Volume 13 Number 2
A Living Memorial
01 April 2000

Ordinary people have chosen to know and 'own' the shameful side of Australia's history.

'I spit at that place every time I go past,' glowered a former resident of the Colebrook Home in South Australia. She was referring to the site of a now demolished institution, which was home over nearly 30 years to 350 Australian Aboriginal children who had been taken from their families under government policies of forced removal.

Hearing her experiences and beginning to understand the results of two centuries of colonial dispossession and disempowerment prompted the Blackwood Reconciliation Group to seek out other former residents. The group is one of hundreds that have sprung up around Australia as ordinary people have chosen to know and 'own' the shameful side of Australia's history. Growing public awareness has resulted in a people's movement working for recognition, apology and social justice.

As the Blackwood Reconciliation Group met the former Colebrook residents, it became painfully evident that a cosmetic reconciliation would never heal the hurts of the victimized nor change the hearts and attitudes of the dominant culture. The process of really hearing and honouring the stories of individuals and looking for forgiveness together became a key to planning a memorial to the 'stolen children', which could be a place of reflection and healing for black and white together.

A three-year venture of consultation, listening, barbeques, fund-raising and building friendships has resulted in a sacred place of sculpture and fountain, history and current reality. It is far more than stone and bronze, rather a living memorial for the healing and transformation of both indigenous and non-indigenous alike.

On a plaque next to the Fountain of Tears, a granite sculpture that remembers the pain of the families left behind, are the words of a woman removed from her family when she was five. 'And every morning as the sun went up the whole family would wail. They did that for 32 years until they saw me again. Who can imagine what a mother went through. But you have to learn to forgive.'

Former residents and their families and many from the local white community have come together on three occasions to unveil the different stages of the memorial. Over 2,000 came to see the Fountain of Tears start to flow.

Along the path that curves around the self-sown grove of young eucalyptus trees, the story is told on plaques on boulders. The bronze statue of the Grieving Mother, hands open, head bowed, pleads with the generations to come, 'Please, let it never happen again.'

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