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In 1963, Beverley Whyman was a 14 year old Aboriginal girl living in Swan Hill. She met a boy and fell in love and became pregnant. At that time in Australia, Aboriginal people were still living under the Victorian Protection of Aborigines Act. The Act meant that all Aboriginal people were subject to assimilation policies and part of this assimilation policy was the removal of children from their Aboriginal mothers.
In 1963, Beverley gave birth to a boy named Russell Thomas Moore. The Victorian Welfare authorities ‘forced’ Beverley to give up the child. The reason was she was unable to care of him. A few days later, Russell was adopted by a white missionary couple and Beverley was sent back to Swan Hill.
Beverley grieved for the son who was taken from her, he was her first born son. Although at the time she was unwed, Beverley eventually married Russell’s father, but he died shortly after in a car accident.
Growing up without her son and the death of her husband and father of her older children, Beverley was hit again by the death of her father while in custody. In 1982, Beverley’s father, James Archibald Moore, was picked up by Police for a $10 fine, and died after being taken from the jail to hospital. He never returned home.
Beverley’s heart would soon break again when she found out in 1989 that her first born son Russell, now known by his adopted name, James Hudson Savage, had been indicted for murder in the US and sentenced to die in the Electric Chair. During the trial, it was revealed that Russell was an Australian Aboriginal man.
Russell’s sentence was appealed in 1990-91 and it was during the appeal process that he was found to be a member of the Stolen Generation of Aboriginal people, and one who had been removed from his homelands and taken overseas.
During the appeal of his Death Sentence, Russell met his mother Beverley for the first time. Beverley speaks about this meeting in her interviews.
Russell's death sentence was appealed and he was sentenced to life in prison without parole. A life sentence in the United States means 25 years. Since that time, Beverley has been fighting for her son to be returned home, to finish his sentence in Australia.
Russell has completed his life sentence, but he is still locked up in a correctional facility in Florida. Beverley, now in her 60’s and suffering from health problems is afraid she will never see her son again.
Minelle Creed first came across this story when she saw the reports of Russell on Australian television in 1991. She remembers the court case and the moment when mother and son first met.
In 2005 Minelle found out that he was now living in the Hardee Correctional Centre in Florida and decided to write to him.
Earlier this year, as a journalist and content producer with SBS Radio, Minelle decided again to get in touch with Beverley around the time of the anniversary of the former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s Apology to the members of the Stolen Generation.
Russell’s story has been documented in the “Report of the National Inquiry in the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families” released in 1997 by the Human Rights Commission under Section 17 Funding for Reunion Assistance and International Removals.
For years now Beverley has been appealing to the Federal Government for the return of her, but now she is afraid she will die before he is released. Even though Russell has completed his 25 year sentence, he remains in a prison cell in Florida, and his 2 pleas to be brought to Australia have failed.
Russell is not the only Australian in jail serving a life sentence overseas who has appealed the Australian government to be returned home. Shapelle Corby (life sentence) has also appealed and failed and most recently the highly publicised case of the Bali 9 duo (death sentence) in which the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, appealed to the Indonesian government for clemency.
Russell’s appeals to be returned to Australia could only be successful if the Treaty for International Prisoner Transfer was signed. At the time of his appeals the Treaty hadn’t been signed. But in 2007, David Hicks was transferred from Guantanamo Bay to Australia under this same treaty.
Beverley is now fighting for her son to be returned to finish his sentence in Australia, but due to complications with the legal case and his custody arrangement Beverley has no idea if she will ever see her son again.
Minelle is a Kalkadoon and Gunggari woman who spent the first five years of her life living at Cherbourg Aboriginal Settlement in the South Burnett region of Queensland. When Minelle was 5-years-old, her parents moved to Brisbane and Minelle and her five sisters and two brothers did all their schooling there.
Minelle loved primary school but when she moved from the Aboriginal mission to Brisbane, life changed dramatically. She and her family faced racial discrimination, but she grew up in very happy, loving and stable home.
In 1987, as a 17 year old girl, she travelled to Sydney and her Aunt took her down to the local Aboriginal Radio station in Redfern. It was there she met the man who would inspire her to be involved in radio, Tiga Bayles.
In 1989, Minelle moved back to Brisbane and made a call to the local Aboriginal radio station, and began volunteer work as a disc jockey/announcer at 4ZZZ. At the same time the 4AAA Brisbane Indigenous Media Association was being set up.
Between 1989 and 1992, Minelle travelled extensively around the country and been involved in Aboriginal media in several states, and a short stint with ABC Radio in Darwin and Alice Springs ABC Radio's ‘Speaking Out’.
In 2005, Minelle went back to study at Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Territory Education in the Northern Territory and completed Cert III and a Diploma in Broadcasting. From there she went onto to University and began an Arts Degree majoring in Journalism at Deakin University in Geelong.
Minelle has been a content producer for SBS Radio’s Living Black program since 2012.