Stolen Generations

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Personal Statement

That was the sad part we had no choice, our mother had no choice, our father had no choice. When the Government said we had to go, we had to go. I get very angry sometimes but lucky Beagle Bay was a pretty good place, lucky we had a good home.

Transcript

Keith Kitchener

Duration: 14:54

I’m Keith Kitchener. Born in Wyndham.  My Mother is Katie Kitchener and my Father is Scotty Lewis.

[Both of Keith’s parents were taken away when they were children]
Like my father was taken away from Margaret River.  My mother was taken away from Leopold (Station).

[Keith spent his first years at Moola Bulla station with his family.]

[He was then taken to Beagle Bay Mission.]
While I was there in Moola Bulla I was taken away to Beagle Bay in 1946.  I would have been five or six.  I can remember they took me off the truck my father was driving and kept me on the other one.  Well, the truck was full, full tray.  We were all packed in like sardines you know.  We had enough little room for me to that they dropped me on.

Well really them days we couldn’t say goodbye or something because we thought we were going for a ride.  But it was a long ride up from Moola Bulla to Beagle Bay.  Then they had to go away, they just left us there and they drove away with the truck in the morning, early in the morning.  We were left behind, that’s it.  That was our home. 

Well the kids from Moola Bulla because it was a government settlement before and that’s why they took them from Christmas Creek and all around there, from Fitzroy and everything, to take them from Moola Bulla but after the government gets sick and tired of running the mission there they sent us to Beagle Bay.  But my Mother looked after them in Moola Bulla.  That’s why they were like sisters to me and brothers to me.  That’s why I think she was a great older one, yeah.  When the boys tell me afterwards, “Your Mother looked after us”, it makes me feel happy.

[Life at Beagle Bay Mission]
I was too young to go to the dormitory I had to go to the colony.  So I had a step-mother and father but lucky that old bloke was from round Halls Creek too and he was a Stolen Generation.  And my Grandmother, my step-mother was from Carnarvon.  She was taken away in 1910.

Well, when I was ten and went to the dormitory, my step-brother was there with me all the time.  There were three dormitories but the big boys had one dormitory and the other age and the smaller ones in the other one.  And there was about ten to a room or something.  We didn’t know what was going on really. 

But I was pretty sick, I had rheumatic fever you know.  I don’t know whether it’s from the shock or something.  The doctors still treat me today but I had high blood pressure.  We had to go near Broome but they didn’t give me any medicine or anything I had to only rest.  Not even allowed to comb my hair or anything until my pressure go down.  But every year I was in hospital.  During my school days, yeah when I was a little kid but that’s what they couldn’t understand.  But I’m thinking to myself now, it was because I was taken away from my Mother.

It was alright but you had to be a good boy.  I was one of the good boys.  I used to look after the beds and everything for the priest you know, who minds us, and clean his room out and everything.  And I went to work in the monastery, for seven years in the monastery, when I was in school then after school I was another seven years in the monastery.  And we was awake from … when I was out of school I had to get up from six o’clock to eight o’clock in the night.  And we were only paid a little tin of milk, condensed milk as a treat.  Well, mainly washing up and setting tables and lighting fires in the morning.  Lucky my step-mother was a good old cook, she was working for the priest yeah.

That’s why I am not frightened to cook now, I can cook.  About six o’clock every morning we had to go to church and then we had to be ready for breakfast and everything and then go to school.  Eight o’clock, when the bell rings eight o’clock you’ve got to be there in line.  We had to go to school every day or you get the cane.  Well it was good, it was good discipline that I’m, that’s what I’m telling them in school now.  If that had been now days … discipline was number one.

We had to go to work after school in the garden old Brother John used to wait for us, around the corner, we had to cart manure for, cow manure for the vegetables and things.  All the other brothers used to make … we used to have cabbage there, plant plenty of cabbage, we grate it in the big grater and … sauerkraut, sour cabbage, we had cabbage right through the season.  When our garden was good, we had good meat and good … we mainly lived off the land.  Pigs and the brothers used to make sausage and … but we had vegetables all the time.  These days, nothing now in Beagle Bay.

