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Elders tell of their ‘stolen’ experience

Elders share:  Aunties Alison, Estelle and Deliah spoke of their sadness after being taken as children from their parents and placed in dormitories at Cherbourg.

Elders share: Aunties Alison, Estelle and Deliah spoke of their sadness after being taken as children from their parents and placed in dormitories at Cherbourg.

SEVEN Aboriginal elders separated as children from their parents and placed in dormitories at Cherbourg have shared their stories with students at an event held at Mt Alvernia College, Kedron.

The elders – Aunties Estelle, Cepha, Alex, Deliah and Alison, and Uncles Joe Kirk and Alex Davidson – did so at an Apology to Stolen Generations anniversary liturgy and education session at the college on February 14.

Centacare Murri Ministry co-ordinator Ravina Waldren said the Elders’ stories had a profound impact on many of the 200 students from various Catholic schools gathered to take part in the event.

“The fact the elders looked the same age as many of the students’ grandparents was part of the reason for this impact,” she said. “Also students could get some idea of the history of their fellow Aboriginal students.

“Quite a few students said they had never heard a lot about this part of Australia’s black history with events happening not so very far away from their own backyards.”

The event was held on the anniversary of former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s Apology to the Stolen Generations in Parliament House on February 13, 2008.

Ms Waldren said Uncle Joe Kirk introduced the students to the significance of the Smoking Ceremony.

“Uncle Joe’s contribution was particularly appreciated as it came in the midst of a week’s mourning for his nephew Bert Button who had been buried in Cherbourg several days earlier,” she said.

Murri Ministry’s Josephite Sister Kay McPadden said “one of the pleasing aspects of this sixth commemoration of the National Apology was the physical preparation by Mt Alvernia staff and students”.

“Settings that had been done by Murri Ministry in the past were prepared by the college this year,” she said.

“Appropriate prayer bookmarks and other items were prepared to create and enhance an Aboriginal setting.”

Ms Waldren hopes more Catholic schools can become involved in holding similar annual events.

“It’s important that such gatherings be held each year to mark the anniversary of the apology,” she said.

“This story about kids being removed from their parents on the basis of race needs to be told again and again.

“It’s also important because such an event remembers and acknowledges those still searching for their families.”

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Written by: Staff writers
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