Stolen Generations

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Personal Statement

I share my story so people know what we went through as children and to encourage others too, who went through the same as me, to be strong. We’ve crossed the barriers and we’re equal to everyone else.


Glenys Ward

Duration: 20:37

Hello, my name is Glenys Ward. I'm from the Ningana tribe in Liveringa which is just outside of Looma, via Derby. 

[Being taken]
My mum used to live around the rubbish tips in Midland. And in those days you weren’t allowed to go to the doctor yourself, you had to wait for a pass from the native welfare people, when they came out to give Mum rations and that. But Mum got very worried for me one night because I was very, very sick. So her and my Dad decided to take me to the doctor, they walked all night. And in the morning they reached the doctor in Midland. And my mum when the officer – doctor’s surgery opened, they took me in, Mum took me in, my father sat outside.

And Mum said she waited and waited and it was real long time. She got there in the morning and just after lunch the doctor came out and said, I’ll be taking your baby because in the meantime they rang up the native welfare. Took me out the back door and told my mother to go back to the camps where she come from. 

She walked over to my dad, she was all upset, she was crying, and he said, don't tell me you’ve been drinking all this time.  And she said, no. She fell down and she said, they’ve just taken our baby. 

[Getting bearings]
So I was put into a home called St Vincent’s Foundling home in Perth.  And when I turned three they took me out to Wandering Mission. It was all run by Germans, nuns, priests, brothers, and lay helpers. Cause when the kids were taken off their parents they weren’t allowed to go looking for them you see. But my Mum’s brother, Uncle Jack, used to live not far from the home. And he found out through the grapevine where I was, you see.

I remember I was only about six or seven I think it was when I saw her.  I shied away from her because Mum was a bit drunk, which I didn’t know nothing about, you see.  And she was making such a fuss for me and I was shying away and hiding behind the nun’s habit, you see. Because I thought that the nun was my mum, not her, you see.

[Hard lessons]
The German nuns used to teach us but then we couldn't understand their language and they couldn't understand ours, with our spoken broken English, you see. When the nuns were teaching us we all sat in one room. And then when the state school teachers come that’s the first time we seen white mans, you know.  And anyway, these state school teachers, it was very, very different being taught by them.  We – they were very abrupt in their manner. We used to get hit quite a lot. We were separated, me and my mates, to the fair kids to the black kids. Us black ones sat in the dunce corner, cause they said we couldn't do nothing much for the black people. And for the fair ones they said they can do so much for them because they can be taught to – in school in Perth. 

They used to ridicule us all the time.  They even had us scrubbing – trying to scrub the black skin off our face, because they never took notice of the kids with dark skin.  They concentrated on the fair skin ones you see.
Our days in the mission went on like that until I was fourteen.  Then it was my turn to go out and work for white people because, as a domestic, because I didn’t make my grades to go to Riverton, to do school in Perth, education. 

And where I went out was down south.  And I had to work for this white family. But I had nobody there, I mean the place was nice.  I was happy I was in a flash house, but I was never, I had to work there, I wasn’t there to live there.  You see. My bed was the old garage, where she kept her car, she had a little dingy room there. That's where I had to sleep. My showers were in an old dog shower there where she showered her dogs. 

In the morning I used to get up at five o'clock and light the old lantern and sweep her driveway right down to the end of the road, near the orchard, because she had a big orchard there. After that I had to run down to the orchard again, over to this paddock, climb this big fence where she had one orange tree in the paddock. I had to run and get two oranges for her and run back to the house and squeeze it so she had fresh orange juice.  Then because he was the Lord Mayor of the town I had to go and polish his shoes and put them in front of his door so when he got up his shoes were ready.  Same like the sons. And then I had to cook their breakfast.  Bacon and eggs and whatever else they wanted. And set it up on a trolley cause I sat in the old kitchen on an old chopping board.  I wasn’t allowed in the dining room, only just to serve them.

Yeah, I got four pound a month. And she used to take me in town, on a Friday to do all the shopping, but I wasn’t allowed to sit in the front seat with her. She had a …you see. And I remember this stage she took me in to open up a bank account, you see.

