Stolen Generations

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Personal Statement

I want people to know how we were taken and how we grew up. We only learnt about Captain Cook you see and I want people to know the real story about what happened to Aboriginal people.

Transcript

Rita Wright

Duration: 18:17

My name is Rita Wright.  I was born in 1953 in Brewarrina.

My mum’s, she was from Angledool mission. Just outside of Walgett. And my dad’s from Cherbourg mission. My mum married my father, I don't know whereabouts, but she ended up being Gracie Shillingsworth. Her maiden name was Gracie Lee. And I married into the Wrights when I found the love of my life in Brewarrina and we had four children, three boys and one girl.  And seventeen foster children. 

[Being taken away]
When I was taken away I was two, my sister Jenny was four. We was at a little place called Weilmoringle playing with our cousins. The Bino sisters. Well while the mothers were all inside talking and doing what they was doing, we played outside in the dirt and just made our own little things. I remember my sister having a tin they call them the rolly-pollies and had a bit of wire and they pull it along this run river with the girls.  And while I was in there, the welfare had come and had taken us away. And not – and mum not knowing.  When it got dark she wondered where we was, you know, no one could find us. And the first thing that mum must – mum thought that someone had killed us.  Killed us both because no one knew, none of the grown ups knew where we was cause the kids, cousins were told that, welfare told that if they tell anybody that they will come back and take them away from their mother.

So my cousin all, the girls carried that secret. See we are all in our fifties now and not long ago they told me the secret that they carried. And it must have been so much for them, you know. To keep that secret. And they was only little girls too. 

[Rita and her sister ended up in Marella Mission in Kellyville, New South Wales]
   
[Marella Mission was owned by the Church of England and managed by a married couple]
We had to call them mum and dad. We wasn’t allowed to call them by their names. So we end up knowing them as the only parents we had. Because we called them mum and dad, you know. Even though they, it was um, a Christian place, they lived in the main and we lived in the chook pen. 

The big girls would clean the, do the sweeping to clean it out. And we put three bunks in there where we slept and some on the floor. We were the first children there and then later on there would be other children would come in. All Aboriginal kids, yeah. Half castes, and me and my sister are full bloods, you know. Dawn, she was one of the girls, she would be like a, one of the bigger girls that used to help wash us when we was little and another girl, Isabelle, she was like our own mother, you know. She took care of all of us. And washed us and just, just um, she was there for us, you know. Even though she didn’t go to school or didn’t even get paid, you know, she still looked after us and she still, from this day on she still worries about us all.

We had prayers every night. We had to learn from the bible, we had to learn the alphabet and we had to say a verse off by heart, you know, and if we didn’t was – get punished. When we did get punished we used to get the dogs lead or the, or his walking stick.  And stand in the corner with our hands on our head for a long time. 

[What the mission told Rita]
Oh you come here with all sores on you. And oh you had a lot of lice in your head. And um, and then she’d say and that’s how we got you. But Isabelle, she was saying she was only young woman, but she's an old woman now. And she said, you come clean, clean as anything. 

[Food at the mission]
At the side window there was an orange tree where we used to sneak the fruit in, get the oranges and eat them, because we used to go hungry when we was living in there. We had fetes to keep Marella going. People would send donations in and of vegies, and you know we’d never see any of that.  We’d have a baked dinner once a blue moon. We lived on sandwiches. We even had baby food. We had chocolate, banana custard, chocolate custard. And plain custard, we had to eat that. While they were sitting up in – while they were sitting in their house having a big meal, you know.

We used to hide bread and that in our beds. And they used to always say, don’t hide stuff in your beds cause there's plenty of food here. But we never seemed to see it. Christmas was good because we had puddings with the – we used to get threepence and sixpence, but they put them in but they still took them back of us. So why should – I always wondered why did they put the threepence and the sixpence in the – those shillings in the, you know, Christmas pudding. 

[Spending holidays with different families]
Well we got billeted out to different people, houses over the Christmas holidays, we used to go away for three weeks. And then when we come back we never seen the clothes or our toys. They took them back off us, they were packed to port with new stuff, and all these pretty, oh lovely new clothes. And then when we got back to Marella they got all the suitcases in a line and took them all back. And put them away or sold them at the fete. 

[The work done by the children]
We worked as children, you know, the slaves.  We were only kids. Marella was a farm, they had a big paddock there was all plum trees. We had to pick the plum trees, climb up in the tree and pick as many, even though it took all day to do it. We had animals, we had kangaroos. Chris, she used to do the kangaroos, we used to do the chooks. They – he had prize pigeons. Sometimes I felt like just letting them all go cause I hated the farm.  My sister, dawn, used to milk the cows and bring it back up in the buckets and put it in the big freezer. We had to skim it, get the cream off. Make the butter every morning before we went to school. Do all the washing. Three lines of washing every day. Every morning before we went to school. We used to stand up on a box cause we was too little. And do it in the winter, in the rain, no shoes. Fix the toilets up when they was blocked. But not, not the education, I missed out on education. 

[Aged 19, Rita was released from Marella Mission.  They provided no contact details of where her family were located.]
   
[Through chance encounters Rita found out where her family were living.  At 18, she came home to Brewarrina]

Oh I was nervous. Didn’t know what to do, I was very shaky. And then they said, come in I want you to meet someone and in the corner in the waiting room was this little lady sitting there. And then, you know, and I looked at her, I looked straight at her in the face, and I thought, oh my goodness I look like her. And she says, she got up and just got up and she said, my Jean come home. My Jean come home. That's what she said three times, she was crying. And I, I didn’t know how to – I just cuddled her, put my arms around and she cuddled me. And she just said, well come on, taking you down here now to meet all your aunties. You’ve come home. She said, I always knew you would come home. You know, and she said, I didn’t know where you was.  But look at you you're not a baby no more, you're a fully grown woman, young lady. 

She took me downtown, showed me off, like she had won the big lotto. Showing me off to everybody, my daughter come home, my daughter come home. And everyone’s looking saying, Gracie, you never had no kids.  She said, yeah I had two daughters. And everyone said, did Gracie have daughters. And they said, welfare took em away when they was babies, they were little. 

[Rita’s sister]

When I went back to Bre she was there. And when she seen me walking with mum, she just dropped everything. I think she had wood in – some wood in her hands. She just dropped and she was screaming.  Oh my baby sister, when you come home. When I went back to Bre she was there. And when she seen me walking with mum, she just dropped everything. I think she had wood in – some wood in her hands. She just dropped and she was screaming. Oh my baby sister, when you come home.  

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