Stolen Generations

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Personal Statement

I want to let people know how we were treated.

Transcript

Ruth Mackenzie

Duration: 13:14

My real name is Molly Lenin. Yeah. They changed my name in Oodnadatta, sister – the missionary ladies to Ruth Seeler.  

[They did so as the missionaries felt Ruth’s white side of the family “was no good”]
When mother died in 1926, and that was the year I think I was taken. You wasn't safe when you was half caste with a white man.   

[Ruth ran away from the police countless times before she was taken]
When they heard the police was around looking for us, they take me to the creek and all the half caste kids there, they’d put charcoal all over us, make us black, see. And they tell us, don't get in the water until they go, see. They told me once, if you had – my mother see, full blood, but she had me from a white man, well all the children come, half caste what they called them, took em away. Yeah. I don't know why, I suppose because I was part Aboriginal – part European I suppose.  But my mother, I had a good mother, she worked all the time till she died. 

She used to look after goats for the people, take them out all day and you know, let them dig around for rabbits to bring back. The woman she worked for, Bayles, they the ones that told mum to go out, see, for a couple of days until the police went up to Alice Springs, Charlotte Waters, and all them places.

[Ruth’s siblings]
My brother and sister they was good too.  But they were from different fathers, one mother. And one day at Eringa, my sister, she was drawing on the ground, you know drawing, and I put my hand out too, looked at it and I said, how come, I said it in the language, how come you're hands are black but not mine. And she said, yeah what. I said, no, you come from white father.  I didn’t know. 

At Eringa, mum was gone, my sister always said, if the police came she’d have to run with me, but I didn’t want to go. But she’d be crying, she say, come on they're going to take. But no, I don't go with her then.  And we had to go a long way and look over the rise, you know like there, and look over and see where the police are. I’d see the police leaving Eringa, then we’d go back. 

[After Ruth’s mum died she was with her Aboriginal stepfather]
   
[Shortly after she was taken by the authorities]
We came to Macumbar, and that’s where I was taken, from Makamba. The first time I sent the police was that place called Hamilton. There. Seen them. And they saw me, see. So they went back and must have told the police, the missionaries or something. They picked me up. I only had one sleep at Macumbar, next morning they were there to pick me up. Didn’t give me time to eat or nothing. They were down early from the station to where all the camps were. Took me. But I wouldn't get in the motor car. Oh, they had a – I wouldn't stop there so, one of my old aunties was travelling to Oodnadatta with her husband. They come along and I got in with them and they took me to Oodnadatta. 

[Life in Oodnadatta]
They wouldn't let the Aboriginal womans come and visit us, and  Aboriginal woman used to have arguments with them. So they come to, come to Quorn then and they was putting us on the train. I said, where we going. Told me a lie, they said, you lot’s going for a holiday. That's a holiday, I'm still down here. 

[Thinking of family]
In them days I felt sorry for my sister and brother. That’s the two that kept me going. Think about them that I left them, never seen my sister for ages. But my brother I never seen him no more. That hurts me, I still get hurt because he used to sit down with my sister and they’d talk about me and he’d say, I wonder when – if we will see our little sister again? Then they’d start crying then. They hurt their feeling, their heart. They had a broken heart. 

[Life in the home]
Wasn't good in the home, not in Oodnadatta, not in Quorn. I'm the oldest one living from stolen generation living in Colebrook home. Horrible food…instead of porridge we’d have bread, milk soaked in bread, bread soaked in milk. And at Oodnadatta they used to tell us to go and get our ration on Saturday—Friday, come back porridge, and that, they cook it up and all the – all the mice (droppings)…hmmm.

Very cruel to the children at Colebrook home. They used to belt them till they was knocked out, that’s how cruel they was. But after that they changed, I don't know what for, they changed. You couldn't wish for better ladies. 

We wasn’t allowed to talk language at Oodnadatta they started that. Mustn’t talk language. Gotta talk English. But I knew English because mother worked for white people and used to talk English, see. English is my second language, I suppose you’d say. I can understand, if a Luritja woman talking to a man, I’ll understand.  Pitjantjatjara there, I can’t understand, it might be here and there. 

Once there, I runned away from the Colebrook home.  I wanted to go back to Macumbar see. In the night this was a night run... I went to the police station there and then I went looking for this couple and found them, Bob Welsh and his wife. And they were asleep, I didn’t want to wake them so I went around the wood heap behind them, went inside. And slept there. When daylight come I seen the policeman and his dog, tracking me, tracking down, trying to find me. And the dog come along, you know how they go when they found me, the dog was barking, growling. So they, they got me and take me back to Oodnadatta, I was just dressed up in nightie. 

[Why was Ruth taken?]
Because I was half-caste. Half see. And that’s why I think they kept us then, they wanted us to marry white man. But I didn’t. 

[Ruth married an initiated Aboriginal man and they had 13 children]
I know it was cruel to get taken away. But when mother died that was a big thing in that time, no one to look after me, no one like a mother. And then when sister was young girl she's looking after me. She was taken by a white man and put in a box, tied up and put in a box and taken west, other side of Docker River and them places. 

See when they – they was taking her, I would have been lost, see, probably because no one was like my sister and mother. And brother. And when I think of it now, I'm telling you because, I often lay down and think what happened and that. And I thought when mum died, and my sister was taken, God knew best. It was like it was cruel I had to go to the home.  Looked after there and that. Yeah. And I would never have known about the lord Jesus God if I wasn’t taken. But it still hurt me what they did. 

[Another good reason]
Them days, all the girls were promised to a lot of man. Husbands. And have a guess what the husbands are? They were old man, they promise to young girls.  That was another good thing I didn’t, when I found out. 

[In her forties, Ruth met her sister again in Port Augusta]
This man walked up and he looked at me. And he said, your sister is over there. And I looked at him. So I walked over there to the camp, and they said someone’s coming, when my sister seen me she start crying.  You know she saw me, yeah.  We had a big cry and that. They’d seen my mother in me. They reckon I looked like my mother. That’s how they knew. 

[Her sister told her the missionaries had sent her a piece of cake on Ruth’s Wedding day but no information of Ruth’s whereabouts]
   
[The sisters remained in contact thereafter]
She used to come up and down to visit me from Oodnadatta. And I went back to Macumbar, to her. But the government used to watch my kids, see. See they wanted to take my children away too. Used to be at Blinman, they’d watch the kids, they asked me, are you alright? I said, yeah what, happy. They said, how’s the kids, they’re alright? They want to take my children too. Only time I was free from the government was when I got married. But all the same they still told me, you don't have to marry him, you can leave him, they were terrible. 
   
END TRANSCRIPT

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