So anyway, she said to, what’s your name and all that, she was telling this whitefella. And then um, he said something to me and I started sniffing, you see. I just pulled my hankie out from my bra I had here.  She sort of said, hmm a sort of nice way, you know, got everything fixed up for me. And when she took me outside she rushed me up.  How dare you, she said, putting things down there like that and being like a real blackfella, you know, blowing your nose and everything, she said, that’s very rude – rude of you, you know.

And when we come back to the house again I had to wash, you see, where I sat in the back seat, you see.  Now don’t forget, she said, you get that  Pine O Clean and you wash the seat where you sat, she said. Because we can't have our car being filthy.  And after we take our servants.  I was so much in a hurry and so eager to get everything done because it was the evening, I still had to go and cook tea. I got that Pine O Clean and chucked it all over her car, with a hose, and I was hosing it. She came out and oh, she said, you stupid, stupid girl, she got such a shock.  And I said, well I thought you wanted the car washed.

So anyway, cause every year they used to put me on the bus, you see. I could go back to the mission, see everybody.  So she took me into the station where you catch the bus, she said, now I’ll be ringing up to see if you got there, the priest will report to me about you getting back to the mission. No answer, two weeks later, see I got on another bus. I didn’t know how to catch buses but I must have walked on that next bus like an orphan you know.  Just stood there and everyone’s looking at me, this old lady helped me, you know, getting my ticket so I went into this place.  And I saw my mate, she was waiting for me.  Two weeks after that the priest from the mission came down. And said, you have to come with me you are going back to those people that you work for.  I said, no I'm not going back there.  I don't want to go back there. He said, well look, he said, my mate was pulling one hand and he was pulling the other.  You know, and I said, tell him I don't to want to go back, you know.  He said, look I'm coming back again in two weeks, if you haven’t got a job well then I'm picking you up, you got to come. 

So my friend took me into Busselton hospital.  Got a job there, worked there. And I didn’t like it any more.  I just wanted to go then. Like a bird in a cage. All of a sudden one day you are set free but where are you flying to, you know.  That was the hardest part, I ended up being an alcoholic, I couldn't help it.  After I ran away from that white woman, you know.  And I met people there that were alcoholics like myself.  Who we can relate to.

[I don't have a daughter]
I was up in this town and just drinking with my mates. And I was sitting at the street there outside a shop.  And I seen this same figure come across the road, with this white fella. And she was carrying some bags, you see. And I ran and I said to this mob, there's my mother. And they said, don't be so stupid, what's wrong me and this girl tried to pull me back. I said, no that’s my mother.  She's coming now. And this is years later after I’d seen her.  I ran and I chucked myself onto her, you see.  She got such a shock with all the bags knocked, and she got very angry, she said, who the hell are you?  And I said, I'm your daughter, Glenys, you know. I’m home now, must have been about eighteen or nineteen, somewhere around there.  Look, she said, I haven’t got a daughter, she said. My daughter died.  And I said, no it’s me.  Anyway she stood there for about half an hour and never said nothing. And this old whitefella, he was wondering what the hell was going on because I could feel he was getting agitated.  And then all of a sudden she just broke down and cried.  He bent down to pick her shopping up and she was crying. And I said, I’ll help you. And she suddenly realised it was me, and I wasn’t dead you know.  She said, why the hell did the bloody nuns tell me you were dead?  She said, I came out to see you one time, she said, I got into trouble, I said, mum, I was only young then but I remember, you see.

She was telling me how they took me away and how I was a beautiful little baby and how they missed me and how she cried every day, you know. And every year went past she was thinking how the hell, where is she, you know.  This is her birthday now and things like this, you know. And they told us that I never had a mum, she died, you know, she didn’t want me even if she was alive, you know, that type of thing.  So I grew up and just classed that place as my home. 

