My mother believes…

… her life can be measured by the ‘doors’ she’s been forced to pass through in her life. For the most part – I guess most of us simply go in one door and step out the other, as we progress relatively peacefully through our own lives. Some of us are lucky – we get to choose. If we don’t like where it appears to be taking us, we can come out and try another door later. Sometimes, this gives us more choices then we can point a stick at – thus creating more opportunities and more freedom to decide as the moment takes us on it’s merry way.

For my mother though, it just wasn’t that simple. My mum – like many mum’s out there – is a survivor! Her doors weren’t open to her by choice in her early life. These were forced upon her by past Australian government policies. A legacy of the 1905 Act. Very few people are aware of the trauma associated with my mother’s journey, nor what it took for her to get here today. That she didn’t have to leave the Country she was born in to have these experiences, is simply another one of those little known facts hidden away in the history pages of this Country’s colourful past.

The first ‘door’? Well – when my mother was five years old, she was picked up and put in the back of an old army truck by a Nun. That first door – was the tail-gate being closed on her as she was pushed into the tray with a number of other part aborigine’s – all being removed from their mother’s under the then accepted policies for removing mixed blood Aboriginal children from their parents. You need to understand something here: parent’s weren’t asked. Her mother wasn’t told. My mother was TAKEN from her mother – ‘stolen’ by a Nun – acting under the State Government Act at the time, sanctioned by the Commonwealth: remove the children from their mothers – remove them from the families.

There’s something else you need to know. My mum was playing with the other children of the community she lived in. The truck pulled up, the red dust settled, a door opened, a booted foot stepped out and on the other end of it was this red face dressed all in white.  That face had white hands that matched.  It was these hands that grabbed my mother, lifted her up and put her in the back of an old army truck whereby the tail-gate was closed on the children in there. The car then rocked with the motion of the Nun getting back in the cab – and the children were driven away.

Her second door was the gate to the orphanage yard – it matched the ten foot high cyclone wire fencing – topped with barbed wire – that surrounded the yard.  It was a prison! They were led inside – scared now – some already wrecked with their crying, all murmuring in language – all trying to understand what had happened. This place was like no place my mother had seen before. It was to become her home for the next seven years. They would never leave it of their own choice again.

The third door was on the dormitory room they were thrust into and then it was locked behind them. The crying started with vigor then. The sobbing and chest-heaving would go on, all the way into the night. It would still be present in the morning – but a night of crying for your mum leaves you sobbing in way’s many wouldn’t be able to understand. Once in that room and that door was locked, a voice called out to the ‘new girls’ in Bardi – and my mother ran over to that voice, was engulfed in that person’s arms and cried herself and her comforter wet through with her tears. Over the years to come – as my mum grew older – she would do this very same thing for the new girls, as they too were brought to the orphanage. My mother, would never see her mother again.

So it began. Subsequent doors opened and closed. They were doors of punishment for talking in her language and for attempting to run away. They were doors of rejection as she wasn’t allowed to be treated in the whiteman’s hospital in town, nor was she allowed to be treated in the natives hospital outside of it. They were doors of exclusion as she was forced to do the drudgery for the well-to-do in town, but not allowed to take part in an education that gave her further opportunity. They were doors about control, dis-possession, de-humanisation and de-culturation. Somehow – my mother got through these doors – somehow she survived.

Life rolled on – my mother entered into an illegal relationship with a white man and he took her away from all of that. They married (that’s a whole other story) and they started a new life together post the 1967 referendum. That man is my father and he sits now beside the bed of my mother as she recovers from a knee operation, here in Perth. Those doors mark my mother, they drive my father, they fuel my desire to tell others the truth of what happened to people like my mother in this country. If you’re an Australian and fail to understand the resultant fall-out of having someone tip your whole cultural and family base on it’s head – robbing you of those you love – just look around you now. The results are all around you. There isn’t one Aboriginal or Islander family in this country that hasn’t been touched by this legacy.

Sometimes some of us make it through these doors. Sometimes we have help – but most times it’s because the person who comes out the other side is an extraordinary human being to begin with. I look at my mum with wonder each and every day because she is indeed – a most extraordinary person!

Belongum – Out!

About Belongum

People bring 'things' to me. Not necessarily PHYSICAL things as such - mostly just the loose bits and pieces floating around in their 'brain-box'. Sometimes, they also bring themselves - and THAT isn't anywhere near as simple as it sounds. I come here to pass some of this 'brain-box business' on to the ether world, and to empty my head. Besides folks - I love a good yarn - so come and join me!
This entry was posted in 1905 Act, 1967 Referendum, Aboriginal, adversity, Australia, Australiana, black, Blackfellas, child, control, culture, Family, fear, good samaritan, hard, hurt, Indigenous, Islander, Leaving Home, life, lonely, Lucky, Mother, Mum, racism, Society, Torres Strait Islander, Western Australia, white, Whitefellas, yarn. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to My mother believes…

  1. CW says:

    It was a horrible practice and just goes to show how strong Aboriginal people are, that families are still thriving and culture surviving despite what was done to so many. I am sorry it happened to your mum. She is indeed extraordinary, Ron (you outed your real name on Justine’s blog! good post there too by the way, thanks).

    Very kind of you CW… I say much the same thing to mostly Nyoongar peoples that I work with now. It’s an amazing thing to consider how people have survived such a thing. Wow – is all I can say!


  2. Cellobella says:

    Thank you for writing down part of your mother’s story.

