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Personal Statement

I decided to take part in these interviews because I thought it was the right thing to do. It would also benefit my people to have someone speak about what happened to them and a lot of Aboriginal people of that time. Also giving other people, who are interested in knowing the truth about the Stolen Generations, the opportunity to hear from someone who experienced it.


Athol Mourish

Duration: 11:00

My name is Athol Mourish. I was born in Narrogin reared up in Beverley. My tribe is the Noongar tribe. One of the biggest ones in WA I think it is. [laughs] Yeah.

[Life as a child]
When I was a kid, before we were taken away and that me and my cousin used to go and set our own rabbit traps and everything for our own breakfast, dinner. Going up the rivers and that. Playing around at the rivers. Going for jilgies. It was really good.

At one place down the river we had a big slippery slide. We used to grab all the water and chuck it on this footpath and take all our clothes off and just run and slide in this big mud hey. [laughs] We had good fun. No, it was really good eh? Yeah we had everyone on the reserve. All our uncles, aunties and --- no we had a big mob on a reserve and that was pretty good, you know. Just one big family, eh.

[Being taken]
1968. I think I was about ten. My dad and that was shearing at the time and one day this little --- this black car come. It was the welfare mob. Then they said to my mother they were taking me away because they were neglecting their children. So they took me to Wandering Mission in this little black car and when I was leaving the family and that, I was just crying like anything. In the back of the car. And cried all the way to Wandering. And I got to Wandering Mission and, you know, settled down a little bit there because there was a lot of other Noongar kids and that, all in Wandering Mission. Yeah, yeah it was good but it wasn’t good being taken away but.

[What the family went through]
Yeah just the three oldest ones. Me, my brother and older sister Susan, was just in the missions and that. Like the youngest ones were fostered out to dad’s sisters.

[Life in Wandering Mission]
School every day. Church ever day. Through wintertime it just is the coldest place in WA, Wandering. You had to walk about half a mile across a paddock with ice all over it, you know, sometimes kids haven’t got any shoes and your [laughs] your toes are that freezing, eh.

[Life in Mt Lawley Receiving Home]
Then I ran away from Wandering. Then they bring you back to the mission and they send you to Mt Lawley Receiving Home, which is a place in east Perth there. A place where you’re settled in for a while then you get fostered out to other parents. And you’re locked up too, you know, everything - keys and that. And boys one side. The girls the other side.

They used to let you out to play sports. There was a East Perth-Highgates big footie oval right next to the Mt Lawley Receiving Home and I used to go out and play footy a lot with them and used to go out ice skating. But always come back and get locked up and that, you know. Run away a couple of times and then after when they bring you back they make you stand in the corner naked. For shame. [laughs] And everyone else walking past you. Try and get far but there’s always a police they catch you and bring you back. [laughs] Just always getting caught and bring back to Receiving Home. And start all over again.

All around WA they find you foster parents and that and sometimes you go there then you don’t like it. Then you sort of come back to Mt Lawley Receiving Home. Then you wait for the next call. [laughs] I was fostered out to a couple of families. I didn’t like it. So I come back to Mt Lawley Receiving Home. Then I went up to Tarden. They sent me up to Tarden Mission.

[Life in Tarden Mission]
I was, oh going on 12, 13 then. Tarden was like another Catholic place where you got to go to church and everything, you know, every night. Every day. If you sleep in or anything you sort of got to stand up in the big mess hall there, where they have breakfast and everything. And everyone just standing watching --- just sitting down watching you standing. You’re standing eating. [laughs] Shame you. They shame you out in front of the other kids and that.

One day I said ‘No. I’m not going to stand up.’ I just walked out and one of the priests came out and tried to drag me back in. No way, you know, I’m not standing up. [laughs] Yeah.

That was some years then mum and dad, you never know, they might --- they’d just pop in, you know, and you’d get really pleased to see them. Then the next minute the mission called the cops and that to get them to take dad away. And I started kicking up and everything because I’d seen my family again, you know, and when they leave I sort of just get back into the mission swing again, you know. Yeah. You’re never allowed to go home with them, you know, because you were a state of the ward or something. Yeah.

It was pretty hard but you got to learn to deal with it. Some days you sit back and think how I’m going to get home and all that. You know, and what’s --- how the family is and all that. And how are your brothers and sisters, you know, you just have your days.

Me and this bloke run away from there and they sent us back down to the Receiving Home and all that. Then from there I went up to Moora. Started working on the farm then when I was about 13. Yeah. And my dad used to come up all the time and the family and that used to come up, see me. But then when they go back home I was pretty upset and everything.

[Athol’s relationship to his family while away]
About five or six years or, say --- I knew where mum and them was but I just the way they’d been --- I’d been taken away, put in this mission and that mission and Receiving Homes and that. And you’re wondering why you’re in the mission. Their word is neglect. Neglecting the children. They reckon my mum and that couldn’t look after the kids and that. So they just took them away.

I was pretty happy. Everything was --- I was so happy with whatever, you know, all our lives, what we used to do every day. Day in and day out, you know, then the welfare came in and said ‘neglect.’ My parents wasn’t neglecting us, you know, just the welfare come along and said ‘neglect.’ From there just took everything away.

[Coming home]
Oh, just felt good, you know, back in ’73, I come back when I was about 13, 14 --- about 15 I think it was. Come back home to Beverley to the parents and that, you know, my family and that. And sort of got on with life from there and just, you know, got to know all my family again a little bit better and everything. The pain and that was still there, you know, being taken away.

I just don’t know --- just been hard for mum and that. Because mum had been through a lot and I been through a lot too. And just --- like you just want to get on with things. But things always come back to you like some people say this and say that and all that, you know --- yeah. My mother now, she still don’t talk. She keeps everything inside. Most of the family just like to keep everything inside.

[How Athol deals with the pain]
You got to be strong. And just deal with it day by day, you know, and yeah, day by day. [sighs]





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