Two days ago, May 26, is National Sorry Day in Australia. It is the anniversary of the day in 1997 when the ‘Bringing Them Home’ report from the Parliamentary Inquiry into the Stolen Generation was tabled in the Australian Federal Parliament.
One of the key recommendations was that an official apology be extended from the Prime Minister to the people and families who were affected by the policies around forced removal of children. Then PM John Howard, a conservative Coalition MP and all round shit bag, refused. Anangu are still suffering under his legacy of his NT Intervention so we didn’t hold our breath anyway. Well he refused, basically citing the fact that he personally hadn’t wandered into an Aboriginal household and plucked a newborn from its mothers breast, so therefore why should he apologise? It took 11 years and a change of government, until 2008 when then PM Kevin Rudd finally took that step. It was an incredible moment in Australian history – I recall watching it, silently crying as I saw my kinfolk clutching one another in the public gallery. It promised to be the start of a new chapter. 9 years on; little has changed.
Each year these anniversaries roll past and I (tearfully) explain to my children what happened, the assimilation policy of ethnic cleansing to take over where genocide left off. the profound impact it had on our family – and look into their earnest faces and promise them that they will never, ever be taken away from their family and placed with non-Aboriginal people. Ever. ……and I hope to the ancestors that I’m telling the truth.
But the truth is, I can’t actually be sure.
Because this small truth is; I always, no matter the state of my house, automatically apologise for the mess, or this being untidy, or that being dirty, or the dishes in the sink. Or toys on the floor. I apologise even if the house is spotless. Even if I’ve just spent all morning cleaning it. The reason? I’m always scared I’ll be the Aboriginal woman reported to “Families SA” for living in squalor and my Aboriginal children will be removed.
Another small truth? I fear visits from the Child Health Nurse; but I fear declining them just as much. I fear that if I decline the visits, that I’ll have my baby removed. Or a note in a file, a red mark against my name. When Isaiah was born they came every fortnight for 6 months; until I learned that it was voluntary and stopped answering the door after they told me that Baby Led Weaning was endangering my baby, and that he needed purées. When Benji was born they rang and told me they’d be coming to “inspect his sleep space”; I have co-slept and bed-shared with all of my babies and Benji is no different, so naturally I declined. Then, terrified; I rang back and said I’d changed my mind and asked them to come. Then spent an an hour scrubbing the grout in the bathroom the day before and putting fresh sheets in the bassinette that my baby has never so much as shut his eyes in, let alone slept in.
All this fear, lest my kids be taken away for neglect.
All this fear, all that cortisol; all through my pregnancies.
And yet, many still question if Intergenerational Trauma even exists.