A play looking at the multi-generational removal of Aboriginal children will stage performances in the Blue Mountains next month.
Co-author Elise Anthony from Moree in northern NSW said Welcome Home Lightning Stone examined the fallout of families of stolen children. It is based on the experiences of Auntie Loretta Schuler from the remote northwest NSW opal mining town of Lightning Ridge, where more than 40 Aboriginal children were taken from their mothers in mid 2009 and Miss Anthony’s own experiences “as an Aboriginal woman from a family of multi-generational removal”.
“This is a story that has to be told,” Miss Anthony said.
During her life Miss Anthony said she has endured heartbreaking struggles with the Department of Community Services and her family story forms the backbone of the play. She has worked with the NSW Family Link service to help Aboriginal children that have been removed from their families and placed in permanent care, to find kinship placements and believes the stolen generation issues are still happening.
“Not one Aboriginal family has escaped the effects, not one. In NSW one in three children who live in foster homes are Aboriginal,” Miss Anthony, a mother of five said.
The show Welcome Home Lightning Stone explores how most urban Aboriginals find themselves caught between worlds and “dares to ask big questions . . . questions of identity, collective guilt and what it means to be Australian,” spokeswoman Dyonne Barberie said.
The project was done in consultation with Blue Mountains elders. Katoomba discovery ranger Dave Newton is one of the play’s actors. The story will be told through multimedia, paintings, dance, a light show and music and is supported by the Australian Council for the Arts and Blue Mountains City Council. The play is co-authored by Dr Nigel Glassey who lives in the Mountains.
Tim Beard, the head of the Child Welfare and Prisoner Health unit at the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) in Canberra, confirmed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children continue to be “over-represented within the child protection system [and] were 7.6 times as likely as non-indigenous children to be the subject of a child protection substantiation, and 10 times as likely to be in out-of-home care”.
The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable statistics on Australia’s health and welfare. Mr Beard said the most common type of substantiated abuse for indigenous children was neglect, which made up 38 per cent of all cases compared with 23 per cent for non-indigenous.The AIHW said more than 12,500 indigenous children are in state care — 5737 from NSW.
And while Australia-wide, Aboriginal children comprise just 4.4 per cent of all children they make up 24 per cent of all children in care.
“They are being taken at 10 times the rate of white children and more are being removed from their mothers today than when it was official policy in the 1920s and 1930s,” Miss Anthony said.
It’s a claim Mr Beard of the AIHW denies because data only started to be collected on these issues in the 1990s.
Of the 40 children removed in Lightning Ridge, 31 were now back with their families.
Performance are on March 8 and 9 at St Pauls Church in Mount Victoria; March 15 and 16 at Kindlehill School in Wentworth Falls and March 22 and 23 at Megalong Valley Uniting Church.
For bookings call 0468 424 000.