a white institution. She was not allowed contact with her parents and left the institution at seventeen to work as a cook in the city. She had no family to support her and no idea of where she came from. She became pregnant very young and was unable to care adequately for any of her children as she had severe socio-economic problems and was also unable to cope because she had no model from which to develop her own parenting skills. Her partner was alcoholic and violent and she became very depressed and began to drink. As her own ability to trust and form close relationships was damaged due to her traumatic removal from her parents at such a young age with no substitute attachment figures provided, she was unable to maintain intimate long-term relationships, her marriage broke down and all her children were placed in care by 'the welfare.'
- Submission 766 - James family - Mother JennyLocation:VictoriaInstitution:UnknownAge at time of removal:3
Jenny grew up in a chaotic family experiencing violence, alcoholism and sexual abuse from her father. At three and a half years she was placed in foster care. There were periods of time when she was returned to her mother and then removed again. Like her mother she also received no adequate model on which to base her future parenting and due to her deprivation and abuse her ability to trust and form close relationships was damaged. In addition, she also had to cope with a history of violence, alcoholism and sexual abuse that left her depressed and only just able to cope with life on a day to day basis. She could not hold down a regular job, abused alcohol, was attracted to violent, abusive men and tried to meet her needs for care and nurturing by having one child after another. While her children's basic needs were met, the family was chaotic and there were numerous times when Jenny was clearly not coping and needed to have respite from her children. However, she was not able to avail herself of this support for fear that 'the welfare' would become involved and the children would be removed as she had been. Needless to say children brought up under these circumstances would inevitably have a lot of emotional and behavioural problems thereby continuing the cycle into the next generation.
- Submission 766 - James family - Son Jo (14 years)Location:MelbourneInstitution:NAAge at time of removal:NA
Jo presented as a physically stocky 14 year old who was dressed neatly. He related initially in a hostile manner saying his problem was that his 'mum was hopeless' and made him feel angry all the time. Jo believed he should be allowed to do what he wanted and gave a history of school truancy, staying out for nights at a time and mixing with an older Aboriginal group of boys where alcohol abuse, smoking marijuana and taking pills was a regular event. Jo felt he belonged with this group of friends whereas at school he was the only Aboriginal student and the butt of racial taunts. Issues of identity were also a major contribution to his distress. Behind the anger emerged a significant degree of depression with Jo describing himself as feeling hopeless and helpless about his life changing and believing he would be better off dead. He in fact identified his risk-taking behaviour as a 'Russian roulette' of possible death from taking too many pills. He also saw getting stoned as a way to escape his worries. Jo's feelings of hopelessness were connected to his desire to look after his siblings and mum, but he also felt unable to do anything that prevented family breakdown. He often thinks about his father and wonders if life up north would be better. He has an idealised image of his father as his parents separated when he was very young. He wants to learn more about Aboriginal culture and feels saddened and fatalistic about the lives of the young people around him in Melbourne. As far as his own life is concerned, unless some changes occur Jo is likely to become more depressed and drop out of the education system carrying again this cycle on to the next generation. In addition his risk taking behaviour was escalating with the potential for suicide in the future.
- Submission 766 - James family - Son Stephan (7 years)Location:VictoriaInstitution:UnknownAge at time of removal:7
Stephen presented as a physically healthy though overweight little boy. He was depressed and talked of feeling that life was not worth living - he had in fact attempted to kill himself by cutting his wrists. Although a very intelligent boy he was failing at school, had no friends and was frequently placing himself at serious risk of physical damage. His behaviour also included sexual acting out which indicated possible sexual abuse, however this could not be substantiated. Due to his aggressive, out of control behaviour he was suspended from school and subsequently moved to another school where after a short period the behaviour continued. Although the school was prepared to try to manage his behaviour his mother could not manage and he was eventually sent to live with his grandmother. Thus at 7 years this boy is unable to learn and has had to be removed from his mother, sister and brother. His future in relation to being able to form relationships, get a job and live a satisfying life are at serious risk and it is very likely that he will end up as a 'street kid'.