My name is Toreston, I am a descendant of the Boulia Tribe Pitta Pitta in north-west Queensland. My great grandfather was King Bob.
My grandmother, Alice James, was born under a gumtree in Boulia, known as a bush baby. While her brothers and aunty were part of the Stolen Generation – taken from their homes and sent to Palm Island – Alice was left to work as a cook at the Warinda Station where she was often punished for stealing food when hungry and would be chained under the station house.
Alice was part of the Stolen Wages Claim 1939-1972 and was under white protector law until 1934 when she sought permission to leave Boulia to move to Brisbane to the Wacol housing commission base. She made her home in Mt Gravatt and had nine children as well as raising another seven children from other families. She became a prominent Brisbane Elder, started the first Aboriginal childcare centre Gundala in 1973, helped establish OPAL House – a hostel for those in need, was a lifetime member of the Aboriginal Legal Service and Aboriginal Medical Centre, on the board for Aboriginal Housing and would go on to receive the Premiers Award for long standing service by Wayne Goss in the 1990s. She was the opening applicant of the 1991-2007 Pitta Pitta Native Title Claim and passed away in 2008 before seeing its fruition. While her legacy is with us, she is still missed.
I was born in 1976 in Brisbane to my Aboriginal mother and my father who was in jail at the time. After my birth, the relationship between my parents broke down and I would be raised by my mum and very supportive grandparents.
Life was always a struggle with family violence, alcohol and gambling each playing a big part. As a young teen I turned to drugs, hung out in the streets with other youth to numb the pain. I got involved in petty crime and street fighting. One thing I always had was a drive to work to be self-sufficient, I could not rely on anyone. This we would see me drop out of school, leave home at 15 years old to pursue a career in construction. Today I am the owner of a 100% operated Indigenous business.
In 1999 I met Lesa – my now wife of 20 years, profoundly met Jesus, received salvation and begun my road to recovery.
I attend Hillsong Central Mt Gravatt each week with my wife and three boys and are a part of an incredible community – taking any opportunity to serve.
My heart for reconciliation for my people, in particularly Aboriginal men, is to deal with past traumas, forgive and find freedom through Jesus. My generation hold the key to mentor and guide our youth to have lives that are enriched and successful. We hold the fading stories from our ancestors that can connect young people to country and help them find their identity.
Toreston’s grandmother – Alice
Toreston and his family