John was removed
from his family as an infant in the 1940s. He spent his first years in
Bomaderry Children's Home at Nowra. At 10 he was transferred to Kinchela.
We didn't have a
clue where we came from. We thought the Sisters were our parents. They
didn't tell anybody - any of the kids - where they came from. Babies were
coming in nearly every day. Some kids came in at two, three, four days
old - not months - but days. They were just placed in the home and it
was run by Christian women and all the kids thought it was one big family.
We didn't know what it meant by 'parents' cause we didn't have parents
and we thought those women were our mothers.
It was drummed
into our heads that we were white.
I was definitely
not told that I was Aboriginal. What the Sisters told us was that we had
to be white. It was drummed into our heads that we were white. It didn't
matter what shade you were. We thought we were white. They said you can't
talk to any of them coloured people because you're white.
I can't remember
anyone from the welfare coming there. If they did I can't remember ...
We hardly saw any visitors whatsoever. None of the other kids had visits
from their parents. No visits from family. The worst part is, we didn't
know we had a family.
When you got to a
certain age - like I got to 10 years old ... they just told us we were
going on a train trip ... We all lined up with our little ports [school
cases] with a bible inside. That's all that was in the ports, see. We
really treasured that - we thought it was a good thing that we had something
... the old man from La Perouse took us from Sydney - well actually from
Bomaderry to Kinchela Boys' Home. That's when our problems really started
- you know!
This is where
we learned that we weren't white.
This is where we
learned that we weren't white. First of all they took you in through these
iron gates and took our little ports [suitcases] off us. Stick it in the
fire with your little bible inside. They took us around to a room and
shaved our hair off ... They gave you your clothes and stamped a number
on them ... They never called you by your name; they called you by your
number. That number was stamped on everything.
If we answered an
attendant back we were 'sent up the line'. Now I don't know if you can
imagine, 79 boys punching the hell out of you - just knuckling you. Even
your brother, your cousin.
They had to - if
they didn't do it, they were sent up the line. When the boys who had broken
ribs or broken noses - they'd have to pick you up and carry you right
through to the last bloke. Now that didn't happen once - that happened
Before I went to
Kinchela, they used to use the cat-o'-nine-tails on the boys instead of
being sent up the line. This was in the 30s and early 40s.
They thought you
Kinchela was a place
where they thought you were animals. You know it was like a place where
they go around and kick us like a dog ... It was just like a prison. Truthfully,
there were boys having sex with boys ... But these other dirty mongrels
didn't care. We had a manager who was sent to prison because he was doing
it to a lot of the boys, sexual abuse. Nothing was done. There was a pommie
bloke that was doing it. These attendants - if the boys told them, they
wouldn't even listen. It just happened ... I don't like talking about
We never went into
town ... the school was in the home ...all we did was work, work, work.
Every six months you were dressed up. Oh mate! You were done up beautiful
- white shirt. The welfare used to come up from Bridge St, the main bloke,
the superintendent to check the home out - every six months.
We were prisoners
from when we were born ... The girls who went to Cootamundra and the boys
who went to Kinchela - we were all prisoners. Even today they have our
file number so we're still prisoners you know. And we'll always be prisoners
while our files are in archives.
436, New South Wales. John's story appears on page 166 of Bringing
Last updated 2 December 2001.