art, Child Migrants, events, Forgotten Australians, memories, objects, Responding to the National Apology, Stolen Generations

No more silent tears #2

by Leigh Westin (guest author) on 14 July, 2011

Leigh Westin, who grew up in Scarba House and Parramatta Girls Home, is creating a memorial entitled No More Silent Tears for Forgotten Australians. The memorial is comprised of a large panel of handkerchiefs sewn together, each decorated by those who spent time in a Children’s Home or institution.

If you experienced institutional or out-of-home ‘care’ and would like to contribute to this memorial, then on a lady’s-sized handkerchief embroider and/or write in ink, your name, the name of the institutions(s) and the year(s) that you lived there. Please feel free to decorate it however you wish, so that it will be suitable for people of all ages to view. The important thing is that you only use a lady’s handkerchief so that Leigh can easily sew them together. You may, of course, make a handkerchief in order to remember a Forgotten Australian or former Child Migrant who has passed away.

You can then post it to:
Adele Chynoweth
National Museum of Australia
GPO Box 1901
Canberra ACT 2601

Adele will then pass the handkerchiefs onto Leigh. Please make sure that your contribution reaches Adele by close of business Friday 12 August, 2011.

Below are some of the handkerchiefs that have already been made.

documents, Forgotten Australians, memories

A child’s letters to the welfare department

by Priscilla Taylor (guest author) on 11 July, 2011

A child’s letters to the South Australian Children’s Welfare chairman help to tell the story of a young woman who spent 16 years in care, and later discovered her mother had written many returned letters to her daughter.

Priscilla Taylor (then Phyllis McMorran) wrote the letters to Mr Cook, Chairman of the Children’s Welfare and Public Relief Department of South Australia in 1961 while she was living in a Foster Home.

Priscilla explains:

While growing up I would cry for my Mother, I would then be told, don’t worry about her, she doesn’t want you. Nobody wrote to me, so during letter writing night I would write to Mr Cook. While it was good of him to reply, I would have preferred letters from my Mother. Yes Mum did visit when I was in Seaforth, a Government-run Home, but during my 16 years under the Welfare, I only spent months, numerous times living there.

During the Mullighan Enquiry, Ted Mullighan asked for a support service to be set up for us. This was the beginning of Post Care Services SA, for Forgotten Australians. While attending Post Care, I spent time coming to know a Brother and Sister. One day the Brother mentioned this lovely lady who had looked after them and given him the happiest of his growing up years, until she died at 50 years of age. Under this ladies bed she kept a box of returned letters, she had written to her two daughters. Yes these letters belonged to me, this beautiful lady was my Mother, Phyllis Dawn Pring. After receiving my files, I also learnt that Mum had also be lied to, and had applied to the Courts of SA, to gain custody back on several occassions.

So as you see, some things are not as they appear.

Read Priscilla’s letters (PDF 180kb) and a response from Mr Cook.

art, Forgotten Australians, painting, poetry

‘A Severed Life’

by Rachael Romero (guest author) on 8 June, 2011

Rachael Romero, who was in the The Pines, the Convent of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd in Plympton, South Australia, shares her drawing A Severed Life.

Rachael writes about her art work:

Those responsible for our incarceration were looking in the mirror.
How many lives cauterized?
How many hands maimed?
Girls not protected but stained by unwarranted and self-righteous religious and civil presumption of guilt.
Their persecuters were looking in the mirror.

‘Magdalene Laundry Convent of Good Shepherd Crown’ by Rachael Romero copyright 2011
Forgotten Australians, memories, painting

‘The Mangle’

by Rachel Romero (guest author) on 18 May, 2011

New York artist and film-maker, Rachael Romero, and former resident of ‘The Pines’, Sisters of the Good Shepherd Convent, Plympton, South Australia shares a page from her book which will be published this year.

Rachael’s book is a series of prints documenting the life in the Convent of the Good Shepherd. Regarding her work below, The Mangle, Rachael says,

You … need to imagine immense heat, little ventilation and the din of thundering machinery.

The Mangle. Copyright Rachael Romero, 2011
Forgotten Australians, poetry

‘Pines Indoctrination’

by Rachael Romero (guest author) on 2 May, 2011

In 1971, Rachael Romero, soon after her release from The Pines (Sisters of the Good Shepherd Convent), Plympton, SA, wrote a poem about how it felt to be indoctrinated.

