The blustery wind of the Fremantle sea breeze rattled the walls of the birthing ward. The birth pains of delivery and the cries of her heart. My mother had just given birth. Her first daughter. Me.
But my story didn’t start in Fremantle, it started before my first breath. Boundaries were defined, irrespective that State laws allowing for removal of mixed-race babies had been repealed, the boundary lines remained. Firm. Immovable. I was to be removed from my mum immediately.
So, she named me, but wasn’t allowed to hold me or even see me. This still strikes me as immeasurably cruel. Naming me personalises the intimacy of her loss. And it wasn’t just her loss, it was mine as well. As well as for the Ngarluma community in the Pilbara. More brokenness.
In 2005, at 37 years old another wind blew. But this time, it was a gentle breeze offering a way home. Would I take it? A brother (also removed) was looking for family and found me. And finally, for the first time I read the name of the one who named me and discovered my Aboriginality. A year later I met my brother and finally for the first time met a blood relative I hadn’t named. The journey of reconnection continues. One step at a time, one connection at a time. One faint breath or gale force wind. At a time.
I never got to meet my mother, but when I walk into an Aboriginal group and word passes around whose daughter I am, walls of separation blow down. I am embraced and held dear as a child returning home, and in a manner that can be best described as pieces of me returning. Then after the embraces, and often tears, the stories of my mum are shared, and more pieces come home to my heart.
Now I see the homecoming isn’t about me, it is about the community a little bit less broken as another one comes home – proudly. There are still more to come home and much brokenness to be healed.
Thank God, He is the One Whose breath keeps me on this journey. Only by His Grace do I not expire, and isn’t that the hall mark of His greatness gift? His Presence that brings life.
The bluster of Fremantle winds kept my mum and me apart, but it couldn’t contend with the millennia-old culture of community and family and the Gentle Breeze Who brought me home.
The same Gentle Breeze is offering Australia a way home to wholeness, will you be brave and take it too?
Jo and her niece Lynnese
The National flower for the Stolen Generation, the native hibiscus. Chosen by survivors because it is resilient and common across Australia. Would you plant one in your garden to remember to act of behalf of the vulnerable?
“Where’s my baby gone?”, Colebrook Reconciliation Park, South Australia. Artist: Silvio Apponyi Photo: Kerry Fletcher
Jo is a Ngarluma woman from the Pilbara region of WA. Jo in returning home, she discovered she was the fourth generation of women in the family to be affected by the Stolen Generation removal policies of WA. She worked as the Operations Manager with the Stolen Generations mob in Perth. Jo and her family are a vibrant part of Hillsong Perth, WA.