English test, 1a, 16 february.
The terrible manipulation
Ironically, I am the daughter of one aboriginal and one non-aboriginal parent – who both experienced removal and institutionalization for different reasons.
My father was born in England, but was raised at an orphanage. When he was ten years old, he was shipped out to Western Australia to work at a farm. My mother and her sister, meanwhile, were taken away from my grandparents and placed in the care of the Catholic nuns at the home of The Good Shepherd, where they were strongly encouraged to take up the Christian faith and become nuns.
In my childhood, the pattern was repeated. In 1962, at ten years of age, along with my four brothers and sisters, I was taken away from my family to work at a white children’s home.
There were about 12 cottages in the grounds of the home. My siblings and I were separated and divided between them. The shock of going from the richness of family life to this isolated and lonely way of living was almost unbearable. There was no sense of family, affection or personal attention. This made it very difficult for me to relate to people later in life.
My sister Saiku and I were fair-skinned, which meant we were whiter than the others. Even though our whole life had been spent with our family and heritage, the care-takers were now determined to make us white. I cleaned their toilets, cooked their food, made their beds and taught their children. I had gone from being boisterous and outgoing to being very introverted. The only way to survive, was to go inside myself.
It was only after we had grown up and met our family again that we understood what really had happened. We had been the result of terrible manipulation. A manipulation that was designed to break down the strong bonding we once had with our Aboriginal families. This experience confused and hurt us all. We had a long and traumatic road to adulthood and maturity, and only a few of us was ever to experience happiness and inner piece.
In hindsight, I can see all the negative ways this experience damaged me and my siblings. It was so hard to reconcile with our mother and each other as a family. But this was not endured by only us, but successive generations of people. In its turn this has resulted in violence, alcoholism, drug-abuse, family breakdown and even suicide.
My sister Saiku and I were separated as children when we were taken away. Since then she has become a poet, and has devoted a lot of her work to the stolen generations. A lot of her published items are about the pain suffered by us and all the other damaged Aboriginal children. In hopes that our future will never be what our history once was.