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Personal Statement

I tell my story as it happened to educate people.


Kennedy Edwards

Duration: 15:42

My name is Kennedy Edwards. I am from the Yorta Yorta country. That's on the Murray River around Echuca way. And the Goulburn River area.

[Life before]
The Aboriginal people much like today, I think the Aboriginal people are the poorest people in the country.  And when the fruit season was over, there was the hard times, living on the river banks, that was crown land. And the only other crown land was next to tips and all that sort of stuff. That where an Aboriginal lives. 

My father didn’t work, talk about being poor, we were the poorest people on that mission. Sometimes mum would manage to get a  loaf of bread and she’d get the dripping. And a meal for us was two slices of bread dipped in that fat. And a cup of tea, black tea at that. A double bed that was in our hose in the mission and the six of us slept in there. It was warm of a night and we’d have a big hessian bag over the couple of blankets that we had. 

[Kennedy feels life improved for the kids when his alcoholic father left the family]
[The kids were removed nonetheless]
There was myself, I was twelve.  And my sister, Lexie, brother Howard, another brother Alvin, another brother Henry. And the baby Herbert. There was, I was twelve, my sister was ten and Howard was eight. There was two years between all of us. 

My mother finished work in the cannery on the Friday. And on the Monday, a police car came to my  grandmother’s humpy where we were all living. We were all put into the cars, the police car, taken down to the Mooroopna courthouse and when we got down the courthouse mum was there and my aunty. And mum was kissing us all goodbye, she was crying.  And my little brother wouldn't kiss her, I was trying to pick him up to mum’s face and he just pulled away, he didn’t have a clue what was happening. And they put us into one of those big blue divvy wagons they transport prisoners around. And drove us to Melbourne. 

[The official story]
This is when we fronted court when we were first taken away from my mother.  These half-caste Aboriginal children were admitted to the care of the CWD on the 30th of the 7th 1956 by order of the CC at Mooroopna.  Which deemed them to be in the need of care and protection in that they have no visible means of support.  We were only kids we couldn't support. The father deserted and the mother got into debt trying to provide for her six children, mother and sister.  The house is one of the tin and hessian humpies common in the area, was divided in two by an old hessian curtain.  In the one half was a double bed, single bed, and a cot. This was the total sleeping accommodation for nine people. Yeah, so that was the day, us little half-caste Aboriginal children were admitted to the care of the welfare department.

[A ward of the state – Ballarat Orphanage]
I don't remember anybody having a fight amongst the girls or amongst the boys. Oh they could throw daggers at one another though, but they never raised a hand to one another in the orphanage. But ah, them rotten matrons were very happy to do it.  They were violent people. And um, so was the other officers that looked after us I think. One of them lived on the property, so we had nowhere to go. But he had us to scruff up if he wanted to. Yeah, it was good days. 

[False hope]
The best things about Ballarat was later on everybody knew me.  I, there's a game they play, kicking the tin.  But the most important thing when I first got there we got to have our own bed. I had me own bed, I had sheets, and I had three meals a day. And then there was a couple of girls who wanted to be hanging around me all the time, so – and I preferred their company than the boys. So I played hopscotch with the girls.  And those four girls were my friends for them four years that I was there. And they were the ones that, that were my girlfriends. And ah, and you know I didn’t need anyone else. 

It’s cruel when some people are not happy and probably someone like me whose had four years straight, twenty four hours a day, and the happiest days of my life and they take me away from that, they sent me back to Royal park.

[The other side of the coin]
I never got good reports from these, from the officers, and especially the old fellow at the hostel.  My roommate used to go out every night and raid shops and all that sort of stuff. And I come home one day and I went to me underwear draw and there was nothing there it was just full of chocolates and all this sort of stuff. The fella running the hostel was a captain in the army.  And he signed – he said, alright I want youse all to sign up to the citizens military force. So he goes down and he introduces all. The sergeant there was son of the old man and woman running the swimming pool. And he reckons it was me who as stealing all this stuff. Freddie and I looked like twins.  And anyhow he had me standing there waiting for his first sight, up and down, he said, alright march up and down in that big hall they got in the army.  And he had me there going for half an hour, up and back, up and back, up and back.  And I carried the stuff home, all my uniform and whatever, and knapsacks and whatever. And I didn’t go back. 

