Between June 1924 and may 1970, authorities of the state of New South Wales incarcerated 400 – 600 Aboriginal boys (as well as a small number of girls in its first years) in Kinchela Boys Home. A number of these boys had already been through some other form of institutionalisation, such as Bomaderry Aboriginal Children’s Home, since their removal from their families. One of the former KBH inmates remembers the brutal experiences he and other KBH inmates endured during their time in KBH:
This is where we learnt we weren’t White. First of all they took you in through these iron gates and took our little ports (suitcases) off us. Stick it in the fire with your little Bible inside. They then took us around to a room and shaved our hair off.
They gave you your clothes and stamped a number on them. They never called you by your name, they called you by your number. That number was stamped on everything.
If we answered an attendant back we were sent ‘up the line’. Now I don’t know if you can imagine, 79 boys punching the hell out of you, just knuckling you, even your brother, your cousin. They had to, if they didn’t do it, they were sent up the line. When the boys who had broken ribs or broken noses, they’d have to pick you up and carry you right through to the last bloke. Now that didn’t happen once, it happened every day.
Kinchela was a place where they thought you were animals. You know it was like a place where they go around and kick us like a dog. It was just like a prison…Even today they have our file number so we were still prisoners you know and we’ll always be prisoners while our files are in archives.
‘John’, Bringing Them Home: Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families, pp 166 & 167