Of Pine Indoctrination, copyright Rachael Romero

Of Pines Indoctrination

A tattooed mind
with fear and cold
and logic warped
to please false aims

a cringing heart
a slaughtered soul
a bleeding confiscated mind

Deadened, buried lay my will
Hushed with fear and violent threat
Unwanted, stifled, broken, ill
stumbling on a stormy deck.

copyright Rachael Romero

Forgotten Australians, memories

In the beginning

by Wendy Sutton (guest author) on 19 April, 2011

Dr Wendy Sutton, who was an inmate in The Pines (Convent of the Good Shepherd, Plympton) shares her experiences, including how she met her life-long friend.

 I have not seen the Magdalene Sisters movie, but I have seen the trailer. And for me, the chilling scene where the young girl is simply left at the Convent and the door is closed behind her made me shiver, as this was a feeling that I remember all too well.

I was taken to the Pines after being “appropriately expelled” from my high school.  That was one long day.  That morning I awoke to find my (social) Father home from work. This never happened on a week day as he was always off to the army barracks.  My Mother told me not to dress in my uniform, too late, I had, and I flew out the door with a desperate gripping feeling.  I think I walked to school that day, usually I rode my pushbike. My gut was in turmoil, I was stupefied and fearful, but through out my childhood this feeling was my constant companion. However, I knew something was up. I was unsettled that morning at school.

I was at my school desk when my name was blasted over the loud speaker, “Wendy Sutton come to the office.” There was Mum and Dad  – a first – sitting in the Headmistresses’ hallway. Mrs. R. was her name. Into the office we all marched like good little soldiers single file. R. sat matronly behind her magnificent desk with my parents sitting on the opposite side discussing this ‘uncontrollable’ person in the room – me.

I was numb. I sat and looked on as they all decided my fate. It was  signed, sealed and delivered. I was officially expelled from Strathmont Girls Technical High School at age 13. The red-headed deputy headmistress was loitering out side R.’s office, and as my parents and Miss R. shook hands and passed solemn pleasantry’s amongst themselves, Red gestured me over to her.

She looked at me like a sad-eyed spaniel, with her head cocked to one side and biting her lip, she took my hand and said, “For what it is worth Wendy, I am so sorry.” She was kind, and so was R., although they did not agree with my parents’ judgement concerning me, they still allowed the process to continue. “It’s for the best” they said.

That day was filled with erratic emotions,  I collected all my books and belongings. I remember my entire class rallied around giving me suggestions on how to “run away” or “escape”. A friend, Glen H., offered me $2.00 to catch a train and get as far away as possible so my parents would never find me. My physical education teacher hugged me and cried as she asked what she could do to help me. She then gathered the class in the sports shed to wish me well and everyone was howling. My dearest friends clung to me like bees to honey. It was awful but at the same time wonderful to know how these people loved me.

“I am only going for three weeks” … I blubbered through my snot and tears. I was weak, lost but I soon clicked into disassociate mode which I knew how to do so well by age 13. I think I walked home, talk about the prey walking into the den! I was 13 for God’s sake, a very psychologically, spiritually and physically wounded young girl. My teachers knew this as they constantly had me in the office asking questions about my obviously battered body. Of course, I always fell off a swing, fell over, had a fight with my sister …

All I remember next was that silent drive in the little green Ford to the Pines and up the long driveway. I have a reoccurring dream of that long driveway… but it is a positive dream now-a-days taking me along a long and winding driveway filled with grand exotic trees and powerful waterfalls which lead to my home. A home that has not materialised to this day, mind you!

Then with the same poof and pageantry as with R., I was handed over to the nuns in total silence. This is where I felt the impact of the Magdalene Sisters movie trailer, when that door was slammed behind me and I was alone not knowing what the hell was going on. I was never informed! I was silently aching.  I had literally been thrown away … yet again. I just kept thinking it is only for three weeks, yeh right! Three weeks led to 12 months!

