Stolen Generations

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Personal Statement

It’s part of healing for the individual and the family but it’s also important for the healing of Australia. Some of the demons or the not-so-good things in our history need to be brought out.

Transcript

Harold Furber

Duration: 19:38

My name is Harold Furber.  I come from Alice Springs and my family’s, extended family’s all here.  Strong in the Aranda language and culture.  I was removed from here when I was four years old and went over a thousand miles North, to Darwin and then a further journey of about 200, about 150k’s, 150 miles North East of Darwin to a place called Croker Island.  That is my younger sister and myself were removed and she is a year and a half younger than me and yeah, and we went to Darwin and to Croker. 

[Early memories of life before being removed.]

I have some vague memories of basically living and playing in the creek, what we call the Todd River and that would have been down near what’s known as the Gap, so it was the Gap, we called the Gap Cottages where it was basically a “half-caste”, if you like, settlement out of town, and we weren’t allowed in town itself, expect to work and to, or our families weren’t.  To work and to go to the movies and things like that as I understand and I do remember being carried around by my grandmother and people saying you know certain places we couldn’t go. 

[More about the Gap Cottages.]

Well I guess it was, look well I don’t know why it was set up.  It was a, it seems that it was a set up sort of on the outskirts of Alice Springs as a place for Aboriginal people or at the time half-cast people to live and to work, work in town and other places you know, where there was jobs around Central Australia or elsewhere.  And, there was good part of time from a lot of those people were actually previously in the Bungalow which was a settlement here in Alice Springs for kids picked up and, picked up across from across Central Australia.

[Remembering His Removal.]

Well it’s, well it’s a bit difficult I think.  But it was, I’ve been told different things and I think the main thing is that we were living at our grandmother’s place at the Gap Cottages and she went to, as I understand she went to Adelaide for medical purposes and it was in her absence that we were removed.  So when she returned, we were already gone.  And, so she got quite angry and went to the welfare office and yeah, was quite angry about it all.  Also my sister, my biggest sister didn’t come with us and the story from her was that basically she was at school, and she’d come home from school and we were gone. 

[The other kids at Croker Island Mission]

There was quite a few of the kids from Alice Springs and Central Australia, and I guess we were sort of, we knew one way or another somehow that we were sort of distantly related or pretty closely related yeah.  So in that way I suppose it wasn’t that traumatic because we had distant relatives, distant kin.  Before you even got there there was this culture of, culture of caring.  The older kids looked after the little kids, looked out for them.  Not just because sometimes that might have been their job, but because that’s what you did.  And so there was that, yeah there was that, yeah, people looked out for each other, yeah. 
Life at the Mission

Turned five or whatever it is, the ages, you went to school.  It was a pretty good school.  It was a South Australian Education Department run school that was Northern Territory, was under the South Australia Education System.  So it was fairly, I think it was a fairly good school. It was a captive group of kids I suppose but I, I enjoyed it.  I’d go to school everyday and you know with sports and your interaction with kids, you had what we called the Mission kids.  And that was us, living in the Mission.  Then you had the what you called the camp kids, that lived on the, down on the beach.  And locals and other people from the mainland who either worked there or just lived there, you know travelling across along the coast or whatever.  So we went to school with the Mission kids and with these local if you like camp kids.  So you had this real interaction at school.

Harold learnt a lot from the local Aboriginal people who lived on Croker Island

Oh we learnt all the bush stuff.  Surprisingly yeah, having grown up there, you know going to the swamps, you know, the magpie geese, eggs, when they come in season and bush tucker, knew all about the bush tucker.  Oh yeah, we grew up open free.  Well it was pretty open free when we went, I suppose the boundaries of the island were the, kept us in.  You couldn’t run far.  But we had a pretty free reign to a certain extent.  We weren’t, weren’t bounded by fences and walls and so forth.

[The Carers of the Kids]

The actual carers themselves were all women I think its safe to say.  We had a … had the Superintendent who might be male, you had maybe a carpenter or a farmer or something who was male or something and male maybe and their wives.  But it was predominantly a, a … women who looked after us, yeah.  And they came from I think it’s safe to say they came from various rural maybe it seemed to me, rural farm lands across Australia, southern Australia, South Australia, Victoria, Queensland, lay preachers, or just lay people in the Church. 

And I you know, close relationships, very very close relationships developed, and they continue today.  You know when I go to Adelaide I I often visit the the women who looked after me, yeah.  So I don’t necessarily have any argument with those carers.  But nevertheless I guess in the back of our minds I certainly, in my mind was that, “What are we doing here?”  Really what, what is the purpose for all this? 

I did have to ask the question I said, “Where the hell was my younger sister?”  Because she had been taken probably about a year after, less than  a year after we went to Croker.  She was then removed from there to Queensland.  So, it raises the question, being taken away from somewhere for our good.  Okay, well let say that might be correct.  So, where’s the rationale for then splitting brothers and sisters again?  It makes no sense.  No sense whatsoever.  It defeats the very purpose of that, that’s what the purpose was originally.  And of course the other thing too was that I was, I was actually corresponding with my mother, and sister in Alice, my big sister. 
And I’d get letters, and I’d get mail and so I became even as a kid, really I suppose, I don’t know about knowledgeable, but realised that you know this communication was important and mail plane was the only means of communication.  It came every fortnight, you know brought mail and so forth and you know I’d be looking forward to getting letters and things.  Christmas presents.  Bit of money in the mail.  Two dollar, not two dollars, whatever, two bob.  Those sort of things.  I mean money is just, I remember getting two bob from my sister.

