• Stolen Generations descendant Barbara Nasir is calling for a history centre in the Northern Territory. (NITV)Source: NITV
Barbara Nasir's mother was taken to Kahlin Compound when she was eight years old — she's pushing to make sure stories like her mother's are told.
Guy McLean, Sarah Collard, Rachael Knowles

26 May 2022 - 5:17 PM  UPDATED 26 May 2022 - 5:17 PM

For Marjorie Napaljarri Winphield, May 26 is a sad day.

Born at Phillip Creek in the Northern Territory, Ms Winphield was stolen from her mother at three-months-old.

“They told my mother they were taking us on a picnic,” she told NITV News.

“I always say that was the longest picnic I’ve ever been to because they didn’t take me back there.”

For her, the trauma has never healed.

“I’ve lived with it all my life, it’s like a disease I just cannot get rid of,” she said.

“It’s part of my life, an unhappy one because every minute of the day and night, evening times, even now, I’m on my own still. I haven’t got anyone to turn to."

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She, and other survivors and their descendants, came together for the Northern Territory Stolen Generations Aboriginal Corporation (NTSGAC) luncheon in Darwin today.

Among those involved was survivor Bernadette Shields.

Ms Shields said whilst the day was one of sombre reflection, it was also about coming together.

“It’s about celebrating being together, but also acknowledging those that aren’t here,” she told NITV News.

“By being together, that helps us. We’re happy, we’re laughing.

“Some of us have experienced horrible things . . . but we have to try and look at the fact we are still here. We get to see our sons grow up, our grandchildren and some didn’t.”

Despite the 2008 Apology to the Stolen Generation by former prime minister Kevin Rudd and compensation for Northern Territory survivors, Ms Shields said there’s still a long way to go towards healing.

“We acknowledge what Kevin Rudd said . . . it was an acknowledgment that these things happened,” she said.

“It is still words . . . Nothing will ever make up for it, but at least they are saying that a wrong was done to us through no other fault than the colour of our skin."

Whilst some states and territories have introduced Stolen Generation compensation schemes, Queensland and Western Australia have not.

“They [survivors] are part of the story of Australia, it happened to them. It’s not being recognised; they aren’t being acknowledged and receiving proper compensation,” said Ms Shields.

“I would be angry. You have to ask the question, why not?

“We do get angry, but we have to keep ourselves well and strong because otherwise, it messes with our head. But more importantly, messes with our heart and spirit.”

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A place for history and healing

Whilst coming together each year is a special opportunity to reflect, calls are mounting for a place of recognition and truth-telling.

Barbara Nasir’s mother was taken from Borrolooola when she was 8-years-old and taken to Kahlin Compound in Darwin.

Ms Nasir is calling for the former compound to become a museum sharing the history of those who were taken.

“I believe that there is a need, a real need for this history,” she said.

“This is a history that belongs to Australia, this is a history that had a law, a commonwealth law, that took children away.

“My mother was one of them, along with many many other people who were taken, stolen from their Country from their mothers, stolen from their heritage, their identity.”

Growing up, Ms Nasir was told that her and her siblings should not be seen or heard. Being “brown-skinned children” there was the constant threat of removal.

“We are the descendants of this history, of the stolen generation. Children who were placed in institutions with the promise of many things that just did not happen.

“We too have that history that follows us. Now it follows the next generation, it will continue because it belongs to this country.”

Ms Nasir worked with others to install a sign at the compound acknowledging its history.

“It’s a sign that says the ‘Kahlin Children are Here' . . . We spoke to some government people from the Territory in regards to having that sign, it took nearly three years but it’s there.

“Now I believe strongly - there needs to be a history centre.”

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Ms Nasir hopes that whilst the centre can share history with the world, it will also be a safe place for descendants to heal.

“There’s a real need for that to happen in regard to our next generation - to have a feeling of belonging, a feeling that they are important and that they do belong to this country.

“I know many feel lost because you have to try to find that – it’s not easy. I believe a history centre will offer that support.”

Healing Foundation CEO Fiona Cornforth told NITV News that the organisation has advocated for a place in the capital.

“Healing Foundation advocated for a, a place where survivors could tell their stories, a place on an Ngunnawal and Ngambri Country,” she said.

Ms Cornforth said that whilst hundreds of young people who visit the city visit the Parliament, War Memorial and other museums, there’s not a dedicated space to learn about the Stolen Generation.

“What those young people also need to understand is the history, the true history of this country and how there's unfinished business that they can have a role in as they grow,” she said.

“They should be expected to have a role and as they become the future workforce as the future of the systems, services, policies, programs, that we as First Nations People are required to interact with.”

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