Stolen Generations

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Personal Statement

I wonder how my mum felt losing a child. What about all the mothers, not just my mum? They must have all felt terrible. All the money in the world wouldn’t make up for what we’ve lost. We weren’t even allowed to talk our lingo.


Kathleen Farrell

Duration: 00:06

My name is Kathleen Farrell. I live in Karrinyup but I was born in Cue I heard. I was reared up in St Joseph’s Orphanage in New Norcia.

[Kathleen doesn’t know her Aboriginal language group or country]
That was all stolen from us, yeah.

[Early memories]
My brother told me --- mum and dad had a tent that side, a tent this side and a sort of tin shed in the middle for the kitchen. And the tents were bedrooms. But he tells me. He knows that. I don’t. And he said he could remember --- just could remember me being there. And it might have been just before I was taken away.

[Being taken]
I think it was six years old I was taken away. Mum wouldn’t talk about it. Because I asked her why. Once she did say something - that was arrangement between the government and --- what were we called? The Yamatjis. There was some arrangement like fair skinned like me, to be taken away because they didn’t want us to breed with the dark.

And yet I was taken away, this is what I can’t understand, and my brothers was allowed to stay. Until later, then they were brought in to the mission. They were a bit older when they came. The worst thing of all is being separated from your family. Your mum and your dad. Some of my friends they talk about how they grew up with their sisters and brothers and we never had that. Around the age of eight I think we started to realise it wasn’t mum or dad, it was nuns looking after us. And around 11 I started to think - who was I, where do I come from, who am I? It’s a terrible feeling I tell you.

[A visit from mum]
Well my mother came once but I didn’t know who she was. My mother was quite tall and I saw this big woman come and I thought - who this is? I didn’t want to know her. Because I thought she didn’t want me, you know, as a kid growing up. Sad. But now everything’s gone I regret that.

[Life in the mission]
We didn’t do much schooling. We did more prayers than education. We prayed for everything. We prayed when we woke up in the morning. We prayed the last thing at night, you know? Before meals. So you learned more prayers than anything. All the work we did in that mission, we never got any thanks for it. We did a lot of work there. We did all the laundry for everybody. And when you were little ones you used to walk all around. In the wintertime you’d be cleaning all the yard and that. No shoes. And if you didn’t do the right thing you’d get a good belting from the nuns.

[The Nuns]
They didn’t teach you anything, just --- they didn’t teach you to show love, they just taught that you had to do your work and that was that. Some nuns were alright but I was shocked at the Reverend Mother how she just used to say ‘You’re going to be like your mother, nothing but an alcoholic.’ Instead of giving you courage to go out and find work.

There was one English one and she was --- if you did something wrong she used to make you kneel outside with the bricks on your hand. You know? Until she --- and if your hand went down she’d hit it up. You couldn’t…And we thought they were there to look after us.

[Life after leaving the mission]
When you came out in the big wide world you were treated badly because you were Aboriginal. You went for a job, when you worked with them they put you down. They all say ‘Oh you’re just a dirty Aboriginal.’ Because I went out to try to be a nurse. I got into fights. Got into trouble because they slung off at me as a black person, you know, and I used to look at myself and I was thinking to myself - I’m just as fair as you, why are you saying that? And then you shut up because you’re frightened, you’d get in trouble. It was hard to take. You know we weren’t allowed in the hotels and some shops you weren’t allowed to go in and have a cup of tea.

When I started working in hospitals they had Aboriginal on verandas and outside, where they had other people in the hospital. And we had to become citizens of our own country. I wouldn’t do that. Nor did my husband. Fancy that. Become a citizen of your own country. And to get married, if I was younger than 21, I had to get permission from --- what his name was? Native welfare people. I had to get permission from them to get married.

[Her husband]
Yeah, we met in the mission. We married from the mission. What we said when we got married, we put all that behind us and we’ll just live for our lives ahead and for our children. And we weren’t going to talk about the past at all. And that’s where I took a long time to talk about the past. When I first talked about this I felt I was betraying him. He’s dead and gone now.

[Relationship with parents]
You didn’t really know them until you left the mission. You had to find them, you know. Dad was okay but when I found my mother she was --- I shouldn’t say it but she was drunk and, you know, sad and she started to cry. Because she wasn’t there for me growing up. Sad for me too. I feel --- emotions still come back. It’s not mum’s fault actually, it was the people who took me away from her.

She lost a daughter and then her only daughter was taken away. And then the boys was taken away. I think that’s when my mum turned to drink. I think it hurt too much for her to talk about it and I regret that now because we never sort of --- I never made up to her before she died, you know, but I went as a daughter’s duty to do all that. I buried my mother. I went to visit her when she was in hospital but not as a daughter. I did it as a duty because I think they stole all that from us.

We sort of just couldn’t --- that gap was too far, you know, we couldn’t communicate together. Oh we did get on. We say hello and whatever but I could not stay with her and she could not be around me too long. She used to come to visit me when I got married and had children but she never stayed long. We didn’t sort of connect. I don’t know, what would you call --- and that’s sad isn’t it because people talk with their mothers today, I always feel that. I connected with my dad but I couldn’t do it with my mum. I don’t know why.

I don’t know why they did this to us. Why? My regret is always never growing up with a mother’s love, you know, that’s my regret. It’s the worst thing that could ever happen to you. But why did the people do this to us?

I talk to my grandson sometimes and he’s very close to Nanna --- he feels sorry for it.





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