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Personal Statement

Mum wanted people to know that it didn't only affect the kids who were removed, but also their family, especially the mothers.


Marita AhChee

Duration: 13:20

My name is Marita Ahchee.  I was born at Aileron up from Alice Springs.  My mother was an Anmetjere woman and my father was an Irish man.  As I got a little bit older we moved into town, into the Bungalow, which is now called the Telegraph Station. 

There were nuns, they were after me all the time.  Mum would take me in the hills and hide me there.  So we done that a few times I can remember.  They caught us one day, Mum didn’t expect them to pull up. 

[Marita was around six years old when she was taken from her mother]

They took me to Altunga Mission.  That’s on the west of town, Alice Springs, you know. So we were over there. Not that long, it was not that long when I was there.  My sister was there, my older sister was there too.

One day the nuns got us, they told us to have shower and they gave us some nice dresses to wear.  They said to us, “Oh, we’re going shopping.”  And what they did, they brought us in and they took us to the Bungalow again.  We were there for about a week I think and my Mother was there.  She used to work in the clinic with Sister O’Keith.

[A truck arrived a few days later and eight lighter skinned kids were loaded in. Marita’s sister remained behind.]

We travelled up to Tennant Creek. We stayed there then we moved on to Darwin.  We were so frightened to see so much water, that’s the first time we saw the ocean, you know?  We was frightened as we’ve never seen … look here, we’re from the desert, we’re desert people.

Anyhow we all got on the boat.  When we’re on the boat we’re looking to see what is making the boat move.  We’re looking for the wheels.  And there was no wheels.  We’re saying, “How is this boat going?  There’s no wheels.”

We travelled up towards … we went up to Bathurst Island. They gave us something to eat and drink and we were saying, “We don’t want to stay here.”  Because those women, they only had skirts, no tops.  You know, they never wore nothing.  And we’re saying, “We don’t want to stay here, we want to go back home.”  And one of the nuns said, no you’re not staying here, you’re going to Melville Island they told us.  We felt a little bit better.  And anyhow back on the boat again.  Then we travelled to Melville Island.  When we got there, same, nuns again, you know?  And lots of children was there to greet us. 

[Life at Melville Mission]

When night time came I used to cry.  I used to cry because I had no mother to put me to bed and hug me up in it.  Never had anything like that over here.  So that was sad.  But it took a while for me to get over it you know?

We got to know the other children, boys and girls, you know, but the boys lived on one side and the girls lived on the other side.

[It was the nuns who took care of the kids.]

One was in the kitchen teaching us how to cook and that, another one, God bless her, was teaching how to sew, making clothes and stuff like that. Another one, Sister N., she was our Mum.  She used to look after us and she slept in the dormitory with us but she had a little room on her own.  Sometimes we used to, little holes in the building, we used to go and peep at her. One day somebody went to have a look if she was there and she’s looking too.  It was so funny.

On Sundays we had to all get up to go to church.  And every day we had to go say the rosary.  In the evening that was.  That was our normal thing.

We used to make our own bread and cook for all the girls and boys and for the Priest and the Brothers and for the Sisters.  They had it really good.  With us, we just ate whatever we could.  We got crabs and periwinkles and stuff like that, that’s how we used to live; off the land and off the sea.  It was good.  Yes, lovely, we used to go out to Blue Water and swim, beautiful water, so clear.

The kids interacted with the local Traditional owners.

We used to borrow their canoes.  They didn’t mind us using the canoes as long as we put it back and the paddle goes back into the mangroves.  You know?  So that’s what we done for them, because they’re good enough to lend us.  And one day we was going along, we had two canoes we got, we was going there, we said, “Go up this way.  All that p. there.”  It’s like wild apple, you know, wild apple.  And we was going there now and who’s laying on the beach, is two crocs.  So they were asleep thank God, so we turned around and went.

[Contact with Family.]

Nobody told us anything about our family.  When we got older the Bishop came and asked me if I like to come down here to babysit?  And I said, “Oh, Alice Springs, I think I know that place.  That’s where my Mother is.  I might have time to find her.” 

Marita accepted the baby sitting job in Alice Springs. She was in her early twenties.

Somebody must have told Mum that I was in town.  She walked, knocking on every door in Arunga Street.  She went across and that and when she went to the house opposite where I was staying and this woman said to her, “Try in that house there, there’s a new girl there.”  So she came and I opened the door. 

Straight away I remembered her.  I said, “Mum!”  I said, “Come in Mum.”  She couldn’t talk for about five minutes.  She came in and I said, “Come and sit down, Mum.”  She sat down and she’s going .... I said, “No, Mum, I’m too big now.”  She said like that, so I just sat on her to make her happy and she hugged me and I hugged her. We had a good cry both of us.  She cried and I cried, it was so lovely to see her.  That’s the first time I’d seen her in all those years I’d been away.  I’d been away nearly 13 or 14 years on the mission with no contact with anyone.  I didn’t know my Mum will be still alive.  I knew her straight away.  I remembered that face.

I had 20 years with my Mum before she passed on.  She didn’t like me looking after somebody else’s kids, she went back and told Sister O’Keith. Sister O’Keith went and saw the big boss to find a job for me.  So that’s when I got a job, through my Mum.  Isn’t that lovely?

[Weighing It All Up]

Yes, I think it’s important for other people to know what we went through you know?  And we had good days and bad days.  But I can’t complain.  The nuns were lovely to us, they were like our mother and our aunties, you know?  That’s how we looked at it.

To this day the traditional people of Melville Island accept the missions kids as family and always welcome them back to the Island.

I took my Grandchildren over to Melville Island, flew over and they loved it.  They had a great time.  We went over for a week, the kids just loved it.  I told them, I said, “This is where I was brought up.”  I showed them the beaches, showed the kids the beaches, the jetty and I think we went out to one of our camping spots called W.  And they loved it.





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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.