Street Stories - Sorry
Street Stories: Sorry
Yesterday was national Sorry Day, where as a nation we say sorry for the forced removal of children and the pain and suffering inflicted on Indigenous peoples by the hands of the Government at the time.
As an Indigenous woman, and founder of this charity, a charity that provides sanitary items and supports people experiencing homelessness, Sorry Day is a day of increased significance to me.
Homelessness affects approximately 23,000 Individuals in Victoria (source 2011 Census), with Indigenous people being over represented by some 14 times the general population. 28 percent of all homeless people identified as Indigenous during the Census, however the Indigenous population in general is only 2.4 percent. 28% of people experiencing homelessness are Indigenous. This means Indigenous people are over represented by some 14 times the general population. That wasn't an accidental double paste. I meant to put that in there twice because the figure is so astounding that we really need to sit up and take notice of it.
We write Street Stories that aim to give a voice to those silenced by their situations that lead to homelessness. But the stories of displaced Indigenous people still must be told, because events that occurred decades ago still have an effect on the generations that followed. And it continues to do so.
The impact of the stolen generation had a profound effect on my own family. My Mother and her siblings were not stolen. But most of their cousins were. The reason? Though my Mothers Father, my Grandfather, was a traditional Aboriginal man from the Ngatjumay/Mirning people, my Mothers Mother was white. That is the only reason my Mother wasn't removed. Her Mother was white. For her cousins though, having two Aboriginal parents was the sole reason they were removed.
From my Mother,
"I remember when I was about 6, we lived on a beach in tents. The whole family lived there. Brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins. Dozens of us. We all lived there peacefully. Catching most of our own food, fishing, being cared for by many wonderful adults and family members. But one day I came home from school and they were all gone. Every one of my cousins. Just gone. The authorities had taken them away. I didn't see many of them again until I was grown. But there was a divide between us now because they were taken, but I got to stay. My aunts and uncles left. Unable to stay in the place that held the memories of their children. My whole life changed that day"
For those who think the stolen generation happened so long ago that we should just move on and that no one alive today was affected by it, I sit here as my mothers daughter and tell you, to many it was like yesterday, and yes they are still very much affected by it. Much of the homelessness affecting Indigenous people today comes from the displacement of their parents, families and themselves. We can never undo what was done, but we can do everything in our power now to provide practical support and understanding and to accept the wrongs of the past.
I didn't write this on Sorry Day, nor even mention the day to anyone despite it having significant meaning to me. For me it's a day of reflection, of 'going back' in a spiritual sense, back to my Indigenous roots and reconnecting with the spirit and the blood of my Indigenous ancestors. They are an intrinsic part of me and shape the person I have become today.
I ask that as supporters of people experiencing homelessness you simply remember those who form such a large percentage of this group. Our nations first people.
NB: Not many people are aware that Melbourne Period Project is literally a project run by our actual charity Melbourne Homeless Collective - MHC. We are also the founders of the Blanket Melbourne project and the Melbourne Homeless Support Group. As a result, we are directly involved in the care and support for many people experiencing homelessness right throughout Victoria. This includes not only women and men experiencing homelessness but also Indigenous people.