Stolen Generations

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Personal Statement

I tell my story because I was asked to. Also so my children and grandchildren can know what happened to me.

Transcript

Jane Butters

Duration: 19:43

I’m Jane Butters, I come from, I was born at GoGo Station. My Tribe is the Gooniyandi tribe.  My father was a policeman and my mum was a full black Aboriginal woman.  Her name was Ada Sharp.  My father was Steve Tully.

[Jane’s early years at Gogo Station]
I spent it at home at GoGo with my family and with my grandparents and my aunties, mum.  It was really nice there.  Well I only had one sister at the time you know I was the eldest of my sisters.  And I had two cousins, my two cousins was there, and they were half-cast like me too.  Well I remember go fishing with my mum and I use to go out with my grandparents out bush you know, hunting and everything.  I use to go on a lot of trips with Mr M..  He was the manager, but he use to take us kids for a ride you know.  He used to have a couple, a married couple to look after us.  There was about six or seven of us, all the different kids you know.  We use to go for a ride all around the Fitzroy valley stations, you know them stations, and it was nice you know I was really happy at the time.

[Being Taken]
I was about six years old oh probably five, I don’t know.  And, and they sent my mum out so they could take me away, see.  The government people, what came from Moola Bulla to pick us up?  The Moola Bulla man came to pick us up.  They use to go around picking up children, you know.  So, when the car arrived at GoGo, there was a cave there and I was playing there, and the car just pulled up beside me.  I couldn’t run, and when I looked there, there was two little boys sitting at the back of the ute.  “Oh well this is it,” I thought to myself, you know.  I’ll be going to school there, because you know I was told I got to go to Moola Bulla school.  So I was expecting that, but I didn’t know when, you know.  Every time they use to send government car there, we would run down the creek and hide.  But we were too young to go to school at that time, but that day they took me by surprise.  Well my mum wasn’t there so my aunty had to get my clothing and everything you know, pack my bag or whatever I had there, and I went to Moola Bulla with the two little boys at the back. 
Oh I was trying to be brave but my aunty was crying and I started to cry, you know.  So, it was real sad.  Oh then they said nothing to us, we just sat there and cry and keep travelling.  Yeah, so, we went to Christmas Creek.  I saw someone I knew there, that was alright.  Then we went to Louisa.  All day, we got there in the afternoon and we camp at Louisa.  So I knew some people there, that my family you know, so I was right.  Next day we came to Moola Bulla.  We went to Margaret first, have lunch there.  Margaret station you know, then we came to Moola Bulla that afternoon.  At one time, probably thought we will run away but we never use to, we didn’t bother running away.  We didn’t know where to run anywhere.  You know we were so far from home.  Yeah.

[Growing Up at Moola Bulla Station]
I was very sad, crying there.  When I saw all these houses I thought, “Oh I might know somebody here,” you know.  And the first person that we pulled up there and I heard somebody singing like N. you know that’s my Aboriginal skin name. 
And when I looked around, here was this man … lady from Fitzroy and she had two of her boys walking up to the car. I was happy then, you know, I knew somebody there.  But then I knew another girl that was taken from Fitzroy and I use to play with her Fitzroy see, so that was right, I knew her when, when I got there. 
But we wasn’t allowed to speak our language anymore, you know.  I was allowed only speak English.  They told us not to speak language.  We never used to be mixed with them, full blood Aboriginal.  But when we got there, we used to, we sleep in the backyard, you know.  Little kids like us, about seven, six, you know.  But no mattress.  No pillow.  No groundsheet.  Just a blanket on the ground you know.  And that’s how we...Winter time we use to have to double up you know, all us kids so we’d keep warm. 
It was hard you know, moving around there all night with rocks poking you everywhere.  When we were kids if it rained we use to go under the house at the manager’s residence.  You know, under the house we use to sleep in.  We didn’t know there was snakes and spiders and everything in there.  Then in the ‘40s, a dormitory was built and it was a big house you know.  No sleeping on the ground that time.  We was upstairs a bit, you know, it was really nice there.  They used to lock the doors on us you know so we won’t run away and later on when the teacher came, it was a teacher from Melbourne. 
He was Reverend H., and he was very good.  He was our teacher and he use to you know we had, our classroom was on the front veranda of our dormitory because it’s a great big dormitory.  Yeah he was real, he had no favourites.  He just treated us all equal you know.  He was the best teacher I ever had.  And his wife use to take us sewing lessons and everything like that.  But we didn’t have material.  We use to have to sew on cardboards you know.  Learn the stitches on cardboards.  We use to go to church every Sunday, the whole station you know.  Everybody use to come to our dormitory to go to church.  It was good. 
Well, all I can remember is eating bread and beef.  We use to have fresh kill everyday you know.  a slice bread they use to give us, a slice of bread and beef;  all those years I grew up. 
There was a lady, a dark woman.  Aboriginal one.  She use to come every morning about five o’clock, open the door then our work started.  We had to go down to the goat yard.  It was the other side of the station early in the morning when it’s still dark.  We used to go down and get the milk, come back, leave it on the kitchen table then we used to carry the beds out before before six o’clock.  Before breakfast you know.  We use to carry about thirty beds out from the dormitory and put it on the veranda.  Then after breakfast we had to take the beddings out and put it out in the sun you know. Air it out.  But, after that we had to do our own jobs like toilets or bathrooms or something like that.  While the big girls scrubbed the dormitory out.  Every single day this is.  And then we’d take the blankets and thing and make our beds up and carry it all back again.  That was our job for the day.
Oh we use to have a hard job you know.  For kids you know.  For little kids.  I don’t know what the big kids did, they did work all day too you know.  It was very hard.  We didn’t have school.  We missed out.  The war years you know, they had to join the army and our teacher had to join the army and we didn’t have any more school. 
Well hardly anybody use to come to our dormitory and see us, you know we was just looking after ourself most of the time.  The lady, the manager’s wife use to just come during the day and just look around and keep going you know, never come back and ask us if we were alright or anything.  Yeah, but Moola Bulla wasn’t that bad you know because we use to play sports you know.  We use to play cricket against the boys.  We use to play basketball and we use to have movies every Saturday night, you know.  It wasn’t so bad.

