Aunty Fay Moseley
Aunty Fay Moseley’s father was a Rat of Tobruk in WWII. His unit was called the “Devil’s Own”, she says, because there were more Kooris in it then non Aboriginal soldiers. The 2/13 battalion was the only Australian unit to see out the entire 241-day siege of Tobruk in 1941. It was also one of the last to return to Australia.
“Dad fought for this country to protect its people and their children, yet they took his children away,”
Outside of the NSW Riverina town of Leeton, Faye and five of her siblings were walking to school one day when they were literally hauled into a vehicle. Their parents were at work.
She was taken to the Cootamundra Domestic Training Home for Aboriginal Girls to be trained as a servant and assimilated into white society.
She said the Stolen Generations “generated billions of dollars in revenue working out on those farms and in houses.” They were never paid. Aunty Fay says that Australia still doesn’t understand the experiences of the Stolen Generations, and the profound impact that period of history continues to have on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities today. She is worried about the numbers of Aboriginal children still being taken into protective custody. ‘History is a very important part of culture,’she said.
‘Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.’
On the 20th anniversary of the Bringing Them Home report, Aunty Fay says its recommendations are more important than ever. She also wants future funding for healing programs to go to grassroots Indigenous organisations.
“All of the money goes to non-Aboriginal people.”
“They can’t relate to us. Non-Aboriginal people don’t understand our suffering. It’s like we’ve been through a war, and we continue to go through the war,” she said.
Aunty Lorraine Peeters
Aunty Lorraine Peeters is a Gamilaroi and Wailwan woman from Wailwan country in central west New South Wales.
At the age of four she was forcibly taken from her family in Brewarrina. Along with hundreds of other girls she was placed in the Cootamundra Domestic Training Home for Aboriginal Girls.
“We were brainwashed to act, speak, dress and think white and we were punished if we didn’t!”
“We were not allowed to talk in our language or about culture or about our families. It wasn’t until I was in my fifties that I suffered a mental health issue, trauma. There was an Aboriginal person inside, screaming to get out.”
As a result of undertaking her own healing journey, Lorraine developed the Marumali ProgramTM, which is based on the Marumali Journey of Healing Model. It’s a unique program to increase the quality of support available to Stolen Generations members.
“When you’ve been through as much as we have, the trauma can easily be reactivated by those who don’t understand it. To prevent this, trauma-informed training should be mandatory for everyone working with our mob, especially Stolen Generations members and their families, as recommended by the Bringing them Home report.”
Aunty Lorraine works with survivors, service providers and health practitioners and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inmates within correctional centres—delivering the program to more than 3000 participants.
Aunty Lorraine says Western style counselling is not appropriate for the Stolen Generations. “Collective healing is so important for institutionalised people, you don’t have to tell or explain your story to anybody, we just know the trauma that everyone has experienced.”
Aunty Lorraine played a key role in the 2008 Apology to the Stolen Generations, presenting the Prime Minister with a glass coolamon, a vessel traditionally used to carry babies, as a symbol of hope.
Aunty Marlene Coombes
I lived on the Aboriginal Mission outside of Brewarrina. We had bush tucker to eat. Sometimes someone would catch a kangaroo or emu and share with all the families. We weren’t allowed to go to the river on our own because we had to stay away from the ‘water dog’ who might eat us.
I remember going to the school at the Brewarrina Mission. I really enjoyed going to school on the mission. We’d have cocoa and damper to eat at school, and they would even cook dinner for us. The mission was 9 miles out of town, and we would run into town all the time.
We were Brownies and we were so proud of putting our Brownie uniforms on. We used to play like normal kids. We made a beach down on the mission. It had clear water and we would swim around. One day we went looking for honey, someone disturbed the bees, and we all ended up in the water.
We’d go to church on Sundays. I loved going to church, we would have visiting preachers and it was so beautiful to be there. Singing was so important and would gather us together. I still remember the songs.
We used to spend time with our families in big groups. We used to move between families on the mission when mum went away.
I remember when welfare came and mum would tell us to go and hide in the bushes. I hated that black car. We’d see mum lying on the ground because she was so upset. When welfare came for us, we were all playing in the open, and mum saw the black car. Mum said ‘quick!’ hide. They had already taken three of my brothers and sisters. We tried to hide in the bushes but they found us. When they found us mum was so upset she collapsed on the ground again crying.
I asked ‘where are we going’ and the white fella said ‘we are going to take you on a holiday’. We put a fight up, but we were only little kids.
Aunty Doreen Webster
Aunty Doreen Webster is a Barkindji woman, born in Wilcannia, in the north west of New South Wales.
“I remember happy times with my parents before I was taken. My dad worked on a station. I loved it. I had a younger sister. She was a baby when she was taken.”
Aunty Doreen and her brother John were taken to the local police station and locked up in cell. The next day she was put on a train to Sydney, where at Central Station, Aunty Doreen was separated from her brother.
“A man was waiting there for my brother, from Kinchela Boys Home. I said ‘Where are you going?’ And I was pulling at him, trying to pull him back,” she said. “Here I am on the station, a little eight year old, screaming and crying because they were taking my brother away.”
Aunty Doreen was taken to the Cootamundra Domestic Training Home for Aboriginal Girls. “When I got up to Cootamundra I was thinking, ‘What’s going on here? Where am I?’ I had no idea where I was or what was happening to me. I was screaming for my mum and dad. When we got there we were treated so cruelly—so cruelly,” Aunty Doreen said.
She recalls the matron asking a police officer to punish her. “I was sitting down on the ground and he got me by the hair of the head and just pulled me up, straight up to my feet—lifted me off the ground and stood me on my feet—and then he stood on my foot. I had no shoes on. I was screaming out in agony. It was just horrifying. I used to run away all the time,” she said.
Aunty Doreen is now a vocal advocate of appropriate aged care for the Stolen Generations. On the 20th anniversary of the Bringing Them Home report, she wants the survivors of Cootamundra, and the infamous Kinchela Boys Home, to have their own joint aged care facility, so they can spend their last years together.
“For when we get older, a place where we can be. We are family, we are sisters to the Kinchela boys. They are brothers to us. And there is a closeness. That is our family.”