Stolen Generations

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Personal Statement

I tell my story because I think people should know what the Australian Government did to us. We only became citizens in 1967. We were considered flora and fauna before that.


Barbara Kickett

Duration: 15:04

I am Ballardong Whadjuk Yok which means Perth and wheat belt woman.

[Being taken]
Well I think I was nine if I can remember. Nine years of age and I was in primary school along with my other brothers and sisters and we had a headmaster come in and call us out of the classroom. When I went outside all the --- my brothers and sisters were out there. And there was this kombi van and then I looked and I saw welfare people and police. They came to escort us out of the school. We had to get in the kombi van and we were taken to the courthouse in Kellerberrin.

When we got there I saw my mummy out on the veranda. She was crying and my daddy was inside and he was also crying. They were being taken to court because they didn’t want us to be taken away. And that’s what was happening. We were taken away from our parents. Six of us. And I can remember when --- seeing my family with their heads down and I can --- I seen the pain in my mother’s eyes and my father pleading and begging for these people not to take his koorlungas (children). My daddy was that upset he lashed out at the police officers and the welfare officers and there were four of them and they were big men. Well he beat the living daylights out of them, all four of them, but in the end they got the better of him.

And my aunty told me that she was young, 17 year old, and she was just walking down the street she said when she saw all this happening. She stood back and hid behind a tree to listen to the stuff that was being said. And um she can hear my dad, who she called Uncle Clary, screaming, begging, these people not to take his koorlungas (children). My mother never hurt a fly. She was a gentle, kind lady. And my daddy only wanted what was best for us which was to stay with them.

[Life at Roelands Mission]
It’s called Seven Hills. One of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to in my life. I just didn’t like the idea of being away from my parents. We were never allowed to speak the language, of which our family was the bearer of the language, you know, carriers of the culture and language. And to take that away from us was like cutting out our heart and throwing that away.

That’s all I think about - is the pain, because it was just unbelievable stuff. The beatings that you got on the mission, from the missionaries. So-called Christian people. Like I think there’s about five items of work that we had to finish within the day. I was always first finished and very bored. One day I was sitting waiting for everybody else to finish and I put my head down on the desk and started to hum. I didn’t realise the teacher had come back in. And he looked around and ‘Stand up who’s singing.’ The he said it a third time, he said ‘You, stand up’ and pointed at me.

I stood up but I looked him right in the eye and I said ‘But I wasn’t singing. I was humming. And there’s a difference.’ He got so angry that he came and he beat the living daylights out of me. My legs were blue, black and purple. I stood there and never uttered a sound while he was beating me. Then when he finished I just grabbed my stuff off the desk, walked out of the classroom and he was screaming at me to come back. I just turned around and looked at him right in the eye and I said ‘No I won’t.’ And kept walking. When I got up the other end of the --- back to the mission and went back to my dormitory I was told to go up to the superintendent’s office. So when I got up there I got six cuts. Three there. Three there.

Long cane. Big thin long cane. And just after that was dinnertime. I didn’t want to go but I thought to myself my family are not going to know how I am, so I went anyway. And the bruises were by that time coming up. My hands as well. And my family sat there and a couple of them cried. The bigger ones cried. At that point in my life I hated the teacher. And I suppose I will continue to hate the way he was but I’d give him one thing. He was the best teacher that I’ve ever had. By being who he was, how he acted to help mould me into who I am today and the strong --- I am a strong woman. I let down my guard every now and then, like now. But I believe to me that’s healing. The tears are healing tears.

We were told that we were neglected children, which was so, so wrong. We were at school every day. We were clean. Spotlessly clean. My mother washed clothes in the old cement troughs by hand. And we never went to school dishevelled. We were very, very clean and our parents looked after us the best they could under the circumstances.

[The parents’ pain]
I said well my father, you know, will always have the problems --- he had the problems all his life after he had his children taken away. He was --- he used to take off. He used to leave mum and go walkabout, you know, because if he stayed at home too long he’d keep remembering all this stuff. And he didn’t want that because he used to drink a bit and mum, she loved our dad until the day she died.

He was a very, very strong old man but when he had his kids taken away he became very vulnerable and used to drink a bit, because of the pain. And even I as a kid understood, you know, that that’s what he had to do to stop his pain. And --- but I used to think too, mum never ever drank, you know, never drank in her life. And just her pain would’ve been awesome because she was there 24-7 with us, you know.

[Talking about being removed with her parents]
No. Never. Never. Because the pain was just --- I can imagine their pain, you know. My pain was bad enough but I would never ever hurt my father or my mother by talking about it. I sort of started to get over or get past --- tried to get past it and put that stuff in my --- behind me. So when my husband came along I just decided then I wasn’t going to say anything. And I didn’t. Never have.

And it’s only in the last four or five years that I’ve told my children. I never ever told my kids about it. It was just too painful. And I didn’t want my kids to feel my pain. I, as long as I live, will never ever forget that every time I cry when I talk about it because the pain will never go away. No matter what I do. I mean I’m a certified counsellor myself. I’ve looked after people in prisons for many years but I still can’t take the pain away. It’s just that unbelievable pain that will never go away. And I never ever told my husband as long as I was with him. I never told him about being taken away and he told the kids that had I told him that he would’ve never --- we would’ve never been divorced.

But the pain, I just couldn’t keep bringing it up over and over again. Because it’s unbearable. If you’ve never been in that situation then you don’t know. You would never know the pain. And one day I hope that I will feel happiness. I will be happy. But at the moment I’m just plodding along as I am.

[Strength and a way forward]
I believe in the powers that be and our old people. And it’s this beautiful stuff like this here that keeps me going. The birds. The trees, especially the trees. And this land of ours is very sacred to us black fellas. And because of our stolen generation issues we need to be strong and we need to hang in there with each other.

My family, they’re my main reason for waking up tomorrow, you know. I have 17 grandchildren and they’ve asked me questions. The little girls. Because we’re all tucked up in my bed and they’re all asking questions. And even a couple of the brothers get down the foot end and they lay there while we’re telling stories, you know, and they’re asking questions and I’m telling the stories. Then when this came out the boys just put their heads in the pillows, you know, and the little girls came up and grabbed me and hugged me and kissed me and we were all crying. All of us. Together. And then the little girls looked at me, kissed me on the cheek and held me and just said ‘Nanna, we love you very, very much.’ And I said ‘And I love you.’ And I said ‘You will never know how much I love you.’





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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers should exercise caution when viewing this website as it contains images of deceased persons.The people speaking in this website describe being removed from family and community. They regard themselves as belonging to the Stolen Generations.