[Contact with Family]
Nothing.  Never see them.  They never use to let our people come and visit us, you know, I don’t know why.  Or might be it was just too far for them to walk, like from Fitzroy to Moola Bulla.  That’s a long way eh?  But there use to be, some kids use to, from closer like Margaret and them, Margaret station and all them, close things.  They use to come and visit there and we use to sneak down the river and see them.  All the kids you know, we use to go there and then visit them.  Sit down with them for a while.  Yeah, but my people didn’t come too far I think.

[Jane’s Working Life]
I got a job when I was 14 to work at the manager’s residence.  Oh, from five to seven.  We use to have a little rest after lunch, you know.  But the whole station use to have, from 12 to two you know they use to have a rest, everybody.  Not a cent till we was about nineteen I think, or twenty.  Fifteen bob a week.  That was our pay.  And hard work you know, polishing floors.  Big long floors and you would see your face in that floor.  But we learnt to do our own sewing you know like making our own clothes and everything. 
One day this this lady told me, the manager’s wife, “Oh Jane you go down to do some washing.  Go down to the laundry and help them.”  Okay.  And I was glad.  I was a big girly now, I could wash clothes you know.  So I went down there and I asked this lady, “Well what I have to do?”  She said, “Ah you stand there and you throw everything into that bowl.”  Or basin, it was a basin of starch.  Okay I said to her.  So I was, I starched everything.  The bosses socks, his underpants, his singlet and the very next day the boss she sent me down to the office to get something and this lady that was watering the garden, she was telling me “Oh, boss come on, he looked like he was riding horse.”  No I don’t, I saw the boss in the office doing some work there.  No, he was riding horse she said that.  You look, you walking like that.  He was walking along in his starch underpants and everything.  Oh, terrible and he walked up the stairs and he was singing out “Pal Pal who starched my underpants?”  When I heard that, I was off straight to the dormitory.  Oh, she probably saw me running away too.  I didn’t want the boss to growl at me.

[Jane Had to Leave Moola Bulla Station]
Well we got kicked out of Moola Bulla at the start of ‘55.  They sold the station.  Like the government sold it to a private people and he didn’t want us on the station because the nurse pulled out.  She didn’t want to be there you know.  And he reckon oh well you might as well take everybody with you because I I can’t, if anybody get sick you know he can’t look after them.  So he kicked us all out. 
It took us one day to leave Moola Bulla after all those years we lived there you know.  Oh that give us a shock, we didn’t know what was going on so we just packed up and took off.  I was married at that time.  I had two little girls. 
We went to the Racecourse here.  Everybody went down there and lived.  But Moola Bulla wasn’t a very hard place to live you know, we were happy there as kids, you know.  Use to live there and but some people had it hard, you know.  They use to belt them and things like that.  But us kids was all right.

[Jane is Reunited with her Mother]
About a year later I went down to see her, I went for a convention to Fitzroy, a Christian Convention, and that’s when I see it for the first time.  That was very sad and it was a happy time you know you’re seeing mum again, and my sister.  Everybody else I remembered you know.  It was good.  Oh yeah I gave her a hug and cried with her.  That was the happiest time of my life when I saw her again.  Yeah.  Oh it took a while.  You know you feel like a stranger to them, you know, you don’t feel you know them.

[Thoughts About Being Taken]
Well in a way it was good.  You learn a lot stuff you know but I reckon they should let our mothers stay with us for awhile till we got used to the place you know, then leave us there.  But taking us away as a kid, you don’t know what’s going on.  If I was by myself I’d probably feel it more, but I had all these other girls with me you know.  We were always in the same boat and every time a kid cried for a parent, mother, we used to all be there for her.  So it was, we took care of each other you know. 
Like most of us people from Moola Bulla, us woman, we still don’t smoke and don’t drink you know, which is a good thing.  And we look after our children you know.  But other, you see all the other mothers there, just leave their kids anyway and you know get drunk, but we never do that.  We look after all our children.  I reckon the wrong thing they done, they never let us see our family.  Our mum you know. 
At least we could have seen them for Christmas time or something like that you know.  But the worse was we never see them.  And we didn’t have that education that we was taken there for because our teacher only stayed for three years, and he had to join the army see, and we couldn’t get a teacher till oh I was a big girl.  I was about nineteen or something when they got them, came back.  We got a teacher then.  It was hard you know.  But what we were sent there for education we should have got it you know. 
And another thing, the government’s changed all our names you know.  I reckon that is wrong.  I was June and they didn’t let us have our father’s name or anything because some was managers and policemen and everything in the bush.  They changed all our names and when our parents looked for us, our mothers, they couldn’t find us.  We had different names.  You know that was terrible I reckon.  Well I think it was wrong.  They should, in a way it was good you know they took us to mission places where we learned to be Christians and you know learned to look after ourself, but then you had nobody there, no parents you know.  Every kid like to have their parents with them you know. 
What if we took the government’s children away, what they’d do?  Mr Rudd and them, you know, what them government people.  They wouldn’t like somebody taking their children away from them.

END TRANSCRIPT

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