Aunty Julie Black was taken from her mother after birth. Reuniting with her mob 'healed her Aboriginal soul'

This weekend marks 13 years since the Rudd government made a formal apology to Australia's Indigenous peoples, particularly to the Stolen Generations. Community leaders say its impact still lives on.

Barkindji woman Julie Black was taken from her mother shortly after she was born.

Barkindji woman Julie Black was taken from her mother shortly after she was born. Source: Healing Foundation

Barkindji woman Aunty Julie Black was taken from her mother shortly after she was born.

The 64-year-old was one of thousands of Indigenous children who were forcibly removed from their families. She says she suffered traumatic experiences with her new foster mother.

“From the age of four, I was locked in the outside dunny,” Aunty Julie said in an interview with the Healing Foundation.

“I remember I was playing that day, with my teddy bears, and she yanked me out and up the stairs because it was starting to rain.

“I was crying because I wanted to go and save my teddy bears, because the water was coming down on top of them. She shoved me down there, I picked them all up and they fell apart in my hands. I think that upset her, and she locked me in the outside dunny."

Aunty Julie said that was "the start of it all". 

"I’d be locked in there for hours - different days, different times," she said. 

“I’d say a prayer that my real mum would come and get me. Take me home. I didn’t want to be there.”

It wasn’t until she turned 25 that Aunty Julie was finally reunited with her mother.

“She came out. I said, ‘Are you Patsy Black?’ and she said, ‘No. I’m your mum. I’m your mummy’. First cuddle I’ve had since I was a baby.”

Barkindji woman Julie Black was taken from her mother shortly after she was born.
Source: Healing Foundation

Aunty Julie shared her story as Australia marked 13 years since former prime minister Kevin Rudd’s National Apology to the Stolen Generations.

More than a decade later, Indigenous community leaders say its impact still lives on.

Fiona Peterson, CEO of Healing Foundation, an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisation supporting the healing of Stolen Generations survivors, families and communities, said the apology was still seen as “pivotal”.

“It’s a recent memory for our Stolen Generations survivors and descendants,” she told SBS News.

“It was a huge thing to hear from the most senior person leading our government - the word ‘sorry’ - and to acknowledge the pain and trauma and the hurt that for many years our survivors wouldn’t talk about, because the awareness wasn’t there, outside our communities.

“It’s thought about often - as something pivotal, something significant.

“There was a time when no one would have imagined that an apology like that could go out from parliament to our survivors.”

Mr Rudd said an Indigenous voice to parliament must be entrenched in the constitution.

“Without the deep change that comes with a referendum which enjoys bipartisan support, the far right of Australia will always seize every opportunity to trash a limited legislated national voice as somehow illegitimate,” he said in a statement.

In a break from longstanding practice, the government won’t deliver the Closing The Gap statement this month to coincide with the apology.

Instead it will be delivered in July, following an agreement with governments and Indigenous organisations, Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt said on Friday.

The government will still present a statement to parliament on Monday marking the anniversary, and outlining progress in the Indigenous portfolio. 

“It’s not hard for us to look around and see that removals are still happening at a really unforgivable rate, and that we are the most over-incarcerated people on the planet," Ms Peterson said. 

"We don’t need a statement to tell us that every now and then.”

For Aunty Julie, reuniting with her mother and community felt like returning to her family.

"You feel good when you're with our own mob," she said. "That's what heals your Aboriginal soul."

Published 14 February 2021 at 8:25pm, updated 14 February 2021 at 8:28pm
By SBS News