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Dismiss alert

Josephine Judge-Rigney

Your family is the most valuable thing in your life, there's always that family belonging.

My mum had six girls and we made our own fun. In the old days the Housing Trust back yards were so massive, we used to go and make cars in the back yard with tracks in the dirt. We've always had good humour, especially when laughing about ourselves. Our family stuck together. Dad didn't like us hanging around Aboriginal kids - they didn't tell us we were Aboriginal. But when he went out we ran amok with the Aboriginal kids in our street. We always had this connection with other Aboriginal kids. A lot of the traditional people don't like their children marrying the lighter urban people because our colour goes.  We're the only race that doesn't have throwbacks. If you marry someone lighter, your kids will be lighter.

When we were kids, we were taken by FamiliesSA and placed in a Home. They segregated my two older sisters from me, and we used to touch their fingers through the wire fence.

If it wasn't for our dad being white, Mum wouldn't have been able to get us back. We were taken when Mum left us with a family friend. My other sisters had been sent to an aunty and the youngest one went with Mum and Dad to Sydney. There was just the four of us here. When they came to get us, this big fat cop had to crawl under the house (which was on stilts) to pull us all out. That's when we were made Wards of the State.

In those days, the Welfare used to come with white gloves and wipe the shelves to check the cleanliness of the house.  They'd want to see that the beds were made like hospital beds. If they didn't think it was good enough, they'd take your kids. So me and three of my sisters were in a Home, we still didn't know we were Aboriginal, but everyone else did.

We never grew up with any male figures, there were no strong males in our lives, we had only aunties, but we were all strong girls. The females were the strong ones in our mob, the men were drunks. The women held the families together and they put themselves through so much to save the family. It's not just culture, family is family.  That connection keeps you together.

Your family is the most valuable thing in your life, there's always that family belonging. The ones who can't connect to their family because it's taboo, because the family has done something wrong, it's like they don't exist.  When they do try to find out about it they come against a brick wall, they've lost their culture and can't pass it onto their kids. So the next generation misses out, they know they're connected to the land and the people and when they finally find out it's too late, the information has been stopped, they can't find the people or that generation has passed over.

Josephine Judge-Rigney