Surviving What?: Experience of Being Taken Away

The taking of Aboriginal children from their families by the authorities still impacts on Aboriginal people today.

“This old one she left with the others and just one nun stayed with me, she was younger. She told me to stop crying and when I stopped she told me I was never to speak like that again or I would get hit with a belt. I was shown the belt and the nun made a hit at me with it I jumped and started to cry again.”

UnknownSome of the participants interviewed were removed from their family and had to adapt to a new culture.

One participant shared her experience of being taken away. Unbeknown to her at the time, the Aboriginal man she considered and called her father was not her biological father. Her mother had been raped by a non-Aboriginal man and she was a ‘half caste’ and was therefore removed by the authorities.

Her story is a demonstration of not only her pain but her parents’, grandmothers’, brothers’, sisters’ and cousins’ pain:

“I woke up just before the sun came up, however there was enough light for me to be able to see the two policemen. They were talking to my father who was standing away from where we were sleeping. He was smoking and had his head down. I rolled over and saw that my grandmother, who was not too far from me watching them talk.

Then it all happened, the policemen were there right next to me and so was my grandmother. One of the policemen grabbed my arm and said I had to go with them. My granny was shouting now and she was trying to pull me away from the policeman who had hold of me. Then I heard my mother screaming at the policemen pointing to my father and telling them he was my father.

I started to cry because my mother was crying and so was granny. I sensed a fear I had never experienced before in my life. The policemen put me in their car and locked the doors. My mother and granny were joined by my aunties and they were all crying. My mother was banging on the windows and screaming and shouting that I belonged to her. They all made me so frightened and I remember not knowing what was happening to me.

I jumped up on the back seat and looked out the back window. I saw my mother and aunties running after me. I could see my brothers, sisters and cousins all crying not knowing what to do. I saw my father the only father I had ever know walking head down back to the camp.

I was crying and continued to cry for some time. I remember looking out the window as we drove further and further away from my family. The sun was now up and shinning in my eyes. I felt sick in the stomach I didn’t know what was happening and there was this horrible ache in my chest I thought I was going to vomit but didn’t.”

This participant had experienced very little of western culture. Due to her biological father being ‘white’ her mother had tried to hide her away from the authorities. Her inexperience and innocence is clearly demonstrated:

“When we got to the mission I was taken to a room by an old lady who the policeman called sister. I thought she was his older sister. She told me to come and grabbed my arm and took me to a room. She put some bloomers and a dress on me I remember how strange all this felt.

I went and sat on the floor and she told me to get up from there and sit on the bench next to the table. I was given a mug with water in it and some white stuff I had never seen before. It was a food I had never eaten before. Two more women came in dressed like the policeman’s sister. They talked about their father and how he was coming soon.

I asked about my father in language and the policeman’s sister slapped me across the face. She then grabbed my face squeezing my cheeks in her hand hurting me even more and said ‘Speak English’. She let me go and I started to cry as my face hurt from the slap and from where she had just squeezed it.

This old one she left with the others and just one nun stayed with me, she was younger. She told me to stop crying and when I stopped she told me I was never to speak like that again or I would get hit with a belt. I was shown the belt and the nun made a hit at me with it I jumped and started to cry again.

I was told once again to stop crying and was then led to a very small room outside away all on its own. I was told to sit and do my business, of course I did not understand the words or their meaning and I certainly did not know what was expected of me. But the smell of this place told me what this little room was used for.

I was taken back to the same room and then a new policeman came and he and one of them women, who this policeman called sister too, took me to his car. I was very confused as I was thinking all the police had sisters here and they all dressed the same. I got in the car with the policeman and we drove and drove.”

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