With Mother’s Day just gone and Sorry Day fast approaching, I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge all the mums of the Stolen Generation: the mothers whose children were taken, without cause, and in many cases never returned. For those mums, Mother’s Day isn’t about sleep-ins, flowers and carefully selected gifts that symbolise love and thanks. It is about a loss that never goes away.
Often discussion around the Stolen Generation is about the children who were taken and the trauma they endured. Horrific stories of loss, abuse and never belonging. We often hear about children who never saw their mums again, some finding their families not long after their mothers had passed and many never finding their way home.
These heartbreaking stories of injustice, have another side – that of the mother. The mother who had her children ripped away and in many cases never returned. The mother who spent every Mothers Day since mourning loss rather than celebrating with her children. She did not get the handmade cards that many of us take for granted. She did not get the cold toast and too sweet tea that we swallow with a stiff smile on our lips. She did not get the carefully selected trinkets that her child chose just for her. She did not get those moments that most other mums get to treasure.
Growing up, I knew that my Aunt had had her children removed. I heard stories of the school holidays when all the cousins got to spend time together at another Aunt’s house. My mum talks of those holidays fondly and the time she got to spend with her cousins brought fun and mischief for them all. Of course there were strict rules about my Aunt not being allowed near her kids.
Years later mother and children were reunited and I had always known them as together. So while I knew they had been apart, I hadn’t put any thought into the impact that separation had on all of them.
In my early 20s I spent a lot of time visiting my now elderly aunt in hospital. I would take my grandfather to visit his sister and listen to their stories. Aunty had dementia and would often slip between the present and the past, confused about what was happening. It was during these visits that I really started to understand the long term trauma she had endured. Not only did she have to go through the removal of her children, and the loss she felt every day while they were gone, the dementia meant that she also had to relive their removal time and time again.
During these visits she would often confuse me with my mum and on many occasions would make me get in the cupboard or under the bed to hide me from the Protection Board. She would be visibly frightened and upset that they were coming and they were going to take me, just as they had her boys. I did as she asked and my Pop tried to comfort her but I knew that there would never be true comfort for her – the removal of her kids was too traumatic.
This Mother’s Day my boys bounded into my room before the sun was up, shouting “Happy Mother’s Day”, thrusting themselves at me with great excitement. I hugged them tightly and thought of all the mums who had Mother’s Day stolen from them. I cannot imagine their loss – it is too great.
To the Mothers of the Stolen Generation, we have not forgotten you. We mourn your loss, we acknowledge your stories and the atrocities you suffered. We admire your strength.
We are sorry.
Wingaru Education believes that all children should have access to quality education about Aboriginal people and culture.