Stolen Generations

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Personal Statement

It is important that I tell my story to the younger Aboriginal generation, so that they will appreciate what we have experienced, and take hold of the opportunities that are being offered to them today.

Transcript

Sam Dinah

Duration: 16:18

My name is Sam Dinah. I belong to the Najumooning tribe which is situated in the southwest of our state. Or the great southern. The Albany Mount Barker, Esperance region. I never had too much to do with my, my family and their tribal background, due to the fact that I was brought up in institutions. For most of my life. 

Our mother lived on the compound at Mogumber, Moore River settlement. And the brothers, the other siblings used to come down and I used to see them and, as far back as I can remember, three years of age, I was taken away from my mother.

[Sam’s mother continued to live on the compound, but Sam was forced to live in the children’s dormitory]
When I was – given an age by the government. To say by just looking at me, and say oh he’s three, four to five or whatever. There was no actual date of birth or nothing. We had house parents type of thing, as carers who looked after us in the kindergarten. Made sure that we had proper meals and um, and a place to sleep.

The sad part, the disturbing part about it is that um, we were locked in this dormitory type of thing from 6 o'clock at night till 6 o'clock in the morning. The doors were shut, the lights were turned off and that’s where we stayed. If you wanted to go to the toilet or anything like that, it um, you couldn't because you were locked in. And we just had to um, see it out. So if we wet the bed that was it, you slept in it till the next – following morning. There was no one came in to check on us during the night. It’s a miracle that, had a fire not occurred, we would never have been able to get out of that dormitory because the doors were locked from the outside.

[Memories of mum]
My mother, which um, which wasn’t far away from, from where we were in the Government compound, kindergarten area. Mum did come and see us. But we weren’t allowed to go and stay with her. So,um….
There were two attachments, one to the carers and one to my mother. Now I'm sort of split in between both.  And… it was quite disturbing, even up to the point to her passing, when she passed at a relatively young age.  

I was only about 7 or 8, or 6 or 7 when mum passed on. Very young. If you're looking at it from the emotional side of things, I mean there were, other children that I knew were quite, who could express themselves emotionally, but for some reason or another, not that I chose to do that, not that I couldn't, not that I didn’t want to, I just didn’t know how to. Because we were, it was something that, I couldn't work out from that day to this, and you know, it was um, it was a strange feeling really.

I was quite angry about that because I never um, I got a photograph of my mother down there that I didn’t even know what she looked like. And it was, oh 20, 30 years later that I found a photograph of her. And even then I didn’t know who it was. I asked my sister, she said, yeah that’s mum. 

[Leaving Moore River Settlement]
I was born in Moore River Native Settlement. I was there till probably about, oh maybe about 5, 6, 7 or something like that. By this time mum had passed on. We were told by the, one of the nurses who was looking after us, one of the carers, that in the kindergarten that ah, that we were going to be taken away from Moore River. Again, we didn’t ask any questions, didn’t think that it was going to be harmful to us in any way.

We were told to get on the back of this truck, early hours of the morning, taken to the railway station at Mogumber, put on the train, brought down to Perth.  And stayed over here at a little place in East Perth. And then we were on the train down to a place a place called Carrolup, Marybank near Katanning. I would have spent two years there. And then the same thing happened again.  The welfare officer came and said to us, asked us actually, what religion are you? Some of the boys said, oh we’re Catholics, some of us, myself and others said, oh we’re Church of England. Couple of days later this big truck pulls up. All you blokes that are Church of England, all you boys you get on that truck.  And it was just like yesterday, I could see us getting on the truck there and waving goodbye to all our brother cousins and, the truck took off of course, with us on the back. And we ended up at Roelands mission.

[Roelands mission]
It was a different environment. They appeared to care for us a lot better than at the Government – because Carrolup and Moore River were Government settlements. It was a hard core type of environment.  I would relate Carrolup and Moore River to a prison environment or an institution where kids were brought up. We went to school, I had very limited education.  As opposed to Roelands where we had a very good structured education there.

At Roelands, they had their Christian values.  Sometimes they were a bit too strict. I think I was around about 12 when myself and a few other boys around my age started to question why these things were happening to us, why it did happen to us. And for that we were punished because we started to ask questions. And the cuts, they came. 

If you've been to Roelands there's a road that goes up the middle of the mission, it was the girls on that side, the boys on this side.  And we weren't allowed to talk to each other. Found that a little hard to believe because my sisters, my sister was there, and I couldn't talk to her.  

[Where to belong]
So when I left Roelands I was around about, I was 14 years of age. And the other six years that made up to 20, I kept going back there all the time because that was my home. The only place I knew as home. We were brought up to believe that we were orphans. We didn’t have any family. Even my own biological brothers and sisters, were more or less strangers to me.

[Family]
Don't know who my father was. Mum was taken away from Mount Barker at a relatively young age. Placed at Moore River Native Settlement. I couldn't tell you how old she was when she was taken there because you know, I was only a young boy myself growing up.

[How Sam feels about being forcefully removed]
Quite disturbed because for the simple reason that my mother was living down not far from me and that we could have had a family environment with all my brothers and sisters.  But because this 1905 Act was to separate us and to become white and live the way that the ah, the authorities at that time wanted us to live. 
Under the Act, just didn’t know no compassion, no consideration. They had a policy in place, and they were prepared to carry out that policy. 

[Reconnecting with culture]
That was one of the things that we were – that was denied of us, growing up in those missions, about culture and customary law.  In a word I'm a, a white man. I'm a white man trapped in a black man’s body.  And it’s not uncommon.

I remember years ago going back to see some of my people, and I asked the reasons why they lived in the situation they were, in this little town. And they said to me, you're not one of us, you're white.  So, children like myself, and others I was brought up with, we term ourselves as in-between kids, we’re neither black we’re neither white. I was trying to live the white man’s law, the white man’s way but they didn’t want me. I tried to live my own people’s way, they didn’t want me. 

[Discrimination]
Some of the difficulties that I've experienced in my working life is that I've got certificates and degrees.  I'm also a ordained community minister. But what I've envisaged over the years, when I look at all the books and that around here, I've studied law as well, I'm still a black man. And people will let me know, even in the workplace. I've always had to prove that, prove that I can do what my fellow man can do.

[Reconciliation]
Kevin Rudd took on that great initiative and that great responsibility. Of saying sorry, which other Governments weren’t prepared to do. If I hurt somebody else and I've said I'm sorry, I've run over their pushbike so to speak. Whether I did it deliberately or I was unaware of it, I would go to the heart and soul, I’d go to the heart and soul and go back and I’d do the practical thing and I’d go and fix that bike up.  Now we as Aboriginal people are looking for changes. We’re still living in a rich country under third world conditions. 

Myself, I really believe that we should be compensated. We didn’t have any say in the matter of being removed, forcibly removed from our families into an environment that was so strange, that years later that we still have to suffer. Psychologically, physically, mentally. Loss of culture, loss of language. And these are the things that by saying sorry that should be encouraged and be part of the education, academic curriculum. 

[Struggle for reconciliation continues]
That’s the only way that reconciliation will come about is when people respect each other, accept each other. And recognise each other for who they are. Not what they are or what they may envisage that other person to be. 

How much more do we need, and this is the point I'm getting at, and this is what the brother cousins are saying, is that, how much more of these interviews do we have to have, how many marches down the street do we have to have before you're recognised and accepted? As – as Australians, not as Aborigines, but as Australians. And that’s what I want, that’s what the brother cousins want, that's what they want. 

END TRANSCRIPT

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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.