Harold visited Alice Springs once before he started high school in Darwin.

We’d left in, there it was about January I think, would have been about January, come down here and of course its, it’s wet in the Top End.  We’re in the middle of the wet season.  And, all the swamps are filling up.  The creeks are running and the bush tucker whatever, you know what’s on and what’s coming about.  So you know all that.  Bush tucker things that are going on off there, the, the cycle, you know, the weather cycle.  Wet season, dry season, you know that backwards.  So I get down here and the wet season period up there it was raining nearly every day, you get down here and there’s not a blade of grass on the road from the airport to town.  And there’s sheep in paddocks, now we’ve got, I couldn’t see any grass.  Not to me what looked like grass.  So there was, there was a big thing that hit me.  I didn’t know that we actually came in the middle, not the middle, but during the end of a fairly long drought, and it was absolutely dry.  We’re here and there were dust storms coming in and I said what a place.  I want to go home. The places I knew, the seasons I knew, yeah.  But anyway I met my relatives here and and then we went to Holiday camp and met relatives there.  Went back to Darwin, went to school there and lived, met relatives there, in Darwin and then school breaks I’d go back to Croker.  It was still to a certain extent my home, and then I fly back in to Darwin again for school periods, and back to Croker for the breaks.

[More about Harold’s youngest sister, Patricia]

Well what happened was all this was being documented.  It was being documented by photographs that the missionaries would take, so everything was documented through photographs.  And we’d watch these photographs every so often and of course their faces would pop up.  Images of the people would pop of, “Oh where’s so and so?”  “Where’s Patricia, that’s my sister?”  “Oh she’s um”, you know, what, wherever.  “Where’s Jock?”  Well he’s another distant cousin.  Where’s so and so?  So, it was all documented and of course you ask the questions where these kids.  So that’s why I sort of grew up with these sort of questions I suppose is how you’d put it. 

One of the other key things that happened while I was at Croker to get back to that again, was that I use to write to my mother, and sister, was that I got a letter from my sister.  This is actually a crucial bit.  I got a letter from my sister asking me if I’d heard the news about our mother, and that she’d passed away.  When I read the letter, mind you in about, I would have been about ten years old, I scribbled it up, I wrinkled it up sorry and threw it on the floor.  Went back to school.  And the carer found the letter, read it and basically dragged me out of school and gave me a bit of a talk.  I think she was just about as shocked as I was.  I have never been informed by anybody, officially to this day of the circumstances of our mother’s death. 
In time, Harold’s family told him that his mother had died quickly from a tropical disease she contracted near Mt Isa.

The people at Oorootipra where she worked, where the station people or whoever actually put up a headstone for her in Mt Isa and you know she … the concrete area around the actual road site, so the government might not have liked her, liked us, but some people did. 

Harold received a letter from a man connected with Oorootipra Cattle Station. He too felt sad the Australian government had failed to inform Harold of his mother’s passing.

[Returning with his Sisters.]

I met my big sister in Adelaide when I went on the holiday camp.  So again it was through the Church, not the government that made that connection.  Oh well there might have been government workers in Adelaide, I’m not too sure about that, the lady, the carer I was talking about before, she was the one that organised my sister to meet me down in Adelaide.  She was the same person, so this connection goes on a bit, little bit.  So she organised that. 

And the other sister in Queensland, when I got to Darwin I was going to school we use to have a visit by someone from the Church, welfare worker I suppose is what you’d call it.  And of course I wouldn’t talk much.  I could not talk.  I could hardly talk at all.  And he was trying to get information out of me, or you know get me to talk and you know whatever you’re trying to do with kids who are obviously traumatised.  And, he asked me what he could do for me.  And I said well you can go and find my sister.  This is the one that went to Queensland and oh where is she?  She’s gone to Queensland, don’t know where she is.  She got taken by a certain social group I understand you know knew the family from Croker, the Watt family, and as far as I know she’s gone there.  So anyway he did did track her down and come back with information, yeah.  And gave me the information and I think I might have started writing to her actually, I did.  So I started writing to her and then I keep that up fairly, yeah well into it yeah until  I met her.  Fairly consistently yeah, on and off.

Harold met up with his younger sister again when he was in his early twenties. Patricia was 19. She has been adopted by a white family.

Oh it was pretty strange yeah.  She spoke with a very grammar school accent of course.  She went and grew up with this family so it was very formal.  Very formal accent, the, the, I don’t know what you call it.  Do you call it a grammar school accent?  I mean compared to me and my, my I suppose bush accent.  But, it was okay.  It was a little bit strange there for awhile, but it was okay.  You know I’d visit her down the coast every so often yeah, stay at her place while I was in Brisbane.  Yeah so once we tied up what was all broken again, yeah, we’ve kept in fairly consistent contact and and I think that in the circumstances, I mean she lives there, that’s basically her home.  She’s been back here a few times and in Darwin but under the circumstances I think we we pretty close relationship, yeah.

END TRANSCRIPT

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