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Bringing them Home - Rose story


We always lived by
ourselves. Not that we thought we were better than any other Koori family.
It's just that the white welfare, if they seen a group of Koori families
together, they would step in and take their children away never to be
seen again.

... never to be
seen again

We moved from South
Gippsland to East Gippsland. By this time I was about 9 years old. My
parents pulled me out of school because the Welfare was taking the Koori
kids from school never to be seen again. My parents didn't want this to
happen to us. That's why we always lived by ourselves.

My parents made a
little mia-mia with bushes and sticks around our heads and our feet at
the fire which would burn all night. We all shared the 2 big grey government
of Victoria blankets and was a very close family. Our little jobs were
to gather whatever we could while our parents were picking [bean and pea
picking for a local grower].

We were never allowed
to walk down to our camp the same way because our parents didn't want
the welfare to find us. That's why we couldn't make a beaten track. Then
my parents got paid from picking. They went into Lakes Entrance to get
a few groceries and left me, being the oldest, to care for my other brothers
and sisters, which I always done. I was like their second mother but big
sister. [4 younger siblings aged between 6 months and 7 years.]

The baby started
crying so I went and got my uncle to come and watch the kids until I walked
in town to look for my parents. The town was about 15 ks so I left the
camp and walked through the bush. I wouldn't walk along the main Highway
because I was scared someone might murder me or take me away. I got into
town just before dark and this Koori woman who I didn't know asked me
was I looking for my parents. I said yes. She said they got a ride out
to the camp with some people. That's how I missed them because I wasn't
walking on the highway.

She said to me what
are you going to do now. I said I'm going to walk back to the camp. She
said it's getting dark, you can't walk out there now. You better come
and stay with us and go back out tomorrow. I said OK. I trusted this Koori
woman whom I didn't know. She gave me a meal and a bed.

The next day I thought
and knew that my parents would be upset with me for leaving the kids but
I knew they would be alright because they were with Mum's brother.

While I was walking
through the bush the police and Welfare were going out to the camp which
they had found in the bush. I was so upset that I didn't walk along the
Highway. That way the Welfare would have seen me.

The next day I
knew ...

The next day I knew
that the Welfare had taken my brothers and sisters. This lady who I stayed
with overnight: her brother came that morning and told her the Welfare
had taken the kids to the homes. She called me aside and said, babe it's
no good of you going out to the camp today because the Welfare has taken
your brothers and sisters away to the homes. I started crying and said
to her no I have to go back to the camp to see for myself. She got her
brother and sister to take me out there and I just couldn't stop crying.
All I could see was our little camp. My baby brother's bottle was laying
on the ground. And I could see where my brother and sisters were making
mud pies in a Sunshine milk tin that we used for our tea or soup. I didn't
know where my parents were.

I was sad crying
lost ...

I was sad crying
lost didn't know what I was going to do. I wished I had of walked along
the Highway so my brothers and sisters would have seen me and told the
Welfare just so I would have been with them.

Eventually I found
my parents in Lakes Entrance. They were shattered upset crying so they
went and got a flagon of wine, which they never ever worried about drink.

They took the kids
to Melbourne Allambie Children's Home and bought them back when it was
court day.

The Welfare and the
Police told my parents that they would have to get a house, furniture,
plenty of food in the cupboard and my Dad had to get a job. It was very
hard in those days what Welfare put on my parents. Just couldn't happen.
People wouldn't let black people have a good home. Or give them anything
- not like now.

My parents knew that
what the Welfare wanted them to do they couldn't. We just weren't allowed
to be up to white man's standards. That's why they knew that they had
my brothers and sisters for good. At court my parents knew that was the
last time they would see their kids. So they told the court that they
didn't want them split up.

The kids was glad
to see Mum and Dad at court. They were jumping all over them. Glad to
see them. When the Welfare took the kids off Mum and Dad they were holding
out their arms trying to stay with Mum and Dad. Everyone was crying sad.
Sad. Sad. After the kids had gone to the home Mum and Dad hit the grog
hard as they had done everything in their power and in their hearts to
keep us away from the (predators) the Welfare. But they sniffed us out
of the bush like dogs.

... they sniffed
us out of the bush like dogs.

My parents couldn't
handle the trauma of not having the closest warmth loving caring family
we were. They separated. My Mum went one way; my Dad went his way.

And I was 9 years
of age left to go my way. I didn't know anyone. So I lived with Koori
families who took me in. And in return I would look after their kids while
they went picking just so I had some sort of family caring. I done this
for years. Still not knowing where my brothers and sisters were. I tried
hard to find them but couldn't.

The families that
took me in I have a lot of respect for them because they tried to mend
a 9 year old's broken heart. I love them dearly.

Eventually I got
married when I was 21 years old. I thought maybe I could get my brothers
and sisters and give them the home that the Welfare said my parents had
to do. My husband worked in a sawmill and we had a sawmill house. After
about 14 years my [eldest] brother came to live with us. One sister found
us through the Salvation Army about 16 years later. Then my brother [the
baby] who died last year who was caught up in the System was like a lost
street kid and was bashed by the police in Melbourne a couple of years
ago ended up with a tumour on the brain and was never the same again.
My second sister who I or my family didn't see for 27 years. What could
anyone do now to make up for those 27 years of not having their sister
a part of their life. A terrible big hole in my heart that will never
be filled.

We all are in contact
with each other now and we try to make up for all those lost years. But
something's missing. Could you put yourself in the situation that we were
put through?

Confidential submission
316, New South Wales. These events occurred in 1958.
Rose's story
appears on page 208 of Bringing them home.

Last updated 2 December 2001.