    No CB – thank YOU for reading it! To be honest – I didn’t want to write this. It’s so damn personal… but we so need to know that these stories exist. Not so we can batter ourselves with the ugliness of this as such – but to celebrate those who came through such experiences and times – regardless of all that was stacked against them. I wish my mum could tell her own story. I know now – that she’s still not ready yet – but little bit’s keep escaping her from time to time. It’s as if she can’t hold it all in anymore – so it’s slowly, slowly for us from now on in… we’ll see eh!


  3. Baby Power Dyke says:

    I don’t have any words.
    Do you mind if I post a link to this on Twitter?

    Not at all BPD… you’re most welcome! Thanks for coming by mate and thanks for reading my mother’s story!


  4. Ian says:

    G’day [ Ron 🙂 ]

    Hope ya ol’ mum’s well on the mend… all the best to you all.

    PS I just has a quick trip your way sorta… me littlest brother up and died in Esperance the other week 😦

    That’s not good news Ian – sorry to hear that mate! Hopefully you’ll settle in back at home then… best to you and yours eh – take care! 😉


  5. Great story.

    Terrific story.

    Everyone has their story that needs to be heard. And this is a classic example of how we’d all understand each other so much more, and have more compassion and empathy, if we knew what other people had lived with and were living with.

    Thanks hbb… thanks for the kind words on behalf of my mother! I think you’re spot on – it takes a greater understanding of these things to help people grow together and to heal. It’s going to take a long, long time… but – I still live in hope. 😉


  6. Simone says:

    Thank you 🙂 I know a bit about these stories, though not enough. So many out there have no idea, and don’t realise how recent this all is.
    Hope your mum’s knee is doing well.

    Thank YOU Simone! It’s as you say of course, the more that know about this means that there are more that will have some understanding and – perhaps from there – empathy.


  7. Simone says:

    Damn I hate that smiley, it’s a normal smiley but it looks like it’s laughing, it shouldn’t be :/

    I know… I always fall back on my *wink* ‘smiley’ for that exact same reason…


  8. Shelley says:

    You really do tell the most awful stories in the most beautiful way. Thank you for sharing with us. It must have been hard to write.
    Hey ex-NPB… I’ll drop on by and say Gudday mate… was worried you might have fallen away somewhere… sure hope not! Yes – it was… still not that comfy with it really. It’s opened up a huge can of worms and I’m wondering on the effort to stuff ’em all, back into their can! Not sure I can… not sure I ever really could. And I’m not my mother… go figure! We eventually live our own parent’s business – I’m not sure we can actually escape it mate. Hope this isn’t the case for you eh?!


  9. Shelley says:

    I think it’s the case for all of us. Still, at least some of us know and understand our parents’ stories. It must be very confusing to deal with the consequences when you have no idea what lead where and why – if you see what I mean.

    I did kind of drop off for a while but here I am, back again

    I do Shelley. Who’d have thought another person’s life – a generation or more ago – could carry such consequence over into our lives eh – in such different ways, with such different stories. We learn so much later about this past – almost too late to do anything with it. That’s only IF you get to learn about it that is…

    … I feel for those who don’t sometimes – and I think the flip side of that (at times) might also be a ‘good’ thing.

    But hey – what would I know eh?


  10. Shelley says:

    You know loads. Stop being so modest!

    What disturbs me is that we don’t only deal with the consequences of our parents’ lives. I can see a clear line through my mother’s family that goes back to her grandmother (at the very least) whose consequences I still feel. It may be too late to do anything but understanding is definitely important.

    It’s scary when you think about it. It can reach back so far into the lives of those who – in turn – gave you life, it develops a consequential depth and awareness all of it’s own. It’s almost as if it needs to ‘mature’ too – not reach it’s full ‘potential’ until many generations later – where the full impact of it wreaks the most damage. It seems to take on the life of a Wilbur Smith novel at times – developing it’s own Saga momentum as it goes – scary!

    Arghhh – my head hurts! I’m going to have to explore this in a post later I reckon – or we’ll be running a micro (macro?)-blog under our conversation’s haha – cheers 😉


  11. mummabare says:

    Its always such a brave thing to do to talk about it, certainly not a comfortable place sometimes, for listener or storyteller. We still very much feel the implications of those policies, policies that were 3 generations were subjected to on dads side. Sometimes what makes me sad is not what our elders share, but what they don’t. Those quiet moments, of inner reflection, sad sighs, silences that mean “enough its hurts too much and we have to leave this now”…
    But then I also try to remember good things that have happened since, like finding a long lost sister or brother, finding cousins and cousins…and oh yes…more cousins 😉
    Survivors indeed.

    All the best to your mum, I hope her operation went well and she heals quickly.

    You got me by surprise MB – I missed you in the mix – my apologies!
    Yes – the depth of the ‘hidden’ things in our families lives is amazing. As Shelley and I were commenting above – it just seems to reach back ‘forever’ sometimes. I wonder how far forward it will continue to reach – especially in our case MB, where our families were made to ‘ride a wave’ made for them by out-dated policies and out-dated ‘ideas’… when does this wave finally hit the beach for us eh?! And all we do is continue to pick up the pieces… after all – what else can really we do?


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  13. JoD says:

    Hey lovely storytelling despite being hard and heartbreaking.
    At least the children could comfort each other somewhat and I guess thats created a bond between their peers that will last forever. Your mother learnt to be strong and she passed that on to you…
    Thanks Ron for alerting me to your story and your blog. xx


  14. belongum says:

    My mum still sees those (who are still alive now) who were with her in the orphanage. There’s not that many these days. A lot of the girls who were with mum there, grew up and found they were nothing but a shadow of what they’d once might have been. Mum likened them to ghosts. They still light up around each other you know (no surprise eh) – it’s a humbling thing to witness. I see this phenomenon amongst certain groups and they all have one thing in common: survival! I’m a lucky bloke… 😉


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