Stolen Generations

Alternative content

Get Adobe Flash player

Personal Statement

I don’t want Stolen Generations to be repeated and I want my grandchildren and great grandchildren to know about the plight of Aboriginal people in the past.


Daniel Forrester

Duration: 18:19

My name’s Daniel Forrester.  I’m in my mid 60s now.  I was born in the mid-1940s, just at the end of the Second World War.  I was born in the Todd River of Alice Springs.  My totem in the Aboriginal way is the Yipirinya dreaming is the Caterpillar Dreaming.  My father was eastern Arrernte and my mother was a Luritja woman.  I still got a gift for the languages, which I’m very grateful of, there are a lot of other people who lost it that were in very similar situation to mine.

Back in 1952 I was put into a home.  Mainly because the rest of my brothers and sisters were there.  My poor old mum, she just followed suit.  She didn’t have a steady husband at the time and just battled, the poor old thing was just battling and I don’t blame her at all for it.  It would have been a forcible thing, the intimidations were there.  My old mum just got sick of running around hiding her half-cast kids at a place called Maryvale.  It’s about 100 k’s south of here.

[Daniel was put into St Mary’s Hostel in Alice Springs]

I spent nine years in the home and during that time you lose a lot of closeness to your parents for one thing.  Don’t get me wrong, I still love my old mum, I always have.  But the closeness is gone when you grow up with other people.  It’s simply … I can’t explain it but you lose it.  And you get more closer to the … I’ll call them inmates … the other kids that were in the home.  That’s your family.

[More About Daniel’s Mum]
She’s a protégé of the Stolen Generation herself.  She went to the Colebrook Home in South Australia back in the 1920s.  In all that time my old mum she come there as far back as I can remember, about three times I’d say, in all those years, in that nine years.  Three times. Glad to see me Mother at the time.  And I had other kids my age, my little mates too, who didn’t have their Mums, they were with me too you know, you know, one big family group.  I was glad to have them, I didn’t shoo them away when I was seeing my Mum. 

I’ve always said I was lucky, I was lucky.  Because I had family members there whereas other poor buggers didn’t have it.  Some little kids only five year old were put in there themselves, you know, I count myself really lucky.  Some poor kids had lost their Mums and Dads forever whereas I was one of the lucky ones.  You know, I knew my Mum was there but as soon as I left the home I just went my own way.  I didn’t bother my Mum and Dad and I never (3:33) on them and never caused them any trouble.  A lot of other kids run home and bother mum and dad, you know, I never, ever did that, none of us did.

[Life in the Home]
Basically there was not much happening you see.  We grew up exactly the way we were and left it like that.  Well, we were up, we were up with the sparrows in the morning, right on daybreak.  As the sun was coming up you had to be dressed, you had to make your bed up and some of us older boys, we had chores to do.  Some of them swept the dormitories out, some of them cleaned bathrooms and toilets and 90% of the little kids, little boys, every morning, winter or summer, we had to go and get three bundles of wood for the boiler. 
And yet, just couldn’t go and get them and chuck them on the pile, we had to show whoever’s in charge.  Can you imagine a little eight year old kid doing that, getting a bundle of wood?  And as we grew older we helped, we helped the little fellas.  Sometimes we’d get a big bundle of wood ourselves you know and split it up with the little fellas.  You know, it was, we did our bit for them.

Just before breakfast we had to go and have Church service.  Then we went and had breakfast.  Sometimes it was after breakfast just before we caught the bus, we’d have a Church service.  And then you’re back and cleaned up in your school clothes then and you had to wait around.  You couldn’t play in the dust or anything.  We used to like playing marbles as kids, you know, some of us liked skipping, and the girls like skipping, you couldn’t do any of that.  You just had to be clean, waiting for this bus to pick you up.

And then, you know, when you got home, you got out of your school clothes and there was what they used to call play clothes, right?  And they were rags and you got back into them.  But the older boys, you still had jobs to do.  You had to fire the boiler up, some of us, some of us got hold of, as we grew older we had to make sure the dormitory was clean and then we’d wait for the bell.  Supper bell, right?  And you had to have supper and after that we would just wait around then for the evening church service.  And you’d have all weekend Church, Sundays even the worst.  Basically coming back at night time again after tea you’d have another Church service.

We used to sneak off down to the local town rubbish tip and find pram wheels and things like that.  We’d make our own billy carts and stuff like that, you know.  We’d find empty milk tins or something like that and make a steamroller that we’d pull along.  Basically, you know, we’d make our … do our own entertainment. 

And we always went hunting, that’s one good thing about it.  Bush tucker mainly.  Somehow or another we always got somewhere and we always had slingshots shanghais, the boys did anyway.  Unbeknown to the authorities we used to have a good feed of birds.  We used to hang a sheet up in the dormitory after lights out and somebody would have a candle that he stole from somewhere or found and we’d light the candle up behind the sheet and some kids would be doing, like riding a horse or something like that.  The shadow would come through the sheet, you understand?  And it was our source of movies I suppose, boxing or something like that, we’d put any silly thing on.  And that was one source of entertainment.

