Well my name is Harold John Harrison. I was born in Cummeragunja. 1943. My dad was Jack Little. My mother was Lena Harrison and her maiden name was McGee.They went over to a place called Cummeragunja and that’s where I was born, like and then brought back to the coast, back to Wallaga Lake then Worrigee. Worrigee is three miles outside of Nowra.
[Memories of life at Worrigee in the 1940s]
Then it was a oneness. Everyone was — belonged to each other. Everyone belonged to each other. Everyone was auntie. Everyone was uncle. Everyone brothers, sisters. We was brought up so close.
I was about five or six when mum passed away. The welfare just come in and police and just grabbed us. Yes, she was still on the bed with a blanket over her. She passed away that night when they grabbed us. And they put her…and never even brought us back for her funeral.
Oh there was a big mob there but they just come in and just grabbed us. Everyone was crying outside. Like it was only a little track. Little dirt track that led into the bush, where they come and dragged us out. I had a brother who was taken, Billy Harrison, he was next to me. I’m 66 at the moment. He’s 65. Billy Harrison, he was under the bed trying to hide from the welfare or the police. I don’t know who. But they went under and grabbed him. I remember him biting someone. And they just dragged us out and put us into an old car and took us to Bomaderry Children’s Home. And when I was in… we had dad, our father Jackie Little… he just couldn’t do nothing because the police and the welfare was there.
[Dad visits Bomaderry Children’s Home]
Yeah every weekend we were there, every weekend, he came across and seen us. He used to walk from Worrigee, three mile into town. About six mile a day. Twelve mile a day in and out, to see us. He wasn’t allowed inside. They’d say ‘Your father’s over there.’ And we’d run across and see him and maybe cuddle him and…Bomaderry, it was — oh, I didn’t like it much. I didn’t like it.
And especially going to school. Bomaderry School. We had to walk down this lane and this old baker in the horse and cart – ‘Kill them little black ‘b’s!’ And he tried to run the horse over us. I’d be screaming, terrified. Running. Trying to get up the hill and up to school. We’d dread going to school because of that baker. He’d come along the same time with his horse and cart and say ‘I’m going to kill you lot.’ So he tried to run the horse over and the cart over us a few times. And this is my memories of Bomaderry Children’s Home.
Even Christmas times we used to — give us toys that morning. By that evening they’d take them back off us. Put them back up for the next lot of children next year. We never ever owned anything. They took our toys back off us. Once we were sent from there to Kinchela — it was different then. Like I never ever seen my father again.
[Kinchela Boys Home]
In ’52 we were sent to a place called Kinchela Boys Homes. We’d be out milking cows, about 150 cows of a morning in the cold. 3 o’clock of a morning. No shoes. We had no shoes. In wintertime our feet were just — they were that cracked from the cold we’d be bleeding. If a cow pooped we’d run and put our feet in it to keep warm.
I seen all them boys — some run away and they had to be walked down the line and everyone had to hit them. I never — didn’t want to experience that walking down that line after seeing some of them boys. After they finished walking through everyone they’d be bleeding and — oh, bad. They couldn’t hit back. They had a bigger fella beat them. That was a punishment. Punishment for running away from Kinchela. They took off and tried to leave the Homes and not come back there.
[Attitudes towards Aboriginal people in the homes]
There was a big painting on the wall of crossroads. White people going that way, the black people going there. They were not — they were bad people. Like they were no good.
They told me they were dirty people. All they’re good is for drinking and gambling. But I said ‘That wasn’t our culture before you came.’ We never had no alcohol or hurt or hate. There wasn’t any word for sorry. Or please. It was not needed with our people.
[Running away from Kinchela]
I rolled a tractor at the age of 17. They wanted to put me back in the homes there in Gosford until I was 18. They reckon I was uncontrollable. I did run away over the borders that time, away from the welfare. I got off the little bus at Acacia Ridge and I looked around and I seen nobody and no one to meet me but I seen the bushes there and I seen smoke. I looked and I seen the smoke and I went in through the bushes and there was a family of Aboriginal people living in a shack. Tin shack. Four blokes.
And I asked if — I mean they asked me where I was from. I said ‘I don’t know where or who, where I am.’ Well they became my auntie and my uncle. My brothers and my sisters. And they looked after me. They were my family.
Took me a long time, about 24 years, to get back to where I was taken from. Worrigee. And once I got down there I asked my aunt – where’s my dad? She said ‘Oh he’s passed away.’ And when she said he’s passed away I said ‘Well what was wrong with him?’ She said ‘He died of a broken heart.’ I says ‘broken heart.’
I asked my auntie can I drink. Can I drink — I was so bad, suicidal… I drank and I didn’t care who I was. I didn’t know anything. I blamed my auntie. I accused her of — she letting us go and couldn’t look after us. And I used to get drunk and abuse her all the time. And, you know, everyone around me. Like, you know, I didn’t care who I was. Like I had no respect for nobody. Not even myself. I turned to alcohol.
Not only beer, it was metho. Methylated spirits in them times I drank. I’d buy it just to get rid of the hurt, the hate which was inside of me. I had no identity of who I was. I had no identity. Now I’m Aboriginal. Where’s my Aboriginal name?
[Why was I taken?]
I want to say — the government – why did they do it? Why did they take us? I always wanted to see Link-up about getting my papers back off the government. Like, you know, the release papers and papers for what I’d been — why I’m — what I was taken for. Like, you know, I don’t know why.
I don’t think it was neglect because Aboriginal people they were so loveable. Everyone as I said was auntie or uncle and they looked after you, I was never short of a feed or anything like this. It was just beautiful.But I don’t know why we were taken because of — it was, I believe it was just to wipe out the Aboriginal race. They kept the full bloods from the half-castes. There was no teaching of that culture continuing, which was a beautiful culture. A sharing one.
Well half-caste people they were taken away and they just stopped our culture. They tried to stop it then by beating us up and teaching us how to be white, not — we wasn’t Aboriginal, not a black person. But when we went back home we were everything but black.
As I say in 1993 when we started to go out to schools to try to teach them a little bit about our culture, with boomerang throwing and spear throwing, talking about a little bit of bush tucker that we had to read from a book to find out.
Sorry about what? Was this going to be just for the Stolen Generation or for changing a complete culture? A beautiful culture. A loving culture.