A Haunted Wood

Image via Akseli Koskela
A creek, billabong and bridge in a classic Cumberland
Plains Woodland setting.
Last week, on an extremely cold July Sunday, Esther and I made a visit to Mount Annan Botanic Gardens, which I have written about previously. In addition to a Swamp Wallaby, Kookaburra, feral rabbit and some other brightly coloured species of birds, we also stumbled upon a haunting memorial to Australia’s “Stolen Generations”.



The biggest hurt ... was having my mum chase the welfare car. I’ll always remember it – we were looking out the window and mum was running behind us and singing out for us.



Image via Akseli Koskela
The plaque on the stone reads: “ ‘The biggest hurt, I think,
was having my mum chase the welfare car. I’ll always
 remember it – we were looking out the window and mum was
running behind us and singing out for us.’ Stolen Child


Image via Akseli Koskela
Another haunting voice from the past: “ ‘They just came
down and said, “We’re taking these kids.” They just take you
out of your mother’s arms. That’s what they done to me. I was
still at my mother’s breast when they took me.’ Stolen Child
Image via Akseli Koskela
It reads: “ ‘There are still a lot of unresolved issues within
me. One of the biggest ones is I can’t really love anyone
no more. I’m sick of being hurt. Every time I used to get close
to anyone they were just taken away from me.’ Stolen Child
The Stolen Generations were those Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander people who were forcibly taken from their families under the auspices of various State and Commonwealth government directives, beginning prior to the formation of the Commonwealth itself, right up to the late 1960s. The history of the Stolen Generations has been well-documented in the Attorney-General’s Bringing them Home report and also in Phillip Noyce’s outstanding film Rabbit Proof Fence. In the Australian High Court case of Kruger v Commonwealth (1997) 190 CLR 1, it was argued that one of the State government acts authorising the forced removal of children from their families, the Aboriginals Ordinance Act 1918 (NT), amounted to an attempt at cultural genocide. However, the High Court rejected this reading of the facts, on the specious grounds that, as the act in question was posed in terms of “paternalistic protection” of the Aboriginal children in question, the necessary “intent” to destroy an ethnic or racial group was lacking. Seems to be saying if a government phrase an act with enough hypocritical verbiage they can enact anything.




Every time I used to get close to anyone they were just taken away from me.




Image via Akseli Koskela
Black and white tree trunks standing side by side.
I found this memorial particularly stirring. The Cumberland Plains woodland setting of the memorial seemed somehow fitting for such a memorial. Before the arrival of the First Fleet under Governor Arthur Philip, most of the Sydney basin was Cumberland Plains woodland -- so it seems a fitting place, for people who have been stolen from their culture and traditions to try to regrow those old links with their culture, even if, due to the passing of time, some of that renewal has to have something of an artificial character. Walking along the memorial, the woods seemed pregnant with the ghosts of the past, as conveyed by the simple and honest quotations from adult survivors of this state-sanctioned kidnapping.
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10 comments:

JJ said...

Akseli: I have not heard of this. It is awful. I will do some research on this subject. Frightening.

Akseli Koskela said...

Yes, it is a rather dark chapter (amongst many) of the history of the colonisation of this continent. I would recommend as a first point of call the film "Rabbit Proof Fence" starring Kenneth Branagh.

Arti said...

Frightening indeed...
Very painful to read it...

Judie said...

Akseli, I know about this, and I have seen the movie more than once. This is a very informative but sad post.

Fahad Khan said...

I am going to do more research on the internet on this topic.On a lighter note,just thinking of a botanic garden pleases my mind!:-) I am from India,and we don't have many of them here.
P.S. I came across your blog and am following it happily.If you are a food lover,feel free to drop by mine.:-)

Fahad Khan said...

On another note,a close friend of mine loves travelling,especially places not many people go to,places little heard of.I will ask him to follow you as well right away.

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