Recognising the names our mothers and fathers gave us
11 Jul 2014 | Blog | Australia | Long-term Development
“When we grew up they told us we weren’t children; we weren’t human. ‘You’re number 28,’ they said. We’re up here trying to get rid of a number. We’re here to recognise each other as Aborigines and to recognise the names our mothers and fathers gave us”.
For NAIDOC Week 2014 our partner Kinchela Boys Home Aboriginal Corporation (KBHAC) joined with the Kempsey community to continue building friendships and return to the site of the former Kinchela Boys Home to share in more truth-telling about their experiences at Kinchela and the recording of that history.
KBHAC was formed in 2002 by survivors of the notorious Kinchela Aboriginal Boys Training Home, located near Kempsey, where Aboriginal boys were placed after being kidnapped from their families by government authorities from 1924 until 1970 when it closed. KBHAC exists for the men to reconnect with one another, advocate together on behalf of the survivors and journey together with their families toward healing.
A delegation of ten of the survivors from Kinchela Boys Home travelled to Kempsey for the occasion. The Kinchela men also spent time filming a short film and a music video for a song written about their experiences, to be screened on NITV.
Uncle Manuel Ebsworth, the current Chairperson of Kinchela Boys Home Aboriginal Corporation spoke to Caritas about the importance of the experience.
“It’s the first time we’ve been involved in NAIDOC Week here in Kempsey”, Uncle Manuel explained. “We went out there to march with people from Kempsey and for a BBQ. These are the people we weren’t allowed to see. They were in front of us [outside the gate] but we weren’t allowed to see them. We came up here to march with them. To be together.
“Filming at Kinchela was important to the boys. They asked us and we showed them everything, including the old fig tree”. From a young age many of the boys at Kinchela Boys Home were chained to the fig tree overnight as ‘punishment’ for minor misdemeanours or, more often, to satisfy the brutal and authoritarian rule of many of the KBH staff members.
“You can see a lot of sadness; people asking us ‘why did they do this to children?’. They didn’t know.
“It’s hard to explain what happened to us at KBH. We can’t just say what happened to us. We had a number. When we grew up they told us we weren’t children; we weren’t human. ‘You’re number 28,’ they said. We’re up here trying to get rid of a number. We’re here to recognise each other as Aborigines and to recognise the names our mothers and fathers gave us.
“The truth has got to come out. We’re up here fighting for our people. We’re still a strong race of people. What we’re doing up here has made ourselves proud.
“Everything is unreal. It works out a lot better for us, now we can get involved more with the community. It’s healing for us to tell them. Some of the people said ‘we never thought we’d be out here marching with Aboriginal people’.”
“But it’s not easy. I’m not going to lie to you and say everything is good. We’re up here fighting – to find ourselves.”
NAIDOC Week Exhibition - Serving country
This year the Dunghutti Ngaku Aboriginal Art Gallery will acknowledge and showcase photographic portraits by Sydney photographer Sarah Barker of three Kinchela Boys whose fathers served in the armed forces for our country.
Private Cecil Robert Clayton joined the 2/13th Infantry Battalion (known as Devil’s Own) on 10 July 1940 and was discharged on 8 June 1944. While Private Cecil was serving in the forces during the 1950’s the Government took away 6 of his 9 children in 1957. Buddy Clayton was sent to Kinchela Boys Home and Aunty Fay Clayton was sent to Cootamundra Girls Home.
The display of images together with artworks from aboriginal artists is presently on display in the gallery to acknowledge NAIDOC week from Sunday 7 July to Sunday 14 July. Find out more at http://dnaag.com.au/exhibition/naidoc-exhibition/
You can visit the KBHAC website at: www.kinchelaboyshome.org.au
Caritas Australia has had a partnership with KBHAC since 2011. Read more information about our partnership here.
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