• Uncle Murray shares his stories of being removed from his family in the past to ensure a second Stolen Generation doesn't happen. (The Courier )Source: The Courier
Uncle Murray shares his heartfelt story about being stolen more than 70 years ago, yet a decade on from the 2008 National Apology and the amount of Indigenous children still being taken from their families remains alarmingly high.
Jedda Costa

14 Feb 2018 - 5:12 PM  UPDATED 14 Feb 2018 - 5:12 PM

At the age of 70, Wotjobaluk man Uncle Murray Harrison was the only person from Ballarat to travel to Canberra ten years ago, to witness former Prime Minster Kevin Rudd’s National Apology to the Stolen Generations. 

“You could see in everybody’s eyes that this is what we needed – to be recognised and given an apology for what’s happened to me and my people in the past,” he explained.

“When Kevin apologised I was able to slowly start my healing.”

"They later cut all of my hair off and scrubbed me as if they wanted to scrub the black off me.”

Uncle Murray was only 10-years-old when he was taken from his family in Bruthen, Victoria. He was then taken to Melbourne’s notorious Turana Youth detention centre, where he describes the distressing mistreatment he experienced.

“When the authorities took us to Turana I was looked at like a piece of dirt and thrown in a little dark cell in the middle of the night. The police officer said they’ll ‘deal with me in the morning’ calling me a ‘little black bastard’, he detailed.

"They later cut all of my hair off and scrubbed me as if they wanted to scrub the black off me.”

Later in 1948, Uncle Murray and his sisters were taken to Ballarat Orphanage. During that time Uncle Murray explained how he would often turn to alcohol to drown out the trauma of being taken.

“From the ages of 14 to 18 I was drinking myself stupid to drive away the pain that was put on me. By 18 I was a total alcoholic.”

“A lot of stolen mob are still facing their demons and dealing with them very badly."

After being released from the orphanage Uncle Murray met his future wife Norma who he credits for her love and support through his hardships.

Soon after meeting Norma, he completed his time as a National Serviceman and later came back to marry her. With a stable job, the couple raised four kids together in their Ballarat home.

“Without my wife, kids and Bunjil (God) I wouldn’t have made it to 80-years-old today.”

Although a positive experience in Uncle Murrays later years, he acknowledged the on-going trauma faced by a lot of other Indigenous people who were taken, including one of his cousins.

“A lot of stolen mob are still facing their demons and dealing with them very badly. A cousin of mine had been at a facility in Melbourne where he was hit with a piece of barb wire around his back, buttocks and legs. The scars disappeared from his body but never disappeared from his mind. He drank himself to death over it,” he said.

Unfortunately for the now 80-year-old, and many other stolen Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across the country, the stark reality of being forcibly removed meant that he never got the opportunity to see his family again.

“The absolute saddest part was that I never got to reconnect with my family. It was only five years ago that I met my two nieces who were my youngest sisters kids. I recently found out that my oldest brother had 11 girls and one boy – all this I never knew,” explained an emotional Uncle Murray.

“If you lose a part of your heart, you don’t get over it. And the part of our hearts that was taken is the family and culture that we lost. That’s something that you don’t just brush aside and get over.”

‘Protecting our children should be everyone’s business'

The detrimental impact of intergenerational trauma from child removal has continued to affect Indigenous Australians; it’s something peak organisations across the state are pushing to put an end to.  

CEO of the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA) Muriel Bamblett, fears a major concern for the Victorian Indigenous community is the alarming rates of children going through the foster care system due to abuse.

“Eighty-eight per cent of Aboriginal children in Victoria come into care due to family violence. Why haven’t we got a better response?” she said.

“A lot of the violence is perpetrated by non-Aboriginal men against Aboriginal women. Why do our women get treated less? Why is there not a better approach to protecting our women, and our children? Why isn’t protecting our children everybody’s business?”

The Yorta Yorta and Dja Dja Wurrung Elder expressed more needs to be done to keep Indigenous children with their families and out of disadvantaged circumstances in order to stop this vicious cycle.


“I think you have to be able to keep children in the family home. Better parenting programs, more support for families approaches to refresh and close the gap. Too many of our people live in poverty – most of them live in impoverished situations and this continues.”

“We have to challenge the policies, practices, institutionalised racism and the systemic discrimination that perpetrates our children to be more likely removed."

In order to prevent a ‘second stolen generation’ from taking place across the nation Muriel said Australians have to lead the way.


“We have to challenge the policies, practices, institutionalised racism and the systemic discrimination that perpetrates our children to be more likely removed and staying in care longer so they’re less likely to get help or support and go back home to their families.”


Labour opposition leader Bill Shorten has promised a $10 million National Healing Fund for programs that ‘assist with the healing of Stolen Generation members and their descendants nation-wide’ in 2018. This means survivors such as Uncle Murray won’t have to suffer in silence for the wrongs that were forced upon them for being Aboriginal.  


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