It was as though I was in that cold empty room for hours when Mother Superior came in and handed me a tidy bundle of drab looking clothes and instructed me to undress. She took my “outside” clothes and she then ushered me into a damn hot disinfectant bath, I will never forget it. Mother – silent but with a stern look on her face- scrubbed me down from head to toe with a bristled scrubbing brush. I was filthy from sin apparently. But, I was a virgin. I was molested by a close family friend – but my Mother did not believe me – and violently raped at 13, but still a virgin to consensual sex.  I did not smoke nor do drugs.

According to my Mum I was uncontrollable, and you know, I am sure I was in her eyes, I was always seeking her attention, apparently. Although I believe this to be true as my Mother did not want me, she herself came out from a sordid marriage with my 7 month old sister in tow and, me on the way! I do not blame my Mother or my Father. They did what they thought was right at the time.

The bath was done, I was told to stand, I did. Mother inspected my body.  I was red raw and crying, well snivelling really as I was too scarred to really let go. Mother passed me a towel that was almost as hard as the bristles on that damn brush! She instructed me to dress. Out she went and closed the door, gently, behind her. I was alone and empty once again wondering what on earth was going on. I consoled myself by thinking I was only in this place for 3 weeks.

Now all dressed up in my “inside clothes” looking like some orphan Annie with wet unruly hair and stinking of disinfectant, eyes red and stinging like fire! I looked about the dark brick room which housed this huge ugly bath, no furniture that I remember anyway, no windows, just two doors. Some of us Magdelene laundresses remember that bath very well.

Mother Superior materialised. It was as though she glided into the room from out of nowhere, with her long black habit flowing all round her, she startled me. “Your name will be Jane” she instructed. Then she opened THAT door which led to a concrete court yard. Before I could ask a single question the door was slammed and bolted behind me.

I remember this as if it were yesterday; as the door slammed behind me I turned to see this concrete slab enclosed by TALL fencing with barbed wire on top. I shook,  I peed myself, I just wanted to die! I could not cry out loud, but the tears streamed down my face. Other “inmates” came to inspect the new comer and some laughed at me, others looked on from a distance, but one girl stood out amongst the rest, Sharon. Sharon smiled and said “Don’t worry about them.” FORTY FOUR years later we are still the dearest of friends!

So, this was my introduction to the Pines …

documents, Forgotten Australians, memories, poetry

‘Escape Attempt’ 2

by Rachael Romero (guest author) on 13 April, 2011

Rachael Romero, who was in The Pines (Convent of the Good Shepherd, Plympton) shares one of her poems:
Rachael explains:

This was written right after I left the Pines, Convent of the Good Shepherd. My friend Agi and I decided to feign a religious calling so we could “do rosary” in the chapel before dinner. We had our eyes on a high window that was not barred. To escape through it was a dream, but we persisted for weeks before abandoning the idea.

Furtive, stealthy in the gloom The noise and cracks of a silent room Every step an inch to free life Every inch a step to new strife Fear, regret, anticipation Throbbing, pulsing, circulation. “The window’s high, the glass is thick. All I need’s a heavy brick.” “But what of noise? – Someone will hear They’ll keep us here another year” “Agi come back it is too late I hear a key at the staircase gate Kneel down, kneel down, make out to pray They may not even come this way Our chance has gone, perhaps it’s best Let’s go back, sit with the rest I had no-where to go anyway Trust “Sour Grapes” to cause delay”  copyright Rachel Romero
Escape Attempt poem

Escape Attempt

Furtive, stealthy in the gloom
The noise and cracks of a silent room
Every step an inch to free life
Every inch a step to new strife
Fear, regret, anticipation
Throbbing, pulsing, circulation.
“The window’s high, the glass is thick.
All I need’s a heavy brick.”
“But what of noise? – Someone will hear
They’ll keep us here another year”
“Agi come back it is too late
I hear a key at the staircase gate
Kneel down, kneel down, make out to pray
They may not even come this way
Our chance has gone, perhaps it’s best
Let’s go back, sit with the rest
I had no-where to go anyway
Trust “Sour Grapes” to cause delay”

copyright Rachel Romero

Forgotten Australians, poetry

For some

by Wendy Sutton (guest author) on 13 April, 2011

Wendy Sutton, a former inmate of The Pines (Convent of the Good Shepherd), Plympton, South Australia now lives in New York, USA. Here she shares her poetry.

Stuck in a Void

Are we stuck in a void, toiling with the end and the beginning?
escape then is inevitable
Or, is it a wanderlust for new experiences?

