At the age of four,
I was taken away from my family and placed in Sister Kate's Home - Western
Australia where I was kept as a ward of the state until I was eighteen
years old. I was forbidden to see any of my family or know of their whereabouts.
Five of us D. children were all taken and placed in different institutions
in WA. The Protector of Aborigines and the Child Welfare Department in
their 'Almighty Wisdom' said we would have a better life and future brought
up as whitefellas away from our parents in a good religious environment.
All they contributed to our upbringing and future was an unrepairable
scar of loneliness, mistrust, hatred and bitterness. Fears that have been
with me all of life. The empty dark and lonely existence was so full of
many hurtful and unforgivable events, that I cannot escape from no matter
how hard I try. Being deprived of the most cherished and valuable thing
in life as an Aboriginal Child - love and family bonds. I would like to
tell my story of my life in Sister Kate's home - WA.
My name is Millicent
D. I was born at Wonthella WA in 1945. My parents were CD and MP, both
'half-caste' Aborigines. I was one of seven children, our family lived
in the sandhills at the back of the Geraldton Hospital. There was a lot
of families living there happy and harmonious. It was like we were all
part of one big happy family.
In 1949 the Protector
of Aborigines with the Native Welfare Department visited the sandhill
camps. All the families living there were to be moved to other campsites
or to the Moore River Aboriginal Settlement. Because my parents were fair
in complexion, the authorities decided us kids could pass as whitefellas.
I was four years old and that was the last time I was to see my parents
again. Because my sisters were older than me they were taken to the Government
receiving home at Mount Lawley. My brother Kevin was taken to the boys
home in Kenwick. Colin and I were taken to the Sister Kate's Home. We
were put in separate accommodation and hardly ever saw each other. I was
so afraid and unhappy and didn't understand what was happening.
We were told Sundays
was visiting day when parents and relatives came and spent the day. For
Colin and I that was a patch of lies because our family were not allowed
to visit. We spent each Sunday crying and comforting each other as we
waited for our family. Each time it was the same - no one came. That night
we would cry ourselves to sleep and wonder why. We were too young to understand
we were not allowed family visits.
A couple of years
passed and I started primary school.
It had been such
a long time since I had seen my brother Colin. I was so helpless and alone.
My brother had been taken away to the boys' home in Kenwick and now I
was by myself. I became more withdrawn and shy and lived in a little world
of my own hoping one day Mum would come and take me out of that dreadful
place. As the years passed I realised that I would never see my family
They told me that
my family didn't care...
They told me that
my family didn't care or want me and I had to forget them. They said it
was very degrading to belong to an Aboriginal family and that I should
be ashamed of myself, I was inferior to whitefellas. They tried to make
us act like white kids but at the same time we had to give up our seat
for a whitefella because an Aboriginal never sits down when a white person
Then the religion
began. We had church three times a day, before breakfast, lunchtime and
after school. If we were naughty or got home from school late we had to
kneel at the altar for hours and polish all the floors and brass in the
church. We had religion rammed down our throats from hypocrites who didn't
know the meaning of the word. We used to get whipped with a wet ironing
cord and sometimes had to hold other children (naked) while they were
whipped, and if we didn't hold them we got another whipping. To wake us
up in the morning we were sprayed up the backside with an old fashioned
pump fly spray. If we complained we got more. Hurt and humiliation was
a part of our every day life and we had to learn to live with it. Several
more years passed and I still had no contact with my family, I didn't
know what they looked like or how I could ever find them. By this time
I was old enough to go to High School. This meant I didn't have to look
after several of the younger kids as I had previously done, bathing, feeding
and putting them on the potty and then off to bed, chopping wood before
school and housework which all of us kids done and the housemothers sat
back and collected wages - for doing nothing. My life was miserable, and
I felt I was a nobody and things couldn't get any worse. But I was wrong.
The worst was yet
While I was in first
year high school I was sent out to work on a farm as a domestic. I thought
it would be great to get away from the home for a while. At first it was.
I was made welcome and treated with kindness. The four shillings I was
payed went to the home. I wasn't allowed to keep it, I didn't care. I
was never payed for the work I did at Sister Kate's so you don't miss
what you didn't get, pocket money etc.
