Stolen Generations

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Personal Statement

The reason why I tell my story to everyone I can is because I want all people to learn our history and what we went through. My dad spoke out because he wanted everyone to know what happened to him and his kids. My dad never got an answer as to why his kids were taken by the authorities of the day. Even today us kids, now adults, want to understand why the authorities took us away. Our people been in Australia for thousands of years. We’ve taken care of our kids and survived for a long, long time. Why did people want to change our way of living? I want the Government to know the damage they’ve caused.

Transcript

Charles Kickett

Duration: 19:10

My name is Charles Kickett.  I was born in Kellerberrin, but I lived in a little place called Doodlakine.

I can remember back when I was probably about three years old.  A place, a little place out from Doodlakine we called old Stan Pipe, where Nan and Pop had their camp. I remember we had an old sheep, old Mary, called Mary. Used to follow us everywhere, wanted to follow us to town and everything. But it was good days. The men used to work on the farms close by. We used to have – there was plenty of bush, we used to go hunting. They were good times, hunting.

[Being Taken]

I was five years old.  I remember playing under the big gum tree in the shade.  I don't know what was the reason, but I do know that Mum and Dad was in court.  And when they came out of court, I see all these other people with Mum and Dad. And they're coming towards us.  Police, native welfare. When they got close to us they started grabbing my brothers and sisters.  At that time I had already got close to Dad, and I was hanging onto Dad’s leg.  And this native welfare bloke, he come, he tried to grab me.  And I’d duck around Dad, and I’d be screaming.

But then Dad, he lost it.  And he ran and he picked up a piece of iron – iron pipe.  Would have been so long, piece of pipe and he come back and he hit – first he hit the police officer across here.  And I just seen blood. And then he turned on this native welfare guy and it was just like slow motion, this pipe was coming down, it was going to hit him on the top of the head. But my mum, she hit him, punched him in the stomach. And when he got hit in the stomach he sort of went over – bent over forward.  And instead of the pipe hitting him on the middle of the head, which would have probably killed him stone dead, he caught the pipe across his shoulder blades. 

But dad sort of came to his sense and he threw the pipe away.  Then they handcuffed him and I watched them drag Dad away.  And then they put us in the big white van and we just went on this long trip.  Remember sort of trying to look through the glass, but the glass was sort of frosted glass, you couldn't see through.  We didn’t know where we were going.

[The mission]

When they got us out we – these whitefellas come and they took us, separated us, took my sisters one direction, my other brothers in another direction.  And they took us, we were in different dormitories.  There was six of us taken, that’s all the children Mum and Dad had.  We didn't see each other until meal times.  Our sisters was living one side of this road, up the middle.  We weren’t allowed to go to our sisters.

And I used to sit in this long green grass there and wait for my two younger brothers to come around.  And when they’d come along they'd come and sit down in the grass with us.  Three of us would sit together and just put our arms around each other, and oh, we’d just cry and cry for home, Mum and Dad.

We had to work, they taught us to work, they made us work.  We were like child slaves, you know. Even at five years old, chopping – swinging an axe, chopping wood.  Milking cows, picking fruit and potatoes, pumpkins, they grew everything.  No, I’ll rephrase that, we grew everything. Cause we had to grow it all, we had to pick it all, we had to harvest it all. I used to go to work with my grandfather, my dad, my uncles.  And I used to enjoy it. But working in the mission I never enjoyed.

[Mum and Dad’s story]

First of all they took Mum and Dad from us.  They destroyed our family. They destroyed a relationship that Mum and Dad had.  By putting -- what they did to Dad. And he said when they handcuffed him and chucked him in the cell, he said, they went back, when they went back after, they strapped his legs from his ankles up to his knees. And he said, in his words, “they booted the hell out of me”.  

And then when he left prison, got out of prison, he went back home to our little camp on the Doodlakine reserve.  When he opened the door he saw – what he could see was our footprints in the dirt floor.  So he got bits of rock and tumbled them over to preserve them. Cause he said he didn’t know how long, he thought he would never his children again.  So he kept our footprints as long as he could.  And …

It was a long, long way to travel.  Mum and Dad never had a vehicle.  But they did manage to come and pick us up and take us home for school holidays. 

Twice I think.  As far as I can remember. The first time we went home, my grandfather got my oldest brother a job.  Working with him. So they couldn't take him back.  Mum had another baby, they took the baby.  So they actually tore my mum’s heart out twice.

Cause what happened with Dad, after they locked him up, he went – they put him in prison.  They sent him to a place called Heathcote.  It was a mental institution. And they tortured him with electric shock treatment. Cause they said he was mad, just cause he tried to protect his children. You know. Even when we came out of the mission his nerves was gone.  He was finished.  He wasn’t the same person.  