Western Culture suffocates & retards my senses and the very essence of who I am
Where do I go?
Is it deaths door of which I am finally arriving at, no satisfaction with this existence, no joy in sharing my “true” life.

Wendy Sutton Fe.2/1995 Australia

“She”
All my senses are alerted
By such a ballistic, turbulent chaos, so unsettling, and almost agonizing,
And yet so mysterious and alluring

But, without falter she continues to savage relentlessly to the end,
Only to slow such chaos for the ultimate caress of which still remains undivided. Joyous and so faithful and a never ending reliability that the very same secret devotion in which the sun rises and sets . . . . it is from the very depths of the ocean’s savagery that such delicate waves indubitably encounter the shore, with a gentle kiss.
This gives me so much strength, to know that no matter what the oceans wildest storm, the turbulence, the pain, the horror nor tragedy,
She blesses and transforms me with such courage and endurance, that through my own turbulence, I too will surely come to shore each and every time with a refreshed breathe of life, caressing the very existence of my horizons . . . . .

Wendy Sutton, NYC Monday 4th 2002

I Think

An English Manor, oh so Grand,
with an attic,
she used to frequent the attic,
from dawn till dusk,
draw she did.
A big woman, grey hair in a bun
not tight.
Pale skin, not a blemish.
Beautiful teeth,
Straight and just off white.
She smells of English rose perfume,
a gentle subtle fragrance.
She’s dead now, My Grandmother.
I never knew her,
I never met her, not once.
Wendy Sutton -Darwin 1986-

The Rose
It is a masterpiece of Nature
The perfect cup in which the rose bud is embedded, so striking and yet so
seemingly fragile,
but held sturdy via the gallantry of her thorny stem
Two polarities set to deter anything that would destroy the unfolding exquisiteness of The Rose,
such protection,,,,,, not even expected,
it just is.
Wendy Sutton 2002 New York City

Watching with Intensity

It is watching the intensity of it all pass by me,
The escalation of the era, the history of which I dance within,
the dance that goes on,
and
the history changes day by day, to my titillation . . .
I smile with a passion quenched with adoration,
it has now come before me -in a manner of which- holds a glimpse of what is mere fetal,
thus, a touch of agony,
and yet,
an abandon creativity that sets me free to infiltrate, ready to explode

the particles of which fall, with a gentle cascade, softly, slowly,
oh the beauty
feel the sensation, become a part of the Universal force
only to succeed another existence,

………………………………………………….

for some
*
Wendy Sutton 1995

documents, Forgotten Australians, memories, objects, photography

The cross was a knife for us

by Rachael Romero (guest author) on 9 April, 2011

Award-winning film maker and visual artist, Rachael Romero, writes about the image of the knife that was used in a theatre production at the Pines (Convent of the Good Shepherd).

Rachael explains:

Imagery speaks to memory. Artifacts resonate meaning. In the Pines, (Convent of the Good Shepherd) year of 1968 we used this wooden knife in a play held as a charade for Welfare (as if we were provided for culturally). Never mind that there were hardly any books available; newspapers to read, radios to hear or any news crossing the barbed wire fences of our laundry prison.  We were told to offer up our suffering for the saving of souls. I see this knife as a kind of Magdalene  cross we were nailed to. After-all we were stigmatized and a regular cross would have been blasphemy. The knife was also the image of choice  for  home-made tattoo in the Pines;  crudely drawn into cuts on the  the leg in Indian ink–a form of self injury to reify the agony we felt .

I photographed the second image of my feet “on the cross” eighteen months after I got out. At sixteen–this is how I felt– crucified, but not redeemed from the extra judicial incarceration I had experienced. I had no-one to tell. Everyone looked away, pretended nothing had happened.We have only just begun to break this terrible silence in  “the lucky country” so that other unwanted children will cease to be so savaged.

The knife was used as a prop for the production of HMS Pinafore (image of the programme below), performed by inmates from the Pines. Rachael recalls:

It was directed by Mother Lourdes I believe. I made the drawing and did the scenery and sang in the chorus. I don’t remember much about it except that I was always glad to make art instead of working in the laundry.

The welfare workers, priest and family members were invited. It was all a big show to look as if we were being cared for.After the performance  the priest requested that my blonde curls be shaved and presented to him. I refused.