Indigenous affairs

A place of healing

Sister Kate’s staff and members of the Healing Foundation Team at the bush block. Photo: Supplied.

The Western Australian government has invested more than $3 million to transform a bush block, beside a site linked to the Stolen Generation, into a place of healing.

Up until 1975, dozens of children removed from their Indigenous Australian families were placed into care at Sister Kate’s Home Kids Aboriginal Corporation, based Cannington.

SKHAC’s chief executive officer Tjalaminu Mia is a Noongar woman and stolen generation survivor who was incarcerated as a young child. She says the bush block was a place of respite from the abuse experienced by those living at the children’s home.

“The only relief that we had was across the road to the bush block,” she says.

According to data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, one in seven Indigenous Australians aged over 50 and over were removed from their families as a part of various government policies. Today, there is an estimated 13,800 surviving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who are a part of the Stolen Generation.

In Western Australia, many of these children were placed into the care of Sister Kate’s between 1934 and 1975.

Ms Mia says for her and other survivors of the stolen generation at Sister Kate’s, the bush block is a crucial memort following forcible removal from their families.

“The bush block played a role for all the kids, because you ran across from that regimented, controlled environment [and] over the road,” she says.

“I’m a living memory of one of many home kids that are still alive and living with memories of what the bush block meant to us.”

Listen to more from Tjalaminu Mia.

Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation chair and Yorta Yorta man Ian Hamm says the importance of purchasing this specific piece of land cannot be underestimated.

“It is an intrinsic part of the story of the stolen children and still plays a part in the ongoing journey of not only those who were removed to the Sister Kate Home, but also for their descendants and the wider Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities,” he says.

SKHAC Chair Glenn Pearson, SKHAC chief executive officer Tjalaminu Mia and Minister Tony Buti. Photo: Office of Minister Tony Buti.

According to Mr Hamm, the plan for the bush block will see the land developed for purposes of healing, education and environmental regeneration.

“The SKHAC is looking to use this land for a number of purposes,” he says.

“Firstly, as a place of healing, especially for those who were taken to Sister Kate’s, but also for others looking for a place of respite from their troubles and cares.”

Curtin University senior Indigenous researcher Hannah McGlade is a Kurin Minang Noongar woman and stolen generation survivor from SKHKAC.

After experiencing her own trauma and incarceration at Sister Kate’s, Ms McGlade was instrumental in the formation of a survivors group. She says from the outset, the home was a dangerous place where abuse was rife.

“I’d also been at the home and it was very clear to me as a child of ten years old that is was an unsafe place,” she says.

“I was warned immediately by an older boy that the house father Mr Smith was sexually abusing kids. I had to stand up from this man myself when I was only ten or ten.”

Hannah McGlade says young children were forced to fend for themselves at the Sister Kate’s. Photo: Gabrielle Becerra Mellet.

Following the formation of this group, Ms McGlade and other SKHAC survivors began the process of getting the land back, which at this point was owned by the Uniting Church.

Ms McGlade says parts of the bush block have already been sold off. She said they had to fight to take back the land.

The 53-year-old says while grants are part of the healing process, the abuse and denial of Aboriginal culture are still alive.

“Stop taking the children and denying them their culture today. Many of the kids removed are also being abused in care.”

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