Stolen Generations

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Personal Statement

I told my story because being an Aboriginal a lot of people might think we don’t have a backbone and they might think we are weak. I like to let people know that there are quite a few of us who have a will power to stand on our own two feet when experiences like this come along. We have got a backbone and a will power to stand on our own two feet with issues of right and wrong.


Joan Saylor

Duration: 11:18

My name is Joan Saylor.  And I was born in Laverton and when I was nine months old the native welfare was going round picking up half caste babies, you know, half white. I only had one brother, my twin, Gordon. But he was with the dad at the time. So when my mother was out hunting for …  something to eat for tea, they came and they just took me to Moore River at nine months old and the other three kids.  And that’s where I was until I was ten years old.

[Moore River mission]
Oh, I was really hurt like cause I was there nine months old, but as I grew up and grew up in Moore River and I see all the others with their mums and dads and being allowed to go home to their mum and dad, you know. Most of them did, but I was left there, see I had nobody. I was told at Moore River that they never knew, you know never knew who my people was. 

[Life at the mission]
We were walking to our normal places around the table, and we all had to stand up and we sang grace.  Then we sat down to watery soup and dry bread. Ten years old when I left see, so there was nothing, like the mother was older girls and me, they went through terrible times, you know. They used to run away from there and come back and…fed on bread and water and stayed there for a week. No lights. You know, when the sun went down they just –was on a board like this, camping with…you know like a trellis, you know.  So I was one of the lucky ones really cause I got out, got out, was taken away, or fostered out by a couple and they took me to their station.  In Cue.

It sounds weird but so that they could teach you – teach me in the ways of, their ways, you know, to do housework and do this and that and what not. You know they treated us just like slaves, like Negroes. But they came down and got me in a, in a Model T Ford and one room, two kangaroos in the back and your full up. I was in the back with the dog and that was right. 

[Life with foster parents]
They were really kind people really. Some people used to, some other people used to go down south, they say, they used to get belted cruel, you know, if they didn’t do what they was told.  I almost had the run of the place by myself because they kind of fostered me out. If I was naughty they threatened to send me back to Moore River. 

From being a little girl running around doing nothing, to washing up the dishes and cleaning, cleaning their house, to cooking, and then doing part time work with the shearers every shearing time they come. It was a lonely life cause shearing only come once a year.  You know shearing the sheep, only came once a year.  So it wasn’t too bad, really. 

[Becoming a missionary]
I just grew up with this lady, she looked after me and taught me about religion and so you see I become a Seventh Day Adventist, you know.  And I stayed with them until they moved from that station. I was 22 then when I left them and then from there I went to college but in the meantime I just lost all track of my people, see. 

And then after they done their course of four years or something I was sent over to Queensland there for three years looking after the girls in the dormitories, there was about 46 girls, you know, from 15 down to 2 year old.  Stayed there for four years and then I came back when Karalundi was started. I jumped at the opportunity of going back to, coming back to Perth to all my people, you know. So they transferred me back.  And then I gave up mission work and I got married and that was it. 

[A family of her own]
I wouldn't let my five kids go, I had three girls and two boys. I wouldn't let them go. The missionaries used to ask me, you don't get a good education there. I said, no I'm still alive and they're going to live under my roof.  They used to think that the Aboriginal women couldn't look after babies. You know. 

Every now and again our town would break out in scabies, in school and soars and things. Well they came to my house and said, said that my kids had them. And I said, yeah they got them because every other kids got them.  I said, but they're getting treated for it.  They got the mumps, they got the measles, you know.  Things like that. But those are things that all school kids get from school. And they tried, tried their hardest to get my five kids to go. I said, no you're not, you're not taking them, only over my dead body and that’s it. 

Although I worked there,  I worked there for years. Cause when I had my children I wouldn't let them go to Karalundi mission. I said, I'm not letting my children go to no mission.  I hated my share of the mission and that’s it. 

[Discovering family history]
Always knew I had a white father and an Aboriginal mother.  My mum died when I was taken away, after three months, she passed on. I lost it all except my twin brother, he came down to Moore River. 

It was funny, we were all lined up in a row before we went to school. And all the girls on one side from the small girls dormitory, and all the boys on this side from the small boys dormitory.  And we were introduced to each other.  And they told us that, oh Joan Laverton this is your brother, Gordon Whiteman, cause our names were changed.

By rights, me and my brother’s name should have been Dwyer.  But they gave us, they gave me the name of Laverton where we were born, but they gave Gordon the name Whiteman.  They didn’t bother to find out what line of family we come from, you know, which is sad. Anyway you couldn't mistake that we were brother and sister because we were twins.  But the day he came down, was the day I left, left to go to Kogarah Downs Station in Cue. Wasn’t funny because I never saw him again, till about forty years later I guess. 

[Meeting together]
It was really good and yet it was really sad because he, he said, oh I've got no sister. Of course you have I said, standing right in front of you. So I said to him, I said, if I'm not your sister, you're not my brother.   So anyway, later on, we forgot all about that. And then we got to know each other, and my daughter there, and my other daughter, Valerie, they got to know him and the last ten years of his life he was very happy because he had a family, you know. 
Husband and wife, my brother used to work for them on the station.  And they came to tell me at Koondoola that my brother was in hospital.  I was sitting at the train station but I was waiting for the time for the bus to walk up to the bus station to come home.  And this little boy, he came from college, and he got off the train and he kept on looking sideways at me, you know. And he – and I was sitting here and he walked around, and he walked right over and he come back, and he looked at me again, looking. And I got jack of it, and I said, what you little wadjela kid, little white boy, what you little wadjela kid walking around and looking at me like that for?  You know.  And then in the end he came right around and he came and he sat next to me.

He said, you're Joan aren’t you?  I said, yeah how do you know?  And he started to cry. And I said, what’s the matter? He said, oh uncle Gordon, that’s my brother, but he called him Uncle Gordon. He said, Uncle Gordon died last night.  Oh I got the shock of my life, you know, because my brother was working for them for fourteen years. And that little born was born on this thing, and when he grew, when he was about two years old or something, he used to go around following my brother and calling him dad. I’m not your dad, he said, I'm black, you're white. 

[Between two worlds]
I don't know how other people feel but I grew up with the knowledge that, that it was like, I could have been born full blood, you know, but I unfortunately I was born a half caste.  Had a white man father and an Aboriginal mother. And I never grew up in the camps with my people, so I never learnt the Aboriginal language. 

No, never was confusing to me, because I was in the, was in the white race all the time, from nine months old.  And whenever I had the chance I would go, I would go and sit in the ashes – you’d say that, and eat the, eat the traditional food with my aunties and uncles, you know, whenever we got the chance. Because I'm one of the lucky ones that could live in the white man’s world and the Aboriginal world.  And think nothing of it.





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