Stolen Generations

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Personal Statement

I tell my story for my children and grandchildren so they will understand more about their father and grandfather. I also tell my story to educate the wider community.

Transcript

Howard Edwards

Duration: 16:28

My name is Howard Edwards, Howard Hilton Edwards. I've been called Chocko, Talgium, and Howard. And um, my mob, the blood line goes, on the Edwards side it goes Tasmania, Palawa, Bunnerung, Yorta Yorta, Mudi Mudi.  And on my mother’s side is Tunerung. 

[Being Taken]
I don't remember the day. But I think it was in November, November 1956. After the Queen had gone up to Shepparton up there they covered, they covered the roadside with all this hessian I think so she – so the Queen couldn't see where us blackfellas lived.

I was, I was six going on seven I guess, I was seven year old. They said that me mother got into debt, we were vagrants.  We were uncared for they said, which is wrong. And apparently we went to the magistrate court and well, we were put in the – in a black Munro, they called it at the time, the police paddy van. And yeah so there were six of us kids aged from eighteen month to twelve year old. Myself and four brothers and a sister.  And um, we were taken to Tarana which was the receiving centre at the time. And from there we had an  okay to go to the Ballarat orphanage. 

[Mission life]
Me mother at Ballarat there, she lived next door to the hostel which was, oh a kilometre or so from the orphanage and mum used to be always coming up to the, to the orphanage and telling them off for bashing us around and picking on us. And see we were getting into so much trouble.  And I was getting to that age, they reckon, where I started to like girls.  They said, we think the Edwards family should be sent back to Tarana. 

Which we were, which we were sent back to Tarana. We went up to Hillside for a little holiday camp for a month. And then we were taken to the Salvation Army Boys Home at Box Hill. I got into trouble and, at school. I think this is after I spent a month at this man’s place who I think took advantage of me.   From that time on I started getting into trouble.  And running away. And yeah, sort of being punished by, you know, getting the cuts, the straps, over your hand or around your legs.  

I went to a farm up at Kilbroney Park near Sale. And I only lasted a  month or so there I guess and I ran away to find me brothers. And then I went to The Salvation Army in Bayswater, the Basin.  And there I heard on the radio that my brother was killed.

And oh, within about three or four months I think, that mum had got the younger ones out of the homes...me brother, they were building a new estate and there were the big telegraph poles leaning on a stand, wasn’t secured.  And the second youngest, Henry, climbed up, he climbed up the higher end and when he slipped off it rolled off and killed him.  And yeah, that’s ah, yeah I still, that’s when we were flora and fauna, so mum got no, really got no help, no compensation. The only thing what might have happened they paid for, paid for the funeral. And yeah ah.

[Severely institutionalised at 15]
So by this time I'm described in my wardship papers that I'm severely institutionalised.  Oh I had a lot of running away from the boys homes.  Running away to go where, you know.  Oh well a friend would suggest, would you like – he wanted to break out and go somewhere. So yeah, I’d go along.  You know, the fellows wanted to get out.  I said, look I'm getting out in a few weeks, I thought I was anyhow. And they said, be good if you can come. So we break – we break out of the Tarana.  And we come back, I give myself up, this other fella give himself up. And then we went down to the locked up section … where you got all this barb wire around the top. And they're saying if the police get anything on you they would send us to prison. So we escaped again. And ah, I ended up in Russell Street. And I front, I front all these police, they got all these lights on me, I just saw this light here and they're looking at you, you can't see all the cops.  But I stood against the wall and they gave me height and me mischievous way that I, you know, I’d run away. And yeah.  They never seemed to leave me alone after that. 

[A chain reaction]
I went out to Pentridge till I went to court. And then I got twelve months, my first time in prison.  I, there was a teacher there who befriended me.  I worked as that teacher’s runner, you know, when they needed letter type of thing, to go do the running for them. And he got me to read the paper so teaching me to read.  And um, it was time to get out and ah, they were going to keep me behind in YTC sentence that I didn't finish. And the teacher thought that was a bit unfair, I’d done my punishment. 

And they, they asked me, well he asked if we can get him a job could he get out. And they agreed with that.  So I wanted to join the Royal Navy, but they wouldn't have me.  The army wouldn't have me.

And I got out of jail, I joined the merchant navy on this first container ship back and forth to Tasmania. So this is 1967 I guess.  So I lived on the ship and plus I’d stay with me friend who was a teacher at Pentridge and his wife in North Fitzroy. And I got picked up for a few trivial offences like, abusive language, assault police, resist arrest.  So I go to Pentridge and me friend knows that I've gone back. And I went back a couple of times.  And he said, look you're being victimised. He said, I'm going to Saudi Arabia, he said, do you want to come?  And I thought about it for a while. But eventually we are heading off to Saudi Arabia.