The first time I
was sent to the farm for only a few weeks and then back to school. In
the next holidays I had to go back. This time it was a terrifying experience,
the man of the house used to come into my room at night and force me to
have sex. I tried to fight him off but he was too strong.
When I returned to
the home I was feeling so used and unwanted. I went to the Matron and
told her what happened. She washed my mouth out with soap and boxed my
ears and told me that awful things would happen to me if I told any of
the other kids. I was so scared and wanted to die. When the next school
holidays came I begged not to be sent to that farm again. But they would
not listen and said I had to.
I ran away from the
home, I was going to try to find my family. It was impossible, I didn't
even know where to go. The only thing was to go back. I got a good belting
and had to kneel at the altar everyday after school for two weeks. Then
I had to go back to that farm to work. The anguish and humiliation of
being sent back was bad enough but the worse was yet to come.
This time I was raped,
bashed and slashed with a razor blade on both of my arms and legs because
I would not stop struggling and screaming. The farmer and one of his workers
raped me several times. I wanted to die, I wanted my mother to take me
home where I would be safe and wanted. Because I was bruised and in a
state of shock I didn't have to do any work but wasn't allowed to leave
When they returned
me to the home I once again went to the Matron. I got a belting with a
wet ironing cord, my mouth washed out with soap and put in a cottage by
myself away from everyone so I couldn't talk to the other girls. They
constantly told me that I was bad and a disgrace and if anyone knew it
would bring shame to Sister Kate's Home. They showed me no comfort which
I desperately needed. I became more and more distant from everyone and
tried to block everything out of my mind but couldn't. I ate rat poison
to try and kill myself but became very sick and vomited. This meant another
After several weeks
of being kept away from everyone I was examined by a doctor who told the
Matron I was pregnant. Another belting, they blamed me for everything
that had happened. I didn't care what happened to me anymore and kept
to myself. All I wanted now was to have my baby and get away as far as
I could and try and find my family.
My daughter was born
[in 1962] at King Edward Memorial Hospital. I was so happy, I had a beautiful
baby girl of my own who I could love and cherish and have with me always.
But my dreams were
soon crushed: the bastards took her from me and said she would be fostered
out until I was old enough to look after her. They said when I left Sister
Kate's I could have my baby back. I couldn't believe what was happening.
My baby was taken away from me just as I was from my mother.
My baby was taken
away from me just as I was from my mother.
Once again I approached
the Matron asking for the Address of my family and address of the foster
family who had my daughter. She said that it was Government Policy not
to give information about family and she could not help me. I then asked
again about my baby girl and was told she did not know her whereabouts.
In desperation I rang the King Edward Memorial Hospital. They said there
was no record of me ever giving birth or of my daughter Toni. Then I wrote
to the Native Welfare Department only to be told the same thing and that
there were no records of the D. family because all records were destroyed
I now had no other
options but to find a job and somewhere to live. After working for a while
I left Western Australia and moved to Adelaide to try and get my life
together and put the past behind me. I was very alone, shy and not many
friends and would break down over the simplest thing. Every time I saw
a baby I used to wonder, could that by my little girl. I loved her and
so desperately wanted her back. So in 1972 I returned to Western Australia
and again searched for my family and child. I returned to see the Matron
from Sister Kate's. This time she told me that my daughter was dead and
it would be in my best interest to go back to South Australia and forget
about my past and my family. I so wanted to find them, heartbroken I wandered
the streets hoping for the impossible. I soon realized that I could come
face to face with a family member and wouldn't even know.
Defeated I finally
returned to Adelaide. In my heart I believed that one day everything would
be alright and I would be reunited with my family. My baby was dead. (That's
what I was told). I didn't even get to hold her, kiss her and had no photographs,
but her image would always be with me, and I would always love her. They
couldn't take that away from me.
640, South Australia: WA woman removed in 1949. In January 1996, Millicent
received an enquiry from the South Australian welfare authorities. A woman
born in 1962 was searching for her birth mother. This was Toni, Millicent's
daughter. The two have since been reunited. Millicent's story appears
on page 115 of Bringing them home.
Last updated 2 December 2001.