Volume 18 Number 4
I Don't Want Your Pity, Just Listen
01 August 2005
The day before Christine Jacobs, one of the ‘stolen generations’ of Aboriginal Australians, was due to speak at the launch of Australia’s National Day of Healing, she was knocked down by a car and killed. Her 14-year-old daughter, Tamara, read her speech at the event in the Great Hall of Parliament on 25 May.
The whole audience stood in tribute to what one Member of Parliament described as ‘arguably the bravest speech ever delivered in Federal Parliament’. Every major Australian daily carried the story. The National Day of Healing will be an annual event, a renaming and continuation of National Sorry Day, first held in 1998. We print Christine Jacob’s speech as a tribute to her courage and work for reconciliation.
I am a member of the stolen generations. I got taken from my parents in 1967 at the age of two years old as part of the government’s policy to make this a white Australia. I suffered all forms of abuse from the age of two to 13:
Cultural abuse—not being allowed to learn about my roots.
Emotional abuse—no-one giving a stuff.
Mental abuse—always being told lies like my Mum was dead. She’s still alive today. (My Dad died when I was four while I was in the mission.) And that I had no family. I was constantly told that I was only here to make up the numbers on earth.
Physical abuse—being hit and having things thrown at me for the littlest things.
Sexual abuse—having my innocence forcibly stolen.
I hated white people with a passion because of this. I actually tried to bleach my skin when I was in grade 3 because being black meant too much pain. When I reached 16-17 years of age, I gave up. I found a sense of belonging in alcohol, drugs, violence and gambling, and having no self-respect for myself in any. It was my ‘pit’ for years until I reached a point where I didn’t want to live any more. I was prepared to take my life. I wanted to die.
My kids spoke to me from a photo and I realized I had three very important reasons to live. They saved my life and were my inspirations for getting out of the pit.
The whole system/policy was set up in a way that was to destroy my mind and my body. It succeeded in doing that at times—but it completely failed at trying to destroy my spirit.
Although I had all this happen to me, I don’t feel bitter and I don’t hate white people any more, or blame the Government. I went back to every family which fostered me, thanked those who helped me and forgave those who abused me. I don’t want your pity. I don’t want anyone to say sorry to me. I just want you to listen.
I am blessed in many ways.
I have met my family—many Aboriginal people are still looking for their families or are too late.
I have the same name that I was born with—many Aboriginal people had their names changed.
I feel that my life was easy compared to some people’s. I’m referring to the people of the Holocaust era and all the people who fought in the wars. I feel for them as I learnt about what they went through and what they had endured.
I’m also blessed because I had met and been with my partner for 11 and a half years. He’s an Australian/Irishman by the name of John, and he smashed any walls of racism and hatred I have ever held in my heart.
There are two major things I had to do before I could stand here before you today. They are confronting and forgiving my past and all that came with it. With John and my kids’ love and support, I was able to do just that.
I pray for non-Aboriginal people to hear stories like this, and to acknowledge the pain and suffering that the Aboriginal race endured because of our colour.
I pray for Aboriginal people to forgive the past somehow.
Otherwise Australia will always be in limbo with things maybe getting worse.
I pray for these things to happen because it will give me comfort knowing that my two brothers didn’t take their pain with them to their graves for nothing. Also that my father didn’t die of a broken heart for nothing.
Reconciliation is what Australia needs
No racist grudges and hateful greed,
No more feeling bitter for events from the past
We should all pull together or these problems will last.