“You girls have been the strength and have inspired me. I’m so grateful to you. We’re stronger together. We get our strength from you” (Glenda Simon, descendant)
Coota Girls survivors and descendants attended a forum hosted by Directors of the Coota Girls Aboriginal Corporation (CGAC) in Campbelltown on 8 November to explore how CGAC can support survivors and their families on their healing journeys. The forum is the last of five to be held in 2019, and follows others in Kempsey, Wagga Wagga, Redfern and Dubbo.
Forum participants paid tribute to the resilience of survivors and how inspired and grateful they are for that strength. A number of family members shared their own stories of grief and trauma stemming from their mother’s experience of being stolen and institutionalised, and of not knowing their grandmothers and other elders. Participants agreed that addressing intergenerational trauma was a key priority, and that the on-going removal of kids from families must stop.
“My mother was stolen. I’m not stolen, I’m lost. I see it every day at work and I see it in our community” (Peter Townsend, descendant)
Ideas for future activities included: making the history of Stolen Generations and the impact on their descendants very widely known and understood in schools, in Aboriginal communities and in the wider population; tackling intergenerational trauma and helping families heal; and having younger people step up to take the burden from survivors.
In the afternoon, a panel of Stolen Generation survivors including Aunties Lorraine Peeters, Marlene Coombes and Janet Smith from Coota Girls, and Aunty Rita Wright from the Stolen Generations Council told their stories to an audience that included representatives of legal services, non-government service providers and managers and staff from the Department of Communities and Justice.
The ideas and suggestions from the five forums will form the basis of future Coota Girls planning and funding applications.
Our thanks to Yvett and Alanah and their colleagues at Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation for supporting the forum; to Aunty Margaret Anderson and Kaye Bussell for Welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremony; and to the staff and children from Ooranga Wandarrah Preschool for entertaining us with a very beautiful song.