Local Aborigines welcome PM's apology
By HANNAH ROSS firstname.lastname@example.org ANN ROBERTS goes to bed every night and wonders about the fate of her daughter, who was only a few days old when authorities walked into Lismore Base Hospital and took the infant from her. It was 1977.
Ann’s son is also a member of the stolen generation, taken from her when he was 11 months old.
“It just ripped my guts out. I wanted to commit suicide,” Ann said of the loss of her babies.
Ann has tried in vain to track down her daughter, and can only count her blessings that her son managed to find her a few years ago when he was 21.
She still finds it hard to hold back the tears when she describes the night her son came knocking at the door of her home in Goonellabah.
It was 1am. He pulled back the hood of his jacket. and said, ‘Hello Mum, it’s Fraser’.
He had been raised at a children’s hostel in Sydney and was moved around to live with several white families. When he grew old enough he sought out Aboriginal people and asked them all if they knew Ann Roberts. He was told the Roberts families all lived around Lismore and the Northern Rivers.
“I knew him straight away from his smile and he looked just like me. I didn’t know what to do, my legs went all jelly,” Ann said.
Her joy at being reunited with her son has since turned to worry upon seeing how lost he is and disconnected from his culture.
“He is finding his way back, but I still find it hard to communicate with him. He finds it hard to relate to our menfolk, even though they say, ‘come over here bud, you are one of the stolen generation’,” she said. “I feel sad and sorry for my son. Being taken away, it just wrecked him completely.”
Ann now hopes Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s apology to the stolen generation on February 13 will heal some of the wounds.
“It will lighten a lot of our children’s minds,” she said. “I think this is where Rudd’s apology will help – to let the kids know it wasn’t their fault or their parent’s fault they were taken away.
“We people have been put down and we need to walk now with our heads held high and move forward.”
Dallas Donnelly, acting CEO of the Ngulingah Local Aboriginal Land Council in Lismore, said he was pleased Mr Rudd had decided to say sorry on behalf of the nation, but he would wait to see what the apology contained before supporting it completely.
Mr Donnelly, 47, said even Aboriginal children not taken from their families were affected by the threat of it happening.
“When I was growing up, we were always scared of the welfare board taking us away,” Mr Donnelly said.
“Parents often used it as a tool to bring you up. ‘You better watch out or they will come and get you’, parents would say. It was likened to the bogey man.
“To me it is symbolic. The word sorry is important. “It won’t erase what happened or take away the bad experiences, but it is important because it’s a gesture to acknowledge the past, apologise for it and then we can all walk together for Australia’s future.
“If this apology can eventuate, then we can move forward. It’s time for us to deal with this issue for our country.”