YOUR STORY: Memories of the Stolen Generation
This is the late Aunty Pauline Gordon's story from Three Mobs One River reprinted with the permission of her daughter Michelle Larkin, who said her mother "would love this - she loved to tell her stories".
THIS is a brief outline of the history of my life when I was taken by from my mother, along with my other three sisters by the government organisation known as the "Aboriginal Protection Board".
This policy came into effect, way back in 1883. The government's purpose for forming the Aboriginal Protection Board was to break the cultural link of the Aboriginal children with their parents, and to breed them into the white society.
But, getting back to my own recollection of what happened to me as child.
I was eight years old and living in Grafton with my mother and my other four sisters and one brother. The ages of my sisters were 12 years of age, nine years of age, 18 months old and my brother was five years of age.
It was in the year 1942, when the Aboriginal Protection Board officers, came and took myself and three sisters and put us on a train which took us to an Aboriginal institution. It was called the "Girls Training Home" for Aboriginal girls.
My eldest sister, who was 12 years old, was allowed to stay with my mother to take care of her as she had an asthmatic chest. My brother was put into a "Catholic Home", at a place called "Ingandene", just outside of Sydney.
My father at that time was enlisted in the Australian Army and posted away overseas in the Middle East.
I remember, when the police officers put us on the train for Cootamundra. I looked out of the train window to wave goodbye to my mother. I could see her crying, when I asked the officer "why was my mother crying", she said, "that she had soot in her eyes". She said "that I was not to worry, as my sisters and myself were being taken to an Aboriginal girls home for a holiday". Little did I know that it was the last I would see of my mother till I turned 18 years old.
I remember my first recollection of the home was that it was situated up on a high hill, four hours outside of the town.
There were about 80 girls there. We were introduced to the girls, and were taken to a scullery, next to the kitchen, where they shaved our hair off, and they put us in old ugly calico dresses and no shoes.
Me and my sisters by this time were feeling very lonely for our mother, and we started to cry for our mother, but the big girls, who were 15 years old, were ready to be stationed out to white people's farms, because they were trained to milk the cows and to do domestic housework, to set the tables, make beds and polish floors.
The big girls said to us "when we cried, for us to go down to a play shed where the officers couldn't hear us".
There was a small building down in the bottom of the yard of the home. That was where the small girls were taught to read "English".
When we turned 15 years old we left school and they sent us out to work on the farms. When we turned 18 years old, and then we were allowed to go home to our people, that is, if we were lucky to find them.
It was very hard going as the government kept moving and resettling our parents.
I found it hard to get employment in the city, because we were Aboriginals, so most of the Aboriginal people applied for an Exemption Certificate, which allowed the girls to get jobs.
These certificates had to be signed by a magistrate or a police sergeant which also stated that they had to deny their Aboriginality.
The only jobs that Aboriginal people could get was domestic jobs or government jobs. I got a job as a telegram girl in Redfern - Sydney. We weren't allowed to sit in the picture shows or next to white people; we had to sit in roped-off areas. Also we had to sit at the back of a cafe and eat off paper plates and drink from paper cups.
I remember a lot of girls were sexually abused by their white bosses and they had their half caste babies adopted out, never to see them again.
Lots of the boys and girls never got to see their parents or people, because the government resettled them far away. Most of them are still looking for their parents 60 years later because they didn't know they were now part-Aboriginal, because their skin was white also.
I trusted no one when I was getting on in years and I wondered why the white people hated us Aboriginal people. I remembered, when I came out of the home for Aboriginal girls, there weren't hardly any Aboriginal people around in Sydney. There were only about six Aboriginal families.
I remember, there was one afternoon I was sitting in the park in Redfern, it was getting on late in the evening. There were about six boys and girls when one of the boys said "look out, here comes the police". We all jumped up and started to run. As we were running, I asked the boy, "why were we running", and he said, "don't you know Pauline, we are Aborigines, all Aboriginal people had to be off the streets by 6.30pm or be put in jail", that was the law.
When I arrived home after running from the police, I asked my mother, "what was an Aboriginal". Mum looked very sad and said "wait until I take you back to Baryulgil, where it's nice and quiet, that is my country."