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Bringing them Home - Greg story


I was born on Cape
Barren. At the time I was taken the family comprised mum, my sister and
[my two brothers]. And of course there was my grandmother and all the
other various relatives. We were only a fairly small isolated community
and we all grew up there in what I considered to be a very peaceful loving
community. I recall spending most of my growing up on the Island actually
living in the home of my grandmother and grandfather. The other children
were living with mum in other places.

Until the time I
was taken I had not been away from the Island, other than our annual trips
from Cape Barren across to Lady Baron during the mutton bird season.

The circumstances
of my being taken, as I recollect, were that I went off to school in the
morning and I was sitting in the classroom and there was only one room
where all the children were assembled and there was a knock at the door,
which the schoolmaster answered. After a conversation he had with somebody
at the door, he came to get me. He took me by the hand and took me to
the door. I was physically grabbed by a male person at the door, I was
taken to a motor bike and held by the officer and driven to the airstrip
and flown off the Island. I was taken from Cape Barren in October 1959
[aged 12].

I had no knowledge
[I was going to be taken]. I was not even able to see my grandmother [and
I had] just the clothes I had on my back, such as they were. I never saw
mum again.

To all intents and
purposes, I guess my grandmother was looked upon as my mother in some
respects because of my association with her and when I was taken there
are actual letters on my file that indicate that she was so affected by
the circumstances of my being removed from the Island that she was hospitalised,
and was fretting and generally her health went on her. A nursing sister
on the Island had my grandmother in hospital and she was in fact writing
letters to the Welfare Department to find out, you know, how I was getting
on and that sort of thing, and asking if I could go back to the Island
for holidays. That was refused. My grandmother was removed from the Island
and placed in an aged-care hospital, and I was taken to see her and when
I did she had basically lost her mind and she did not know who I was.

It is fairly evident
from reading my welfare file that [the teacher] was the eyes and ears
of the Welfare Department and that he was obviously sending reports back
to them about the conditions on the Island.

There is a consent
form on [my] file that mum signed and it did include [my sister and my
two brothers] - and their names were crossed out and mine was left. I
do not know whether it was because I was at the top or not. I might add
that most people that I have spoken to said that mum, whilst she could
read her name, could not read or write, and obviously would not have understood
the implications of what she was signing. [It] has been witnessed by the

I was flown off the
Island and ... I was flown to where the small planes land at Launceston.
I was eventually placed with some people in Launceston. I have some recollection
of going to school at some stage. I noted from my file that I was transported
to Hobart in 1960 - my recollection of that was being put into a semi-trailer
and picked up on the side of the road by some welfare officers down there.
I was placed with some people in [Hobart], and I guess, fortunately for
me, I could not have been in better hands because I still maintain a relationship
with them; they look on me as their son. They had one daughter but Mrs
-- used to care for other foster children and the house was full of other
non-Aboriginal children.

I had always wanted
to return to the Island but I could never bring myself to hopping on a
plane and returning. [It was] thirty years before I went back. [The night
I returned] I could not settle. I think I had a cup of tea and I decided
I would go in a different direction and I walked around the sand spit
and - I do not know, something just made me turn around and look back
and I looked to the school and - I just looked back to where we used to
live as kids. My whole life flashed before me and I just collapsed in
the sand and started crying ... And when I composed myself as best I could
I just sort of reflected on things and my whole life was just racing through
my mind and I guess I just wanted to be part of a family that I never
had. I just wanted to be with my mum and my grandmother and my brothers
and sisters.

Confidential evidence
384, Tasmania. The consent form signed by Greg's mother states the reason
for his removal: 'I am a widow, in poor health'. After Greg was taken
his mother had another daughter but Greg was not aware of her existence
until 1994. One of Greg's brothers states that after Greg went their mother
'was in total despair'. They lived in conditions of extreme poverty in
'a run down shanty'. One afternoon their mother went drinking and suffered
a fatal accident. Later the police came with a warrant to collect the
children and flew them to Launceston. The boys were fostered together
but each of the girls went to a different family. The first time the five
children were all together was in 1995.
Greg's story appears on page
99 of Bringing them home.

Last updated 2 December 2001.