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.

documents, Forgotten Australians, memories, objects

Holy cards

by Rachael Romero (guest author) on 10 March, 2011

Rachael Romero who was sent to the The Pines, Plympton, SA, run by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, recalls the importnace of holy cards:

Holy cards were currency -emotional currency–in a place where expressions of contempt are the norm; where you can’t trust anyone because of co-ersion and it is unwise to share secrets, the holy cards where a sanctioned (because purified) way of showing loyalty and caring between people–to say what otherwise may not be said–to give each other courage. We weren’t allowed to speak more than an hour a day–otherwise we were in silence and the thundering noise of the Laundry Mangle or being raved at by the head nun as we ate the rotten food. Allways watched, we could buy the cards for pennies from the nuns and sometimes we were given them as gifts. We could not pass notes or letters unless the nuns read them first but the holy card was ok. It carried our “voice” however coded, however muffled.

They were given on Feast Days and Birthdays because we had no other gifts. We got 20c every week towards buying our own shampoo, soap, tooth paste–and holy cards, from the nuns.

Holy Card, The Pines
Holy Card, The Pines
Holy Card, The Pines
Forgotten Australians, memories, poetry

What is Wild?

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

In these two original poetic works, Rachael Romero reflects on her experiences at The Pines, an institution for girls in Plympton, South Australia.

What is wild?  by Rachael Romero, reflecting on entering The Pines

What is wild
Child
Not meek, not mild
Defiled
Exiled
Reviled
Child

MAGDALENE LAUNDRY

The stigmata of
religiously tattooed
Magdalene       slaves
scourgings of
“fallen women”,
scars from
inmate  labour
laundry work
hard physical
against the will work,
disfiguring injury
to hands and minds
now and always
Branded and
besmirched by
vituperative
nails-through-the-palms-
language
religious scourgings
marks of experience–pain
onto legs
bellies
Branded by injurious insult
religious tattooing of the mind
forced
physical labour
such as laundry work
agains- the-will,
side-by-side nail marks
Christ inflicted pain
Magdalene self-injury
cigarette burns to
know what  Jesus felt.

PENITENCE
the identifiable stigma of slaves
hard labour institutions,
stigmata people
ancient
branded.
on  my body
the same wounds
symbols of pain
and slavery
marks of ancient  inmate identification by  order of the church,      state order.

by Rachael Romero

art, Forgotten Australians, memories, painting, Stolen Generations

Escape and Blood Sisters

by Rachael Romero (guest author) on 16 February, 2011

Rachael Romero shares two of her paintings which depict experiences at the Convent of the Good Shepherd, ‘The Pines’, Plympton, South Australia.

Frederica’s Escape Attempt
mixed media on rag paper (ink, watercolour) 22 x 30″, copy right Rachael Romero, 1984

Freddie tried to rush up the wall over the barbed wire one night. The dogs were barking on the other side. We were all wishing her up and over and out, but of course she got dragged back.

She would keep trying.

Blood Sisters
mixed media on rag paper (ink, watercolor) 22 x 30″, copyright Rachael Romero, 1984

Me and Lilly did this because we felt we had become sisters in horror. Lilly had been taken from her mother to a mission then The Pines. She didn’t remember where she was from. I didn’t want to be from where I remembered.

art, drawing, Forgotten Australians, memories

Those who never left

by Rachael Romero (guest author) on 16 February, 2011

Rachael Romero remembers those women, admitted as children, to the Convent of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, ‘The Pines’, Plympton, who had stayed on in the institution well into their adulthood. Why didn’t they leave? What became of them?

Gaylis
copyright Rachael Romero, 1973

A drawing of an old woman with an apron, copyright Rachael Romero 1973"
Gaylis
copyright Rachael Romero, 1973

Gaylis was a ‘lifer’, a sweet-hearted person left there by her family. She was made to slave in the kitchen with no idea how to be the cook, but she did her best.

I still remember the chunks of lard and the bubbles of powdery flour that had not been stirred together sufficiently before baking a crust for that terrible gravy pie with junks of leathery kidneys swimming in it. I want to retch.

Having once seen ‘Little Jo’ on Bonanza, Gaylis was forever besotted with him – it was all she spoke of. Oh Gaylis what became of you when the place closed and the nuns fled? Slaving was all you knew.

There was also a woman with Downs Syndrome who folded hankies in that thunderous laundry. She waited on a Sunday with her handbag for someone to take her out. No one ever did.

documents, Forgotten Australians, memories, objects

Don’t let me catch you back here

by Rachael Romero (guest author) on 14 February, 2011

A fellow resident gave Rachael this holy card  on her leaving The Pines.

Holy card depicting Mary and Jesus
Mary and Jesus

The message reads:

To dearest Rachael,

I am sorry to see you go.

I hope you make the most of everything, and that all goes well for you.
Wish things were a little better in the family situation, and for God’s sake don’t let me catch you back here.

All the best,
your friend

……… x

P.S. I hope you pass Inter[mediate], and go on to get good grades in Leaving.

As soon as I get out I will contact you, and I will come over and have some ‘Brandied Bananas’.

art, Forgotten Australians, memories, objects, painting

Art has always saved me

by Rachael Romero (guest author) on 14 February, 2011

Rachael Romero’s artistic talent enabled her to have time away from slaving in the laundry at The Pines. Here is one of the bookmarks that the Sisters of the Good Shepherd asked her to make.

Rachael recalls:

So here’s the rub. When the nuns found out I had talent I was asked to make book marks and cards for them to use.

This way I got out of the laundry for an hour or two a week. What relief they locked me in a room alone to paint!

Peace–quiet!

I feigned a religious conversion in order to escape their radar and plot my escape.

documents, Forgotten Australians, memories, objects

M’o’mento of slavery

The Sisters of the Good Shepherd ran commercial laundries which serviced many businesses, including hopsitals, hotels and wealthy households. Doing all the unpaid, hard labour in hot conditions were teenage girls who were sent the convent because they were considered to be in ‘moral danger’.

The Good Shepherd laundries operated at the Mt Maria Centre, Mitchelton, Brisbane; Abbotsford Convent, Melbourne; The Pines, Plympton; Leederville, Perth and Mount Saint Canice in Hobart.

Rachael Romero, in 1968, aged 15, was an unpaid labourer in the laundry while resident at The Pines. Below is a laundry slip she kept – one of those used by the Good Shepherd Sisters to charge for their laundry services.

Laundry slip from the Home of the Good Sheperd, Plympton, South Australia

For more information on the commercial laundry services run in Catholic Children’s Homes, see Allan Gill’s 2003 article in the Sydney Morning Herald, Bad girls do the best sheets.