“All Stolen Gen met at The Empress. This is where we met our families”.
Coota Girls survivors who participated in a Members Forum held in Redfern on 21 August remembered the critical role that the former Empress Hotel in Regent Street played in reuniting them with their families. Survivors fondly recalled meeting the Aboriginal community, and even finding family, through connections at the Empress.
Survivors and descendants attended a Forum hosted by Directors of the Coota Girls Aboriginal Corporation (CGAC) at the National Centre for Indigenous Excellence to discuss how CGAC can support survivors and their families on their healing journeys, and connect them with the services they need. The forum was the third of five and follows others in Kempsey and Wagga Wagga. Ideas for support included: recording and distributing survivor stories; helping families heal through healing camps, reunions, social gatherings and trauma education; having Coota Girls march together on Sorry Day and other occasions; finding ways to support descendants who are imprisoned; and enabling the history of the Coota Girls Home to be told at the site. The ideas and suggestions from the five forums will form the basis of future Coota Girls planning and funding applications.
In the afternoon, a panel of Stolen Generation survivors and descendants including Aunties Fay Moseley, Janet Smith and Marlene Coombes from Coota Girls, Aunty Rebecca Curtis from Link Up and Paulette Whitton, whose father is a survivor of Kinchela Boys Home, told their stories and highlighted that trauma is intergenerational – it affects survivors and is passed down to descendants.
As in the earlier forums, a key message was that the ongoing removal of children from their families must stop. Families need help to address the issues they are facing before decisions are made to remove their children.
“Taking them away breaks down culture and community. We are trying to build those up”.
The next forum will be held in Dubbo on 22 October 2019. More details from www.cootagirls.org.au, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our thanks to Tribal Warriors and the National Centre for Indigenous Excellence, Redfern.