A Northern Territory boy who had a traditional upbringing in a remote indigenous community lost his cultural identity after he was taken away by welfare workers for a decade, an inquiry has heard.
His grandfather, known as CO, told the child protection royal commission the boy was removed into care by the NT government at age seven because his mother was "drinking too much".
CO says he's been trying to repair the broken links to language, tradition, the land and culture ever since the young man returned at age 18 last year.
The youngster is struggling to recapture his Australian bush childhood, suddenly feeling alienated in the place where he grew up, he said.
"When he came back home he just speaking in English," CO said in an interview heard by the inquiry on Monday.
"He didn't trust anybody yet... he was scared."
CO said relatives weren't asked if they could look after the boy before he was sent to Darwin, nor were they told why they couldn't visit him.
The child had no connection to culture and family while he was away, and the community is slowly trying to reintroduce him to traditional life.
They've taken him out bush to fish for oysters and turtles, but the young man has been hesitant to eat bush tucker.
"Right now he's struggling to go hunting... he had a problem with the taste too," CO said.
"He's not really understanding."
The boy had to relearn the complex skin group system to reintegrate back into his community, and had to catch up on important men's business including initiation and ceremonies.
"Don't be scared I tell him. This is your place, your country, come on let's go, have a walk around... listen to the elders," CO said.
CO said his grandson missed out on important cultural knowledge including dancing, painting and making clap sticks, boomerangs and spears for hunting.
These stories, values and skills need to be passed on to future generations to preserve Aboriginal culture, CO said.
"It was very hard for him, for us too," he said.
"We're talking about life here, the kid's life."
The commission is hearing evidence about the the rising rates of forced removals of at-risk Aboriginal children from their families as National Reconciliation Week continues.
Counsel assisting the commission Tony McAvoy SC said it was shameful that Territory kids received child protection services at three times the national rate, 20 years after the landmark Bringing Them Home report into the Stolen Generation was released.
"The most egregious act the state can inflict upon a person is the removal, by force, of their children," he told the inquiry's Alice Springs hearing on Monday.