Mixed emotions swirl for Aunty Lyn Austin, as she recalls memories from the past.
It’s the day that marks the tenth anniversary of the national apology and the Gunditjmara/Wotjobaluk Elder was herself, a stolen child.
Forcibly taken from her family at the age of just 10-years-old from the river banks of Dimboola in western Victoria, The 64-year-old describes her childhood experience as a ‘continual nightmare’.
“I lived with a non-Indigenous family on a farm near Geelong and they had seven other Aboriginal foster children in their care. My foster parents were portrayed as a good white Christian couple, but the abuse I dealt with was shocking.”
Still scarred from the damaging abuse from the memories of her early life, Aunty Lyn describes the on-going struggle that confronts her family today.
“A lot of us are getting old and sick and we’re raising our grandchildren so they don’t get taken,” she explained.
“It’s a generational thing as we’re trying to keep our kids out of the institutions. They don’t realise the pressure they put on our families when we’re still trying to deal with the past.”
It has been a decade since former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologised to the stolen generations in front of the nation at Parliament House in Canberra. Looking back since 2008, the lack of progress has left victims feeling disappointed, lost and hurt.
“It’s been an empty ten years and hardly nothing has been done for our mob” Aunty Lyn said.
It wasn’t until the age of 17 whilst studying a nursing degree when Aunty Lyn was able to reconnect with her birth father. However just weeks before her graduation, she discovered her biological mother died of a heart attack.
That was the turning point for Aunty Lyn, where she decided to cut all ties with her adopted family, but was left struggling to find a natural connection with her biological relatives.
“I couldn’t cope and adapt when I met my personal family. Even when I tried to reconnect they were still like strangers. I couldn’t bond with them again and I never got over that, especially when my mother died. I only ever saw them at funerals.”
Now being the sole carer for her six-year-old grandson, Aunty Lyn has called for a better understanding from child protections agencies and stolen generation reparations.
“They need to start thinking of starting up a compensation fund or redress. It’s been twenty years since the bringing them home report and nothing has been done,” said a frustrated Aunty Lyn.
“I don’t want my grandson to go through what I went through. I’m trying my best to give him a life that I didn’t have because this can’t happen again.”
Fears of a second Stolen Generation
As Aunty Lyn reflects on the past wrongs inflicted upon Indigenous Australians, she expressed her pain for other stolen peoples across the country.
“I’d like to acknowledge the Stolen Generation mob and the ones that are still coming home. I’d especially like to acknowledge the ones who never made it back.”
Aunty Lyn shared her story on Tuesday in front of a crowd at the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service’s function for the national anniversary, in hopes of inspiring others to stay strong.