Missions reclaimed as cultural healing centers for Stolen Generations in WA

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Jim Morrison Image

Co-convenor of the Bringing Them Home Committee Jim Morrison at the old Carrolup Mission.

ABC News: Carrolup Mission

The irony is not lost on Jim Morrison.

The co-convenor of the Bringing Them Home Committee is leading a major new initiative to heal the Stolen Generations from the old office of A O Neville, the Chief Protector of Aborigines.

From the office in Perth’s Murray Street, A O Neville presided over the policy that saw hundreds of Aboriginal children removed from their families and placed into native settlements and missions from 1915.

“Neville the Devil we called him,” Mr Morrison said.

“When I first came here, I was physically sick. It made me ill just knowing what took place here.”

Now Neville’s old headquarters is home to a new campaign to reverse the trauma of the Stolen Generations, called “Yokai”, a traditional Aboriginal call to arms.

The idea is to transform some of the old missions into cultural healing centers, starting with the abandoned settlement of Carrolup, which later became known as Marribank, near Katanning in the Great Southern.

Mr Morrison, whose mother and grandmother were sent to Carrolup, says the healing center would aim to address multi-generational effects of the removal policy.

“Fifty-four per cent of the kids in out-of-home care are currently Aboriginal, so you can bet your life that their grandparents were probably in a place like this,” he told the ABC.

Many of the buildings on the Carrolup site have fallen into disrepair.

But the project has the support of Curtin University which has offered skills and expertise.

The site will be leased from the Southern Aboriginal Corporation.


Photo Many of the buildings at Carrolup have fallen into disrepair.

ABC News: Claire Moodie

Government and private sector funding will also be needed but Mr Morrison says it will be money well spent.

“Indigenous incarceration is half-a-million dollars per person, ” he said.

“The costs of juvenile detention is $300,000.

“To me a lot of money is being wasted, we’re offering an alternative.

“We see it as a wonderful opportunity to reverse the trauma and return these places of trauma to cultural learning places.”

Mixed times for the mission kids

Garry Ryder was sent to the Marribank mission as a baby from Geraldton in 1956.

The 60-year-old said he had “good time and bad times” at Marribank.

Gary Ryder Marribank

Photo Garry Ryder says he had good times and bad at Marribank.

ABC News: Claire Moodie

He received a good education and the other children became like his sisters and brothers.

But he says he is partially deaf and has to wear a hearing aid because of the treatment he received there.

“I had two sharp pencils shoved in my ear by a missionary. There was blood coming out of my ears but I wasn’t allowed to shout or anything,” he said.

Despite that, Mr Ryder describes leaving Marribank at the age of 12 and being sent back to Geraldton, a place he did not know, as “the saddest day of my life”.

He welcomes the idea of a healing center to allow Aboriginal people and their families still paralysed by their experiences to move on.

“Us mission kids can come here and get everything off our chests,” he said.

“All the good things and all the bad things.

“A lot of them don’t want to come back because they’re still getting hurt, they’re still in pain.

“A lot of them have passed on through drugs and alcohol.

“We still think of them every day.”

‘We wanted to be free’

Clive Morrison, 61, is another of the walking wounded.

Today, he is on the road to recovery but his life has been spent in and out of jail for mainly alcohol-related offenses.

Clive Morrison Wandering

Photo Clive Morrison was taken to Wandering Mission when he was 10.

ABC News: Claire Moodie

As a 10-year-old, he was taken to Wandering mission, 130 kilometers south east of Perth, after stealing a toy plastic gun from a shop.

“We ran away three times, to be free, to be back where we wanted to be, ” he said.

“But the police took us back and we got belted.

“I went down there a couple of weeks ago and went to the boys dormitory and I broke down and cried.”

The Wandering mission is also earmarked for a healing center.

If the model works, other native settlements and Aboriginal-owned land on Noongar country, and beyond, will be considered.

Mr Morrison says the plan comes amid growing frustration over the lack of success of Closing the Gap initiatives.

Next year will mark 20 years since the Bringing Them Home report and he says only 10 per cent of its recommendations have been adopted.

Carrolup Marribank

Photo Hundreds of Aboriginal children were sent to Carrolup, later Marribank, near Katanning.

ABC News: Claire Moodie

Posted Sunday October 09 2016