Well they were right, I was good boy … I got no complaint, they were good people.  I worked with a couple of them after as a mechanic you know?  And they were good people then.  I’m a bush mechanic but I’ll make anything work, motorcar.

Fishing was good them days, even today fishing is good but them days there were more fish, them days.  We used to go for a holiday (when the priest have retreat, you know.  There was only two weeks during the year holiday, where we could go up there.  But we used to live off the fish you know?  Fish and damper. We worked very hard but now, it’s nothing now.  They get good money and everything but still they don’t work as hard as we used to work.

We used to have only Sunday off.  After school Saturday we used to work.  But mainly it was … we had good company, they were fun, but we had to work very hard.  When you think about now, you work very hard, well that’s how we grow up but that was the good old days.  We grow up with the boys from all around us but mainly they were all Stolen Generation kids too, they were like brothers to us you know?

[Contact With Family]
Not that time, no, we had no choice.  We were just taken away for good, we did spend 13 years in Beagle Bay, well I’ve spent 13 years but it was too late then.  They sent me back to Alice Springs, I wanted to come back to Beagle Bay.  You see I was used to there.  I’d seen them there, I was happy to see them but really and truly my love wasn’t there any more, my love was back Beagle Bay.  My step-mother was my mother and my step-father was my father.  It was all forgotten now, I forgot about them.  My mother and father were right one mother and father.

After a couple of weeks I had to pay my fare back to Beagle Bay.  I had a bicycle already and a lot of my friends had a bicycle and a bicycle was very, very expensive to us at that time.  It’s like buying a Rolls Royce or something.  And I won that bike by a race you know?  The parents who brought me up were too poor, they had no money to buy me a bike so I had to race for it.  I go there now and then but only for a short time, I visit and I’m back again.

I’m very glad when they come down to Broome to see me, from Beagle Bay.  Well I had sisters and brothers after at Moola Bulla but our crowd left.  They were right, they had their mother and father with them.  I was the only one who was Stolen Generation, who was taken away from my mother.  And the old people there, they were good.  They worked very hard to put food on the table for the kids you know?  They didn’t want much because they didn’t know how to take it.  They were just glad to see me and they couldn’t understand that I want to leave back to Beagle Bay. They were sad, yeah.  But like I say it was too late, everything’s all finished.  My home was in Beagle Bay.

[Life Outside Beagle Bay Mission]
In 1970 we had to start working for ourselves.  The people had to get used to that and work for themselves because that was government policy.  We had to get away from the mission and start working for ourselves otherwise we wouldn’t get money. When I started work, when I left the school, or left the monastery, I started work with Uncle D., D. Cox. We were the first people to put cedar and roof and cement floor in the colony houses.  But they’re all finished now. 

Well to live in Beagle Bay you had to be jack-of-all trades, them days.  You had to be a cook, you had to be everything, mechanic and carpenter and welder, blacksmith, everything you know.

[Thoughts about being from the Stolen Generations]
But it was about 30 years ago when we found out we were from the Stolen Generation so we should do something for ourselves.  Like I say they were the good old days.  You didn’t bother about all these things.  You left all that thinking and everything to fathers and brothers, so we were just living you know?  Well when you sit there in Beagle Bay like me, like I do and you see all them things, what’s happening now, it wouldn’t happen in our days.  You know, rules and regulations of the place.  The government doesn’t care.  They’ve put up more houses and everything but I think that’s only for … to make the people feel happy.  For their vote or something you know?

Well that’s the sad part.  Taken away from … you had no choice, you had to go, you had to get on the truck.  Otherwise you get bullet in the head or electric shock or something, you had to get on the truck.  That’s the sad part but we had no choice.  Our mother had no choice, our father had no choice.  When the government said we had to go, we had to go.  We were just treated like animals.  I get very angry sometimes but that was the sad part but lucky Beagle Bay was a pretty good place.  Lucky we had a good home.  And I stay there now and I’ll die there in Beagle Bay.  That’s my home.

END RECORDING

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