Following are extracts from a speech by Year 12 Kiara College Follow the Dream/Partnerships for Success student Desi Farrell on National Sorry Day to a gathering at Wellington Square in Perth.
“My name is Desi Farrell. I am a young Noongar and Yamatji man. This morning, as a young Aboriginal man, I would like to acknowledge that we are meeting on this beautiful Noongar land, of the tribe of the Whadjuk people. I am proud to know that this Was, Is and Always will be Whadjuk, Noongar Boodja. Ngulla Koort Boodja – our heart land.
Today we are gathered here to pay our respects and remember all of our fellow Australians who have suffered through the government policies that resulted in the Stolen Generations – the years of the forcible removal of Aboriginal children from their families and their homelands.
Aboriginal children across the country were taken from their families and placed in institutions and foster homes, often not knowing their parents were alive or searching for them. They were taught to reject their Aboriginality, and often experienced abuse and deprivation. We may think that the Stolen Generations is something from a long time ago in history. But this is not true. Many of my family were stolen and the effects can still be seen today. My Nanna Nora Shea, my mother’s mother, was stolen from her parents when she was a girl. Her and three of her eight siblings were taken to the Tardun Mission, about two hours east of Geraldton.
I grew up in Perth with my Nanna Nora looking after me. Like many Aboriginal people she never really talked much about her life. But she suffered on the inside. I wonder if some of my own mum’s problems were somehow connected to her mum being a part of the Stolen Generations because my mum found it hard to be a mother herself. Growing up I didn’t really know what it meant to be Aboriginal but I did think that I was not as good as white people. The only other Aboriginal kids in my primary school were my family! At the age of 10, after my Nanna died, I was taken into foster care, living in two houses, before getting a stable home at the age of 13 and being reunited with my older brother at his foster home with the beautiful lady I now consider my Nan.
Growing up this way really affected me because being young and naïve left me confused. Why do I have to live like this and others don’t? Is what I asked myself. Although all this happened, it wasn’t the hardest part of my life. The hardest thing in my life was to not go down the same path. I think this is really common for a lot of young Aboriginal kids. Growing up surrounded by adults who may be heavy drinkers and drug users. Kids think this is normal and it’s easy for them to access it at a young age. When it comes time to make choices so many of these kids just don’t have the support to make good choices.
I have an amazing cultural mentor now, Dennis Simmons, and it turns out he is actually related to me which makes me so happy! He talks to us kids about having to learn to walk in two worlds, the Wadjela, white world, and the blackfella world. I wonder how it was for my Nan to be forced to live in a world that was so foreign to all she was and all she knew? My cultural mentor Dennis talks to us young fullas about the idea of the ‘Lost Generations’. The children, grand-children and great grand-children of stolen generations people who are now so confused about who they are. They have lost connection with so much of their Culture, because it was stolen from them.
Since I’ve started learning culture with Dennis, I feel special to be Aboriginal. I feel proud to paint my wiligee and put on my djoolib and learn to play the didgeridoo. I am in the Follow the Dream program at my school and I am on track to graduate year 12 at the end of this year, because I know this is what I want to do to walk in the Wadjela world. When I graduate this year I will be the first in my family to do so. I am aiming for a University education and to have a great career. Because I realise that if I refuse to live in the Western society, to walk in two worlds, then it makes life very hard, almost impossible, because this is the dominant way of living here now.
I dream of becoming someone like Rob Riley, someone who makes a difference for my people…. And always being a cultural mentor like Dennis. And, I want to be a really good parent. And make sure my kids are safe and happy and know their culture and are proud of who they are. It is sad to think that currently there are around 4000 children in care in WA and of these 2000 are Aboriginal. That is 50% of all kids in care in WA. And so shocking when we know Aboriginal kids only make up 5% of the population. I am one of those kids in care. But standing here today I know that this will not hold me back. I have great support networks in my life now, and I know I am a strong, brave, good person. I want all Aboriginal people to realise that they too can be successful walking in two worlds.
Standing here today I know that we will never, ever forget the pain of the past. We are ALL Sorry for what has happened. But we must also never, ever forget that we are strong, proud people who have continued to survive regardless of our heartache and this will never change.”
The Kiara College program is attended by 27 students and made possible through support from The AMP Foundation, the Western Australian Education Department and the Foundation.