My father, I don't know who he is to this day because he got killed after I was taken off him. He got run over, he was on his way to work picking grapes one morning on an old bike. And mum was telling me he just couldn't stand the pain any more, me gone, you know. He didn’t know where I was.  So he was in a very big depression and he just, must have rode in front of a car and killed him, you see. And I don't know who he is to this day, you know, never ever seen him. 

[Getting to know mum]
Later on when she got used to me, she didn’t say much to me first, she was just happy that I was there.  You know, and she started telling me a  few things, you know.  About my family and that. And then she was telling us how my grandmother was taken away. You know they took them on an old cattle truck. Big mob of them. My mother, we went with my grandmother.  Grandmother went with them to Moore River.  And then they told my grandmother she had to go and work somewhere else. 

Couple of times when they ran away from Moore River there, my grandmother went see to them, used to go and plead with them, she wanted the welfare people to give her kids back to her, you see. And Mum did used to speak the Ningana language and she was told not to. But they wanted to phase out the – the blackfella in them. 

And they used to round them all up and put them in this, if they ran away I think mum was saying there was like a jail there.  Like a big hole in the ground or something like this, and that’s where they used to lock them up with dry bread and water.  All that type of thing, Mum never talked much about Moore River.

Well it hurt them so much, you don't want to bring back the past, you know. Because she lost her mum and her mum’s mum and all that type of thing, you know. And it just hurt her, you know, knowing that she had a child, kids herself she couldn't have them, you know.  They said she ended up an alcoholic, she said, and she couldn't give a stuff about anything you know. 

[Making progress]
But years later when I caught up with her up there when I was drinking still. And she was telling me about the church, she said, I've got to change my ways and get off that grog, you know.  Cause it’s doing me no good, you know.

She was telling me she was sent up there to work with this white man she was with, you see, him and his wife.  Cause he used to work out bush quite a lot, he was on the main roads. But then his wife died, and he ended up marrying my mother, you see.  And he was a good Salvation Army man.  And he got her to the church you see.  It took years but she got off all her drinking and that. And she dedicated herself to the Salvation Army, you see.

[An example to follow]
It was the day I got married I think when I met my husband.  I thought there was something better than just sitting around drinking and that, you know. Then when my children were born I had something that I could cling to you know.  And that wasn’t going to be taken away from me, you know.  There was something then I could belong to and finally got into a home – into a family, if you know what I mean. Hmm.

[Marriage and family]
We lived happy now. But at the moment now my son, he got hurt now, he's got a plate in his head and I'm looking after him now, with a brain injury.  My daughter suffers with bi-polar. But I just tell my kids every day, you know, we’re strong, we’re survivors. It’s hurt my daughter sometimes when I'm walking around saying, oh Jo we need to clean this or we got to do this, you know, it really upsets her because the effects of me being brought up the way I did and being taken off my parents really effected her, you see.

Sometimes you know we grew up in a very strict environment with the Germans you see.  And everything was straight down the line.  You know, and sometimes I'm thinking to myself, you know, when I'm home you know, like when you sit down and relax, oh we got to get this kitchen cleaned up or we got to do this, we got to do that, you know. And that sends Jodie off her head, you see.  Sit down, mum, she says, I hate those bloody nuns, she said, if I saw one I’d bloody shoot them now, you know.  I said, I’ll tell you.  No, no, don't tell me anything, you know.  Sometimes she gets that bad I've got to ring up the nurse to come and talk to her, you know, because she's so hurt. You know. And part of that was me growing up I suppose. 

And I said, that’s my children and we brought them into the world and they're my responsibility now, so I’ll look after them and heal them, like we want to go home to heal all together, you know. 

[Going back to country]
So when I got married and I had an opportunity with my husband, because he comes from there too, you see, on his side.  So he took me back there and we had a look around Liveringa, you know, took the kids back to where they come from. Their grandparents.

And when I went back to Liveringa for the first time it was just eerie.  To think, you know, all those years that I've been taken away from them, and not meeting my grandmother or my great grandmother.  I was saying to Charlie, look at those bushes over there, that must have been where they were all camped, you know. Because sitting around, I can just imagine them now, you know. I thought, I wish I knew my grandmother, you know, I said, I said at least I'm walking here now in their footprints, you know. That just made me feel, sort of glad in one way that I was there and that I got the privilege to see where my grandmother came from, you know. 