That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. And he reported me to Morton, the superintendent of the orphanage who didn’t like me anyway. And they were happy to send me back with the rest of the family when they went back, they went to the Box Hill boys home. They took me down to Royal Park alright, but they locked me up with the young offenders there.

[Young offenders home]
Boys who were sixteen and under they were too young to go to Pentridge. And they had to be locked up because of the things they done, mostly stealing cars, breaking and entering, and bashing people and all that’s sort of stuff. So the roughest of the kids were where I was. And we tried to escape one day and got caught.  And they lock you up for 24 hours in a room with no cigarettes, no lighting, no nothing. That’s your punishment, you get used to that too and you don't mind it because you sort of feather in your cap if you go and get locked up for 24 hours, two days or something. You come out you're, they think you're a hero. And so that's where I learnt how do I do this, and they give you ideas on how to steal cars, they told me how to steal a car. And if you're going out to rob someone, you might as well go with – you got to have a jimmy bar to jimmy the doors open, you gotta have this and you gotta have that. 

And they're the sort of people you meet in jail. And all this happened to me when I was sixteen. Ever since I was seventeen, like I said, I got away from that ward of the state thing.  I don't know, it used to be a stigma I think once because everybody who was a ward of the state was a criminal of some sort we must be bad if we are locked up. 

They had complete control over me because I was a ward of the state. So until I was 17 they owned me.  And they didn’t have – didn’t need to get permission from my parents to do what they wanted to do with me.  Oh piss him off over there, shove him over there, just get him out of my sight.  You know, and I wasn’t a bad boy. They could talk about you and refer to you what they like.  Because they owned me, it’s just like, the way slaves were handled. 

[Regaining control]
I think they let me go a bit early, they said, you're seventeen you're no longer a ward of the state.  We’re sending you to your grandmother’s we have a rail ticket for you.  Here’s five pound.  And I said, what about my mother, she lives in Fitzroy.  They said your mother lives in a boarding house and we’re not sending you there.

Everything I did until I was 17, every decision was made for him by the orphanage in Royal Park.  The people in charge.  And from 17 onwards I made the decisions. And I made a lot of bad ones. I was on drugs for 25 years. I was on speed.  I was a good drunk, but I only drank for about, I think I started at 19. And I finished drinking at 30. I've been to jail and I've done a lot of stupid things that were my decisions. At least they were mine. When you’re 16, five years they’ve been making decisions for me. And I had no say in those decisions.  Because you know, I would never have left Ballarat if it was my decision.  I’d still be living in Ballarat today. 

[Feelings about being removed]
I'm pretty happy, what happened to us, happened to us. It’s got it there, wards of the state couldn't be looked after and whatever. And I believe we couldn't be looked after.  We might nearly miss a meal of just bread and fat and whatever. I didn’t suffer like some of the kids did. That's why I don't care, I had the time of my life at the Ballarat orphanage. I did get a little bit of education.  Which I would not have got if I hadn’t of.

I never had a worry in the world.  Because – and I never thought about my young brother Herb, and mum til later, after it’s – only the last five years, couple of years.  I think the trauma that they went through, because I never went through any.

[On reflection Kennedy feels it would have been better if his mum had been able to access more support]    
[The kids might have been able to stay and life might have turned out better]

And I think Choc, my brother Howard, he might have went through a bit of trauma because at one stage there, he said, I don't know I blacked it all out, the orphanage days, he doesn't know anything about it.  Cause I never had time to talk to Alvin, he died, he OD’d. And Henry and Herb, he just doesn't know what's happened. 

I was talking about when we were picked up and whatever from the blue moon. And he said, oh. I said, yeah the police come and picked us up and took us to court at Mooroopna.  Made us ward of the state and that’s where we ended up in the Ballarat orphanage. He said, oh I thought mum and dad just dropped us off at the orphanage and said, here. And he didn’t know. I mean he's fifty years old. He thought that mum and dad just dropped us at the door, at the orphanage and left us there. 





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