[Stories About the Carers]
There was a lot of frustration in the home.  There was … it’s very hard to explain.  There was hardly any contentment there until you got old enough to stand on your own two feet so to speak.  But as a little kid, not only me, it was, you know, quite a few others too, and my little mates at the time, cold, even colder … well, today’s a cold day … but in Alice Springs here the winters are pretty freezing, you know.  Back in my times I know it was minus seven and these mob used to … this one grumpy old woman, I think she was a witch, she had no feelings, she just grabbed little fellas … I think she just did it just to make herself happy by doing it … she used to grab us by the shoulder and dig her nails right in and hold us under the cold shower.  And you know, little kids, I’m talking about kids about eight and nine years old, you know, even then little eight year olds, seven year olds and some of them even had just turned five, you know, little babies you may as well call them … held under a cold shower on a cold winter morning.  Well a lot of us poor buggers just held our breath, you know.  As you’d know a little kid can die. 
But she’d give them a shake and tell them “Now soap yourself down”, little, you know, little kids.  That’s one of the things I didn’t like about the place, I suppose.  You know, it was rough.  Just like, basically we were animals I suppose.

I got my mouth washed, soaped out twice in the home by a woman who told me to stop, stop being a savage, whatever that may mean.  She soaped my mouth out twice.  She heard me talking the language to a passing countryman, you know, we were right on the river bank, where we was, and other aboriginal people were passing, well they must have knew I was related to them and just started talking in the language and of course I answered back.  And that woman heard me, seen me.  And she washed my mouth out with soap, a couple of times that happened. 

This one particular mongrel used to come looking of a night time, I used to go and camp out in the scrub, I used to go and camp in the grass.  This fellow used to come looking with a torch and I had nowhere to run.

That man was looking for Daniel.

During his time at the home, Daniel was sexually abused by this man as well as another man working there.

We couldn’t tell anybody.  We didn’t even tell each other.  This only came to the fore … now we talk about it openly, this is about 50-60 years after.  We only thought it had happened to one.  But then we worked out it was a field day with the whole dormitory, we found out later on.  When I went out in the world of hard knocks, droving and that, no one could touch me, put a hand on my shoulder and not even in a friendly gesture.  I’d fight quick.  I’d lose my temper quick.  You know, I laid a couple of my mates out in the pub later on, you know, just for doing that.  You know, I didn’t mean to do it, they just … God bless ‘em.  It took me years, it took 50 years to grow out of it.  More than 50 years.  And that’s half the reason why I left the home, I forced my way out.  And my old step-Dad, God bless him, he knew that something was wrong but he didn’t know what to ask me and I couldn’t talk about things like that, you simply can’t talk to anybody about it. And there was no one we could complain to.  Because I know another boy that was in a similar situation like me, he went and complained and the superiors told him not to tell lies.

[Leaving the Home]
When I was 14, turning 15, I told superiors everything.  I said I’ll kill someone if I stay here much longer.  I didn’t have much trouble then.  I just walked out of the place.  Basically I just walked out of the place.  I told my Mum and that, I said, “I’m not going back to that place, you send me back there, I’m going to kill somebody.”  Which I think I would have too.  I’m not a violent person but you know I had an adolescent mind at that time, I would have done something critical.

My old step-Dad, he told me, he said, “You come home.”  He was a manager of a cattle station and he said, “You stay with me for six months, six or eight months, you learn something, then you can go.”  He knew he couldn’t hold me you see.  So, in that six or eight months or whatever it was, I learnt to do stock work. 

After that I went out in the whole hard world of knocks.  I worked on a couple of cattle stations, you know, I was only a kid of about 15-16 years of age then when I went working out, right up north of Australia, what we call the top end.  And I went droving.  Do you know anything about droving?  We used to shift cattle from the property owner to the market place.  I loved those years.  Comradeship, good tuition, it’s a part of life shifting hoards of cattle.  I once took a mob of cattle from off to Coopers Creek, south of Longridge, 1200 miles right down to Dubbo into NSW.  Six months on the road.  On horseback, you know, 700 head of cattle to 40 odd head of horses.  I can look back on part of Australian history and say I was a part of that.  You know, I bring a bit of pride with myself in doing that.

[Reflecting Back]
I’m glad I had an education of course.  And it taught me a lot.  I can read and write and, you know, I can mix in the world of the white man.  I can go to a high spot, have dinner with people, I know my manners and things like that, you know, it was a big help in a lot of ways.  And in this day and age I still got my language by the way.  I still got my Father’s language and I got my Mother’s languages.  My Mother had two languages, I’m still fluent with them.

When I was, when I went droving, that was different country.  I spent 24 years of my life over in Queensland and NSW and I used to talk my language aloud when I was on my own.  It’s like you can keep it in your mind but it’s not like speaking it.  It’s different when you try to verbalise it.  But I used to speak to the trees, the cattle, sheep and when I came back here after all those times I could talk my language quite fluent really, both of them, my mother’s language and my father’s language.  Everybody was quite surprised with me after living all that time away.  Basically that’s how I kept it, I would just keep talking to myself.

[Final Thoughts]
When I got married I said to myself, “I don’t want my kids to go through what I went through.”  I wouldn’t like to see the Stolen Generation repeated again.  I wouldn’t like my kids to go through it. 

[A Message for Young Australians]

Lead a good, fulfilling life but don’t step on somebody while you’re doing it.  If you see somebody down, give him a helping hand to get up.  Make it a far better place for everybody to live in because one day you’re going to have kids and you don’t want to see somebody bullying your kids, that won’t happen if you help someone along the way.  If we help each other this is going to be a better place for us all.  And I don’t mean if you are a coloured fellow like me, don’t call anybody white bastard over there, call him your friend.  Say that’s an Australian fella.  Always bear that in mind and teach your kids that too.  That’s the only message I’ve got for you about that.





Contact us | About Us | Terms & Conditions

© Stolen Generations' Testimonies Foundation
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers should exercise caution when viewing this website as it contains images of deceased persons.The people speaking in this website describe being removed from family and community. They regard themselves as belonging to the Stolen Generations.