Even though they're dead and gone, their spirits are still there with us.  And that’s how I brought my son through when he nearly died, you know.  I told him, you know, Mum, your grandmother and your great grandmother are looking after you, we got to go back to that country, son.  And I said, you’ve got to get out of here and come back with us.  You see.  I always think of them every day.  You know, a lot of people say, but you’ve never been up in this country. I said, listen, my grandmother was born and bred here and she's part of me but I'm here now, you know. And that’s where I wanted to go back to because it’s so isolated here and we’re lost, it’s not our country.  You know and the spiritual healing of it is very important.

In one way I'm proud of our people because we’re survivors. I keep telling my children, you know, don’t go back on that past now, what happened it happened. And I said, and it hurts.  But we've got to show them that we can get over that barrier. That we’re not going to get to put up with that rubbish any more, you know.

A lot of us have lost our mums and dads you know. I would have liked them to get something.  You know, for the suffering and pain they went through.  You know.  Sometimes we’re lucky to be sitting here talking.  What we went through.  We had to cross a lot of barriers, not only me, all my other people.  We had to cross a lot of barriers to get through to where we are now. And this is what hurts our children, you see.

[Writing to heal]

They brought out one CD for Stolen Generations, then they made another one and they asked me if I’d like to write something. When I'm writing I wish I was with them, wandering around where they were, you know. It didn’t matter if I sat in the dirt ground, at least I was with them, you see. 

I wrote this for my mother and for all the grandparents and people that had children and had their kids taken away, you see. 

Stolen Son by Glenys Ward.  Destitute in our own home land.  Pain etched deeper than desert sand, and our haunting cries echo over the ground, for the son that was taken and never found. And this is the chorus.  Her hopes and dreams were shattered when they took her son away. Don’t go looking for him they told her, there will be trouble for you that way.  But wherever he is she knows he is well disturbed. His dreaming lost like a gaping wound. Never touched by the love of a mother who bore him in her womb.  Every night she sits out waiting in her sorrow and despair, for the flesh and blood torn from her, for the son who isn’t there.  Then she sings the chorus again.  She sits alone in the fading light, in the  silence with her children gone.  No laughter here, no sounds of playing. No stories, no firelight songs.  And that fading light only gleams on shattered hopes and dreams.  And if she sees a baby sleeping, that’s when her tears flow past.  And the happy smiles of another child only bring back the painful past.  As the years go by she wonders, my son now where are you?  Are you still alive?  Are you tall and strong? Or has the pain destroyed you too?  But like the fading sun in the sunset, all her hopes and dreams in vain.  She dreams of that baby so long ago. Longs to hold him in her arms again.  But she knew it would never happen. Like her forebears she slipped away.  And went to a spirit world filled with grief for the son they took that day.  Yes her waiting ended when she left this earth.  Filled with aching pain and grief.  For the son that was stolen from her, for a loss beyond belief. 

[Brian Ward (Glenys’ son) speaks about the Stolen Generations]
For me to really understand it would have been year six.  Year six, year seven. But still like in the mist, you know what I mean.  It didn’t, yeah, well we never grew up normal. Everything’s just been negative.  And still negative now. 

I know there's stuff that they don't want to say. And that’s what really annoys me.  You know like, I know for a fact all the bashing they used to do, how all these girls got – you know their innocence as kids, that’s the main thing taken away, you know. Yeah it chokes me up man, that’s why I've got no respect. It broadens my horizons more if anything, about this country. With the mob who've got power, come on, let's bring it out even more here.  Get it right out in the open. 

I know more about the white man’s law than I do about my own black culture.  And that’s sad. I can't even speak my own language, you know what I mean.  But I know how to speak the white man language. That’s why I've got to go back there now. I haven’t been there for years.  Years. I can't remember. 





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