Kinchela Boys Home (KBH) Survivor, Uncle Richard working in his art studio in Kempsey. Photo credit: Nicole Clements, Caritas Australia
Men like Uncle Richard are engaging in a journey of healing from the trauma of being a member of the Stolen Generations, through the Kinchela Boys Home Aboriginal Corporation (KBHAC), supported by Caritas Australia.
Uncle Richard was kidnapped from his family, community and country, at a young age, and had his name taken away, replaced with a number instead.
“First thing they say to you: forget your name. You are now a number. You are now 28,” Uncle Richard said.
“They grabbed us… and took us away from our people.
“They just kept saying, you’re not black, you’re white,” he said.
Hundreds of Indigenous boys were held at the State-run Kinchela Boys Home (KBH) in Kempsey, New South Wales between 1924 and 1970.
Now the KBH survivors are restoring their identity, family structures and connections to community through KBHAC, which they established in 2001.
KBHAC was formed by the KBH survivors to support them, their families and communities through a peer model of support and empowerment founded on brotherhood and neighbourly love.
Uncle Michael, a KBHAC Board member and KBH survivor, spoke of the vital role which the organisation plays in reconciliation.
“What we’re doing now, besides helping [each other], we’re helping communities, going out to actually talk about what happened to us in schools, institutions, businesses,” he said.
“We tell our stories, and we can hopefully show the way for other people to learn from our pain. And we’re trying to be the leader, a role model for our kids.”
For Uncle Richard, art and creativity have also been crucial to the healing process.
“I had a lot of anger before I came to KBHAC and used to take it out on my canvases, talking about being in the boys’ home through my artwork,” he said.
He gained a degree in Fine Arts and now teaches art, mentoring young Aboriginal artists and said his art is based on both Dreaming and Christian spirituality.
His Good Samaritan painting shows a First Australian helping a white man, and Uncle Richard spoke about how love and compassion has shaped his life too.
While at Kinchela Boys Home, the older boys acted as Good Samaritans for the younger boys.
“They took the pain for the little fellas,” Uncle Richard said.
About three years ago, Uncle Richard joined KBHAC, reuniting with other KBH survivors.
“Joining KBHAC changed my life.
“It lifted me a lot more compared with my artwork, and helped me… especially listening to the other men’s stories. We’ve still got a lot of anger but we’re controlling it now, coming together,” he said.
Uncle Richard hopes that KBHAC will be able to develop a shared understanding with the wider community.
”Our door is open. Knock on the door and say, can you teach me? Can we talk about Indigenous issues? Can we talk in a proper way?”
Support Project Compassion 2017 and help Australia’s Stolen Generations and their families to heal from the pain of the past.