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A few years ago my daughter learnt about the Stolen Generation at kindergarten. She came home with questions, a lot of questions.
I beckoned her to sit next to me on the couch in our front room, trying to find thoughtful words to explain the inexplicable. I fumbled like all parents who are put on the spot to answer the big questions.
“Um, well, the Europeans thought they knew what was best for the Indigenous people. But they didn’t. They saw that Indigenous people lived a different life from what they were used to in Europe. So, instead of trying to understand a new way of life and learning new things, the Europeans thought if they took the children away from their families, they could teach the children the way of life they thought was best.”
“But how did the Europeans take the Aboriginal children, Mum? I don’t really understand.”
“They just came to their house and took them, baby. The parents didn’t even get to say goodbye. It was really, really sad.” I paused and looked at our front door from the couch, my arms still around her little body. “Imagine if someone walked through our front door right now. And without warning, they grabbed you from my arms, took you away in a car and I never saw you again. That’s what it was like.”
Then I imagined. For a moment in my mind, I saw it all happening. Strangers barging into our lounge room right then and there. The screams and howls as they ripped my daughter from my arms. Strong men overpowering me as I fought and howled and scratched and screamed with a strength I didn’t know was within me. The intimidating strangers marching my daughter out of the house, as she reached out for me, screaming and scared, with longing eyes begging me to make it all better. Her being thrown into a car and driven away. Me tearing down the street behind them, barefoot and helpless in the night. The feeling of unbearable despair as I collapse to the ground and sit with what has just happened, realizing my new, impotent reality.
For a moment I felt it. I felt it all. All of the paralyzing grief. It showered my body and ripped at my heart.
I had silent tears running down my face. My daughter looked at me, waiting for an explanation of my tears.
“Yeah baby, it was a really, really sad thing that should never, ever have happened.”
But it did happen.
“Sweetheart, we will never know what it’s like for those kids and those mums and dads. But we need to try and imagine so we never forget. It made our country broken. And because of it, our country is still broken. And because we are Australians, it’s our job to try and put the broken pieces back together. Baby, what does Daniel Tiger sing on TV when he needs to say sorry?”
My daughter suddenly smiled, then sang, “Saying ‘sorry’ is the first step then, ‘How can I help?’”
“That’s right, baby. We have to say ‘sorry.’ And then we have to ask the Stolen Generation and all indigenous people, ‘How can we help?’ And then, the most important part? We have to LISTEN”. That’s how we’ll find the answers to mend our broken country.
To the Stolen Generations, both living and passed:
But I am finally listening to you. Listening to try and find the answers to help us all heal.
I am so sorry for what our government did to you. I am so sorry my ancestors stayed silent and let it happen to you. I’m so sorry it’s taken me a lifetime to show up for you.
Listening to your stories, re-educating myself and my children on our nation’s true history. I’m finally ready to show up to help heal our nation. Ready to sit uncomfortably in my shame. Ready to be accountable for and dissect the inter-generational racism that always has, and still does run through my veins. The apathetic racism that ran through the veins of my ancestors for the 170 years they have lived on this land.
I promise to not hide in that apathy anymore. I promise to help heal our broken country and your broken hearts. I’m sorry it’s taken me this long to say this. But I’m now here and ready to move forward together. 🖤💛❤️