• After an 18-year search, Elly Chatfield meets sister Lavenia Gillon for the first time. (NITV)Source: NITV
Elly Chatfield, 56, was taken from her parents as a baby. The Gamilaroi woman has spent 18 years searching for, and meeting, her family. Just last year, Elly discovered she had a sister, Lavenia Gillon. Here, the two sisters recall how they felt before meeting for the first time. #NITVLove
By
Ella Archibald-Binge

Source:
Living Black
18 Mar 2016 - 3:55 PM  UPDATED 18 Mar 2016 - 4:02 PM

Elly

The first thing for me, meeting anybody, goes straight back to mum and those questions of what was she like? Do I do things that are similar, like family members do? And then, what is my sister like? Are there things that she does that I do? Do we do things totally different?

The further we drive, the less I know what I'm going to ask. As I look out of the passenger window, the landscape transforms and changes colour, as does my mood. I realise that to correct governmental wrongs, it means that I must open myself to a fragile space that I have kept locked away in the crevices of my heart.

Watch: 'I get the chance to meet a sister I haven't met before...'

Fabric holds family together... Our fabric was torn and frayed. It was filled with uncertainty and the assumption of assimilation. We were Stolen Children.

As a child, I didn’t give any of this thought, because answers were not readily available or just didn’t make sense - and there were rainbows to discover and butterflies to chase, after all. But as an adult and more importantly, as a parent, the history - my history, became all too real.

If I don't get this, I can't hand this to my children. And they need to know their lineage, their heritage. I had a wonderful childhood, but it was without my family knowledge, and I can't have that for my kids.

I am about to meet my sister for the first time in my life. I am now 56 years old and I'm met with the realisation that I stand in the middle of my ‘unknowing’. This beautiful lady and her family are part of my heart and soul and I love them unconditionally as I do all my siblings, but, in this case, I do not know them...yet.

However, there is a tiny but strong thread that connects us. And this web-like entity remains unbroken, in exactly the same way as when I met my other brothers and sisters in previous years. The variations and complexities of this event open my mind to things that lay hidden in the shadows.

The 'what ifs'....What if they don’t like me? What if they don’t accept me? What if I don’t know what to say? What if our words trail off into nothingness? What if...

This is where the shadows hold all the power and make me question my very existence. This is a solitary path but I have been so supported and feel very privileged to have monumental people hold my hand and my heart. Good family and friends who have kept me real and my thoughts in order.

It has taken a very long time to reach this space but looking back, it provided me with time to gather strength, knowledge and enough emotional understanding to safely navigate the hurdles and to see and feel family love again.

I am so happy to now have a family history to hand onto my children and grandchildren. Their lineage was built from adversity and the shoulders on which they stand, proudly hand to them their birth right.

Lavenia

I came across El’s name on Facebook and took a look at her photos. It clicked straight away - she sort of reminded me of my sisters and my mum (she passed away when I was seven). So I decided to ask her who her parents were. And she told me ‘Coral June Gillon is my mum and Connie Chatfield is my dad’. And I said ‘well, Coral’s my mum too – so you’re my sister!’.

It brought tears to my eyes, because I’d never met her before, and I didn’t even know we had an elder sister. So it was really amazing for me.

I let all the kids know – I said ‘yep, Aunt’s coming and you’re going to meet her for the first time’.

I was counting down the days. As it was getting closer and closer, the more nervous I was.

Another sibling – it’s lovely. It’s amazing. I'm so happy.

See Elly and Lavenia's meeting on Living Black - 9pm Sunday, March 20 on NITV | 5pm Monday, March 21 on SBS