I remember good times, happy family before we went to the mission.  After we came out of the mission I started to remember, I started to experience domestic violence.  I saw what happened.  Always wondered what happened.  You know. What caused it? 

[Reasons]

But sometimes I think about why they took us away.  And I learnt that there was um, the white Australian policy.  There was the um, the 1905 Act. Where they didn’t need an excuse to take us away, they just took us away to educate us and their way of thinking and whatever. I never learnt about the policies until I left school. I didn’t even know we were – I was a State ward.  Until I was eighteen.  Nobody told me.

[Scars]

I tried to suppress what happened to me, tried to keep – hide it, put it behind me and forget it.  Until I started working as a welfare officer. I started meeting, seeing things and dealing with clients that caused my things to come to the surface again. 

In the mission, some were good, others um, not worth a pinch of salt. When you talk – and there was abuse, a wide range of abuse.  Psychological.  Physical.  Sexual. We copped it all.   Yeah … remember being sexually abused.  And I – that's why I didn’t know – I grew up thinking that something was wrong with me, always blamed me as a kid growing up.  And I …hated homosexual because it was a man that did it.  I couldn't talk about it to anybody.  I got a lot of family, big family, close family, I couldn't talk to any of them.  Couldn't even talk to my own wife. 

So I, I left there, I left that job and I joined the police force.  I was in the police force for a bit over ten years. But while I was in the police force I didn't realise that the police force is just like another welfare job.  Cause you see the same things.

When I got married I – I met my wife, I never drank.  But I tried, I went back, and I started drinking when I was going through that horrible time, just to try and get some sleep. And get my mind off things. Kept fighting it and fighting it.  Till one day I couldn't.  I just wanted to end it. I came to – I got to the brink of suicide. And I just wanted to end it all. But the values that my mum and my dad, my grandparents, my family taught me, that life is precious. So I couldn't.  And I walked out of home.  Left my firearm behind.  I left – also left my family.  Cause I couldn't tell them what was happening. 

But at, at the time I walked away from home, I was walking down the side of this road.  And big trucks were just missing me, I think, oh just one step and that will end it, just one step.  And then all of a sudden this police car came along and, no my daughter came along, my daughter came along, and she wanted to take me back home. I said, no, no I can't go back home.  I didn’t  -- couldn't go back home because my rifle was back home.  I wanted to get some distance between me and that rifle.  So I – she said, I’ll get some help. So she rang my work colleagues and they were there in no time, I didn’t see so – not that long. 

And my Sergeant ordered me to go see a psychiatrist.  And I said, no, I said, I'm not going to see a psychiatrist.  I said, I'm not mad, they're for mad people, I'm not mad.  And he ordered me, he gave me an order to go and see a psychiatrist. 

I think, well even now, that was the best thing that ever happened, that it was a lady.  Cause if it was a man I would never have said nothing.  But this lady, she started to ask me questions.  And all of a sudden it was just all like a volcano just erupted and all this rubbish started coming out.  All this stuff from my past. 

I grew up tough.  I grew up – I learnt that, I was taught that men should never cry, men should never show pain.  But I tell you, that day I, I never cried so much in all my life.  But I found out that – I learnt that it wasn’t my fault.  I learnt that there was nothing I could do as a child.  To stop an adult for doing things.  So I, was able to work past it.  And um, I was able to realise there was nothing wrong with me. The first time in my life I realised that there was – nothing wrong with me.  Yeah, so.

When I got through I felt great.  I was able to come back home with my wife and family and just get on with life. Not only that, I'm helping others.  A lot of my brothers and sisters from the mission, you know we call them brother and sisters. A lot of them can't talk about it.  So I try to encourage them.  Help them if I could, to get past it.  Some of them never get past it, some of them committed suicide in one way or another.  Some of them drank themselves to death. Others took their life.  So it’s um, just a terrible thing.

[It’s not reconciliation]

In all my life I've heard comments why people say we should forget our, forget the past, forget the past.  Get on with life.  But every Anzac Day they're out there, you know, saying, lest we forget. What a contradiction, you know.  We haven’t been – it hasn’t been a war but we've been fighting a war in our own way. We've been trying to survive in our own country. We haven’t done nothing.  But our people have been killed and slaughtered. 

The meaning of reconciliation really comes – it’s a biblical word.  Reconciliation means going back to a good relationship that you had before.   Okay.  We've never had a good relationship. So we got nothing to go back to.  So instead of reconciliation, conciliation, working towards a good relationship.

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