Mixed Emotions for Yaegl apology commemoration
IT WAS a day of mixed emotions when the Aboriginal community of the Lower Clarence came together to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations at Brooms Head on Sunday.
There was sadness and anger at what had happened, but there were also expressions of love and support and a sense of hope for the future.
The event, organised by Waanyji Yaegl Men's Group Aboriginal Corporation, was attended by members of the Yaegl nation and their family and friends.
It was one of almost 90 events supported by the Healing Foundation nationwide, to mark The Apology. (The Healing Foundation partners with communities to address ongoing trauma caused by the disruption and mistreatment of Aboriginal people.)
"It's important that we keep remembering what happened to these children who were stolen from their homes and culture,” Corporation chairman Lester Mercy said.
Lester acknowledged local people who had been taken away as children, including former residents of Kinchella Boys' Home.
Local artist Kerri McCleay gave a heart-rending performance of Archie Roach's song Took the Children Away and Bob Randall's My Brown Skin Baby. Both songwriters were members of the Stolen Generation. Their songs give voice to the pain and suffering felt.
Some locals recounted their memories of the Apology including Joy Langton, who had accompanied an Elders' group to Canberra for the event.
Joy said that many of the Elders told her stories of their experiences as stolen children.
"You don't realise what's happened to them, until you sit down and yarn with them about it,” she said.
Joy also spoke about her grandmother, who was taken from her family. Her Nan used to say "when I was nine years old I was out working”.
"That's all she would say about her experience, nothing else,” Joy said.
Wendy Craig, who was taken away at 18 months old, said of her experience: "I still feel a lot of hurt. As a child, I felt all alone, because I was without my family.”
Colin Clague a long-time supporter of Aboriginal rights (along with his wife Joyce) gave the gathering an insight into the background of the Apology.
He advised the Apology came out of the recommendations from the Bringing Them Home Report compiled in 1997.
This report was commissioned by the Australian government to investigate issues pertaining to the Stolen Generation.
Unfortunately, the Apology was one of only a few recommendations that were implemented from the report.
Colin also spoke about what had and had not happened since the Apology.
One of the most important messages that came out of the day was the need for people, particularly younger community members, to learn more about the past and what happened, and to listen to Stolen Generation members, so that true healing can begin.