Friday, February 15, 2008

one of the stolen ones

In 1966 I started secondary school at a Girls' Grammar School in suburban Melbourne.
Not long after the start of year 7, the Headmistress came into our form room and told us that we would be getting a new student: a full blooded aboriginal, straight from the Missions of the Northern territory who had been 'adopted' by local Baptist missionaries.
We were given a talk about possible cultural differences and the need for understanding, and that was about it.
'Cecelia' was plonked down in the rarified atmosphere of our rather spartan, fairly joyless, academic establishment and left to get on with it. Occasionally she would take off for a few days and 'go walkabout' and the school was reasonably understanding about that in a slightly paternalistic, condescending way.

She and I weren't exactly friends, we hung with different crowds, so perhaps the girls who were close to her knew more about her personal history, but really, I think most of us just accepted that she'd been adopted and assumed that meant she was an orphan. I didn't ever ask because that would've been too personal
[ after all, I thought that her parents had passed away - you didn't ask about that sort of stuff ]
She was cheeky, irreverent, a bit of a scalliwag
I hadn't given her a thought in nearly 30 years

but that changed when the stories of the stolen generations began to surface, and I realised that in all probability she had been one of the last of those taken away from family and home... sent to live in the cold south with a white family, and a school with an overwhelmingly white, middle class, Protestant bias... and I didn't even know her 'real' name. Certainly the surname she was enrolled under was that of her adoptive parents, but was her first name even Cecelia? or had even that been a new addendum ? How did she feel about having her identity completely changed at a government's whim?
Who was left behind to mourn? mother? grandmother? sisters and brothers? I'll never know the grief she or they may have had to endure ...
but I'm sorry
for her and all the others like her

4 comments:

lisette said...

me too - i went to school with a couple of kids who i now realise were stolen generations. an i have friends my age who were stolen or grew up terrified of 'the welfare'

absolutely shameful

mueja said...

-.-

Sheepish Annie said...

it's just amazing to me as I read more and more of these stories. How strong and resilient she must have been to have lived through that and still persevered. I'm simply stunned by it all.

But, I'm also impressed by the opportunity this revelation has given people for reflection and understanding. I truly hope that the world uses this tragedy as a learning tool. There are no excuses and no way to fix the past, but taking a lesson from it makes us responsible for a better future.

Tanya Brown said...

Oh, goodness. The crimes we commit in the headlong, blind, obstinate pursuit of what we think is "right".

Poor Cecelia. I hope her irreverence saw her through, and that she wasn't doomed to go through life rootless.