[Howard didn’t make it to Saudi Arabia.  He was arrested again for vagrancy and perjury]
Things seemed to be getting to me, you know, I’d be depressed, you know they had me on tryptanol and secanol for me insomnia and all these things seemed to come along after this bloke had molested me.  And but yeah, there was, wasn’t really any help there at the beginning.  I've got a bit of a attitude towards people of officialdom.

Yeah, so they Shanghaied me from Bendigo Prison to break my spirit by sending me to H Division where everything is double time, salute, and blankets are folded up straight, up and you bounce a coin off your mattress, a bed. And your washing basin that you got to see yourself in it. And then I got out of there, me brother was in, in another yard, in another division just outside. And but they ended up Shanghaiing me down to Geelong. And I finished me two, eighteen months down at Geelong. 

[Drugs and city life]
Wanting to catch up on all these things that I thought I might have missed out on, you know, being Institutionalised.  Yeah so I sort of stuck in the city all the time. And I was homeless yeah, the only time I’d be any safe, I’d find a girlfriend for a while. Yeah got onto the old heroin. Yeah there was a lot of speed, ah speed tablets and marijuana.  Tripping.  Spaced out on Datura. 

Yeah I delved into the drugs, and I've been a mental health case for quite a while I've been on all kind of, ah drugs for mental health, you know.  Ritalin and Prozac and Zoloft and Zyprexa and yeah, and talohaxel and blood – with the blood pressure. So I've been taking all kind of drugs to kill all kinds of pain.  And still up today that I still indulge in drugs. 

But through it all, you know, there’ve been a lot of good times but a lot of bad times. And they – I just – once you were stolen and you become a number, the police just never leave you alone. And they never left me alone for that thirteen years, until I went to South Australia. 

Had a daughter in South Australia wanted to, who wanted to meet me. I ended up living over there for six years. And that’s when the youngest daughter come along.  And um, I must have got a bit homesick so I've got three children, six years between each of them. And never really grew up with them. And that’s my disappointment that I've never got to grow up with me children.

[Stolen generations]
When I first heard Stolen Generation, well I guess I'm part of that.  Yeah it kind of amazed me, it amazed me that all these things had happened. And I knew very little of it, not even, not even about the referendum, I was 17 year old, I guess I should have known, known something by then. But I was so brainwashed in all their white history and culture that yeah.  There was no room for me own. 

When I come back from South Australia, while I was there the mob, there was three tribes there.  You know the Adnyamathanha, the Kukatja and the Pitjantjatjara mob.  And yeah, and they all spoke in their language. And I'm thinking where’s my language, you know, where’s my culture?  And the old fella said, you better go home gum sucker.  Cause I lived in that gum tree area. And yeah, so I went up to Barmah.

[The troubled son]
Wasn't until the ‘90s that I started finding out a bit about me black history. And you know scarred trees and middens and yeah, you know, burial ground that were around the Barmah forests. So it was good being, being connected that way.  But um, at that time I stayed with me mother for about eighteen months. I worked there so I did connect up with her. And yeah, she weren’t in the best of health then, she had a hernia problem.

And yeah, you just never realise how much – I never realised how much me mum had gone through until I lost her.  And that was the only time I ever seen peace on her face. So she sort of died of a broken heart.  Where did me children go wrong, you know, she said. 

But I was a stubborn little bugger. And I think this stubbornness has sort of got me through to where I am today. But I really regret not sitting down and really talking to mum. I think she would have found it hard to talk with us too about it. But I failed to do it.  But yeah, I was always the worry son.  Yeah. 

[Ward file]
I guess I got my files about two year ago.  And yeah I had a person with me to make sure that I was, you know, would get through it alright. And they said that me mother was a lazy woman. And couldn't look after her children.  I’d never be able to keep a job, keep a job.  Very institutionalised and the only people I’d ever know were – do know are people that have already been in trouble. I guess there were the – a bit of relief in finding out things, yeah that I haven’t recollected in me life.  So it opened up more doors to things. 

They thought they were doing the right thing and they can look after us better than our parents did. But no, they put us in these institutions where, as I said earlier, are just homes for paedophiles and a whole of it went on, and I'm a victim of it.

And yes, so you know finding out things later down the track, that does – does hurt my pride a bit.  Make me feel ashamed again.  But ah, it’s just a terrible thing that the Government did. That they did not look after us the way that they were supposed to. Even though I might cry every now and again, I'm a stronger man for it today. 

[Effects of being removed]
Because I was, I’d run away from the boys home they always kept me in semi security prisons like prisons with walls around you.  I know well I feel if I had have went to a country prison where they let prisoners go out and play sport and all that, I reckon I would have been a different person today. Because when you're good at sports like that, you get people who would find you a job and, and yeah, but I was just sort of stuck in the city here. And the bright lights and the drugs and the rock and roll, yeah.  Yeah that's sort of been – I'm a could have been. I'm the could have been, should have been tribe.  The wanna be. But yeah.  I've been all those tribes, shoulda, coulda, woulda. 
   
END TRANSCRIPT

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