photo by Bill H. Gong, via WikiMedia / Creative Commons Lic.

Beryl’s Story

 

for all children of the Stolen Generation, and in particular for Faye Moseley and Doreen Webster, whose experiences in the Cootamundra Girls Training Home are depicted (with permission) in this poem

 

I was only ten when they took me.
My brothers and sisters too.
We were walking to school.
First thing they cut my plaits clean off.
Didn’t even bother unplaiting them.
Took my clothes and got rid of them too.
That was the end of school for me.
They said they were training us
to be domestic servants.
More like slaves really.

There was lots of abuse.
Sexual, too.
From the staff, you know.
There was also a tiny place
we called the morgue.
They’d lock you there
if you misbehaved
or tried to run away.
Nobody ever loved us.
Nobody cuddled us.
Nobody praised us.

When they took us
Mum and Dad were at work
at the cannery in Leeton.
They told us Mum and Dad didn’t want us.
Said they didn’t love us any more.
That wasn’t true.
Mum and Dad had a letter
from the Aborigines Welfare Board
saying we were well looked after.
Didn’t make any difference.
I found out later Mum and Dad
tried to visit Coota heaps of times.
They weren’t allowed in the gate.
Dad couldn’t cope.
He took off driving trucks.
Years later at Mum’s funeral
this bloke asks me my name.
“It’s Beryl”, I say.
He says, “I’m your Dad.”

They’re still taking our kids,
locking them up,
building more and more jails.
First inmates are always aborigines.
This is what the Stolen Generation
has done to us,
to our kids,
to our communities.

 

The Stolen Generation: Between 1910 and 1970, under an act of the Australian parliament, aboriginal children could be forcibly removed from their homes and placed in various institutions. Estimates of how many children were stolen vary from 20,000 to 100,000. These children became known as “The Stolen Generation”. After years of resistance from conservative politicians, in 2008, nearly 100 years after the first child was taken, the Labor Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, made an apology to the Stolen Generations one of his first official acts.

 

Editor’s Note: Neil Creighton is a frequent contributor to Praxis Magazine Online, and we are grateful to be able to offer you another of his insightful poems regarding the ongoing impact of colonialization. (He also has a poem on The Stolen Generation at Verse-Virtual.) Neil Creighton and the editorial team at Praxis Magazine Online would like to thank The Healing Foundation for their assistance in obtaining permission for the author to tell this story in poetry, and for Praxis Magazine Online to publish it and make it available to our readers.

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