Healing through brotherhood

08 Aug 18

August 9 marks the United Nations’ International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples and the event’s 2018 theme is ‘Indigenous peoples’ migration and movement’.

Forced migration through systematic abductions and violent, state sanctioned removal of peoples from their land affects indigenous cultures around the world. Many First Australians have been forcibly removed from their land and country, with great trauma and pain caused as a result. The story of the Kinchela Boys Home Aboriginal Corporation (KBHAC) reflects the trauma many survivors have undergone and continue to go through in the years since being systematically kidnapped from their families. It also offers hope that healing is possible.

201808 Kinchela Credit Tiffany Mccomsey Kbhac (1)
Photo credit: Tiffany McComsey, KBHAC

Photo credit: Tiffany McComsey, KBHAC

The men of the KBHAC are survivors of the systematic kidnapping of boys between the age of four and 14 by the NSW government between 1921 and 1970 : they were forcibly removed from their families as children and taken to Kinchela Boys Home (KBH) in Kempsey, NSW. Here they were stripped of their names and given numbers.

After the recent passing of Kinchela Boys Home survivor, Uncle Manuel Ebsworth #28, Chair of the Kinchela Boys Aboriginal Corporation, the men were reflective. They spoke openly of their traumas as well as the triumphs they had gained through the corporation which they established for their own healing.

Here’s some of what they had to say.

Uncle Lester Maher, #11:

A lot of the locals who were driving past the home (in Kempsey) saw monkey bars and happy little kids, but they didn’t realise what was going on behind closed doors and the way we were treated.

There was no love there, there was no family it was a place of rules and regulations, a place of punishment. We didn’t do anything wrong, yet they called us inmates, we were in prison. We’re still coming to terms with it, there’s a lot of healing going on.

Like I said at Uncle Manuel’s funeral, whoever thought that we’d come to this place?

Whoever thought we’d come to the place of shaking hands with the Prime Minister? Shaking hands with the Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten? Going into NSW parliament and changing the policies that needed to be change, we did that we are a force to be reckoned with now.

You talk about dignity – it’s here, this place … KBHAC is built on dignity.

Uncle Richard

Uncle Colin Davis, #50:

When you talk about apologies, it’s too flaky, because to give an apology you have to do the home work and give people the benefit of what is going on - don’t say ‘sorry’ and then do nothing about it.

Us Blackfellas we’ve still got this, ‘come in brother’, share with your brother and sisters’ idea. ’ But if the government say ‘sorry,’ then they must also give us the rights to go on living … How do I get some justice here?

And they’re still not looking after us, and our kids today are still being taken away - its horrible to know – how do you get justice?

Uncle Richard Campbell, #28:

I live in Kempsey, only 10 minutes away from Kinchela Boys home. People came to me years ago and asked me what do you want to do with KBH, home, I’d say ‘burn it down,’ ‘put a match to it.’ At KBH we were isolated from our parents our friends, our brothers, our sisters and our country. Now that I’m involved with KBH, all of us are proud of me because I’m actually talking about what happened to me and what happened with KBH too.

I was going that way again you know, only for KBH, you know they just sit down and talk, they talked me out of going through that destructive time.

You talk about dignity – it’s here, this place … KBHAC is built on dignity.

Us at KBH we were isolated from our parents, our friends, our brothers and sisters our country. And with the help of people like yourself, Caritas, we share our stories with you people because you need to learn about life amongst Aboriginal people, we know you go all around the world. You’ve got to remember that we are the first people of this country and we need to be respected.

Learn more about KBHAC via their website.