AUNTY Vicki Turner, a Kurbingui elder, was given up for adoption when she was two days old.
“My mum found out I was going to be ripped out of her hands, and she handed me to them because she didn’t want that happening,” she said referring to the day that she was placed into the care of the Sisters of Mercy at Brisbane’s former St Vincent’s Home for Children in Nudgee.
Aunty Vicki, 64, spent most of her childhood at the home, which later closed as a residential facility in 1971.
She described those years as tough, sometimes cruel.
She was 11-and-a-half when she was placed into foster care with a Brisbane family.
“My foster mother knew I needed to know my culture, but I was only told my father was a New Zealander,” she said.
“So that’s all I knew until I was twenty-nine years old, when an aunt came from America and told me my mum was an Aboriginal woman, raised up on Turrbal land (the traditional country north of the Brisbane River).
“I was numb when she told me.
“And then I thought, well I’ve been treading my land all this time, but not knowing.”
For Aunty Vicki, the next few decades of life were spent reflecting and reconnecting with her heritage, while raising her own children.
She learnt that she had actually met her mother as a seven-year-old during a family holiday. She also met her father.
“I was in between shock and anger for them not telling me,” she said.
Former prime minister Kevin Rudd’s apology to the Stolen Generations, made in Federal Parliament on February 13, 2008, had a powerful effect on Aunty Vicki.
“I felt relief. It felt like time and it was meant to be,” she said.
Aunty Vicki spent this year’s National Apology Day – the 10th anniversary of Mr Rudd’s apology – at Brisbane’s St James College, and she was able to mark the occasion with her granddaughter Demika Bugmy and great-grandson Ezekial.
Brisbane auxiliary Bishop Ken Howell attended the event, and led a blessing with holy water as an act of healing.
“Water is part of life, without it we perish, we can’t survive,” Bishop Howell said.
“Every time that we as Christian people look at water we think of our baptism and the call of Jesus.”
Bishop Howell said water would “refresh and renew us and strengthen us in Your purpose”.
Aunty Vicki said healing was important as inter-generational trauma still affected indigenous families, and was reflected in poor health and education outcomes and high incarceration rates.
She said she maintained a Catholic faith, but found it hard to enter a church “because of the trauma” of her early institutionalised years in care.
“I’ve had to overcome a lot of stuff,” she said.
“I pray at home. As long as I keep the belief that He was around to save all of us, I feel better in myself.”