My name is Bill Simon. I’m actually an ordained Reverend on the block here in Redfern. I give communion, I can do marriages, I can do funeral services and I go into Long Bay Jail and marry guys in there, marry white businessmen under the Harbour Bridge, I’ve done all that, I’ve married people here on the block actually. Looking back onto where I came from I’m Biripi, that means I’m in the Shark Tribe, I was born up in Taree Purfleet Mission.
I was very, very young there when I started to get to know my roots around that area. What happened was that Purfleet Mission, you weren’t allowed to leave the Mission unless you got permission from the manager if you wanted to go into town and things like that you see. All of the rations were rationed out to us, to Mum and Dad, and they used to go down and get rations there like flour, tea and sugar and stuff like that. But Mum and Dad apparently didn’t like that sort of regime so they just took us one night, they took us to a little place called Kendall, that’s about half way between Taree and Kempsey. We stayed there for a good while, I suppose about 12 months or so. We used to go to the beach and Nan would take us down there and get all these shells and make hearts and put velvet on the inside of them and sprinkle sand around them with all these shells placed, beautiful shells, placed around and she would give it to us kids and we would go and sell them so we had enough to get bread and … a bit of bread and sugar and tea and stuff like that. You know, we loved that. We used to go and pinch persimmons and pears, all that, off our neighbours and we loved that too, you know as kids growing up.
The welfare caught up with us there after about 12 months and Mum and Dad left again and went to a little place called Platt’s Estate, Waratah where I grew up. It’s beautiful there as well, I got to know a lot of the community guys.
[Platt’s Estate, Waratah]
The man that owned that section of land, he wrote in his Will that anybody who needed a place to stay were allowed to stay there free of rent. I didn’t know that. I’ve learnt all this later on as I grew up of course. And so that’s where a lot of the people who ran away from their own various communities, missions and stuff like that, they’d all come there and they all lived together so we became a community there. I got to know a lot of my relations, a lot of friends, there were white people there as well as Aboriginal people and other cultures as well. So we all grew up together like a multi-cultural place.
Things went good for us there, until of course the Welfare came. They used to sit up on top of a hill with spy glasses and watch down on the shacks. We had a little tin shack down there. The elders used to say to us every time the welfare or the police came we were to run and hide in the bushes, which we did. But of course with this time I got caught, we didn’t hear them or see them or anything.
They were sitting with spy glasses watching our house when Dad went to work. As soon as Dad went over the hill they swooped down, came in, knocked on the door real loudly and they sort of pushed their way in.
Mum was there but with me and my three little brothers, one of them was just a baby, and they came in and they told Mum to pass the kids up and pass the little baby up and give him to me so that I could go out in the car and sit in the car and wait for them. And my other two brothers had to follow me. We all sat in the car there and I’m crying out, I screamed out real loud to Mum to come and help us and she looked around and then she turned her back and walked inside and straight away then I felt rejected by my own Mother, by my own people.
And I cried my heart out, you know, it made me that angry because no one was there to help me. I was only thinking about me and my three little brothers all crying and crying out for Mum and Dad. And see, that was the last time I ever, ever seen Dad. We never seen Dad again, he died. I didn’t see my Mother until years later, until I was about in my late 20s going on to early 30s see.
[Kinchela Boys Home and Being “Whitewashed”]
My youngest brother didn’t come, we dropped him off at Taree because he was too young. They sent him to a babies’ home, we never seen him until a couple of years later on.
And we were brought up under this kind of regime with people telling you what to do all the time and if you spoke back you got flogged, you got beaten and there was a lot of that going on in the boys home at the time that I was there, for the eight or nine years that I was in the home as a kid, you know growing up. The white staff who were all ex-army personnel, they used to tell us that our people were no good, they didn’t want us, they didn’t care for us and not getting a visit for nine years as a kid, growing up you start to believe that. So I was brainwashed in that area, you know, I’ve made two videos which goes around in Universities, called Whitewash, just how I was brainwashed under the white man system. I was told what to do, when to do it and how to do it and everything else and that’s all we were told to do.
I was given a number, 33, and they called me by that for eight years, not my name. And we were beaten, flogged, molested, everything else but I couldn’t tell anybody because nobody was allowed to come and visit us in the homes. So, we were just little kids who were flogged, beaten, sent up the line, everyone had to hit you, about 100 guys had to hit you. If you’d done anything wrong, one of the worst, main offences was to speak back to the white staff. If you done that you were sent up the line and you’d get a beating. By the time you got to the end of the line there’d be blood everywhere and they’d put you in a little toilet, a storeroom and fed you on bread and water for three days. We were kids. Who could we tell, you know? We couldn’t tell anybody.
[Contact With Family]
They knew where we were all right but they weren’t allowed to come and visit us. So, all this time, all this rejection was building up in my heart. I remembered that I had a Grandmother who used to come and visit me and my three little brothers while we were in the boys’ home. Beautiful, lovely person she was. And yet nobody else was allowed in, into the home you see but I’m sure God gave her the keys to get in you see because she used to come and they’d let her in. And she’d pray for us and she was lovely.
So by the time I got out at about 17 and I came down to Redfern here, I came down to Everly Street looking for my Aboriginal families because I didn’t know any of them. When I was taken away I lost all contact with my family you know. When I did eventually come here to Redfern I found out that all these wild black fellas were my uncles and aunts and cousins and relations. They told me where my Mother was, she was right out in Dubbo.
So I went all the way out there to see my Mum for the first time since I was locked up. But the distance was far too great because that relationship between a Mother and a son was too far, too far gone, I didn’t see my Mum as Mum. You know what I mean? Because I still have a lot of hurt and hate against her for not coming to see me, visit me in the homes. I didn’t know about her side of the story if you know what I mean, about it felt like a knife driven through her heart when us kids were taken from her. I never even thought of that. So the distance seems to be too great. And of course we hugged her and that and kissed her and I went down to drink with my uncles for the first time. They took me out to (8:10), it was the first time I ever got on methylated spirits. And I started to drink methylated spirits a lot because it was cheap, it was a cheap drink and you could have a good fight afterwards and you wouldn’t feel anything. So you had a good fight and a drink and you drink metho you see and all the kids that I grew up with had them times.
I was all very, very mixed up in my heart, I didn’t trusty anybody. I got locked up when I was 18 years of age and sent out the Long Bay Jail. It was very hard and rough out there as well but it was just like the boys’ home so it really didn’t worry me because I felt like that I was home again, at the jail you see. The same thing happens as in the boy’s home, we were given numbers and have a guess what the number they gave me when I first went to Long Bay jail when I was 18. Have a guess. The same, 33.
When I did five years in prison I spoke to a lot of the brothers in there who were in the homes with me, stolen mob you know. And they say, “How’re you going?”, they all know me because they know my testimony, how I’ve changed my life and that and I don’t preach to them, all I tell them is, “This is how God cleaned my life up”, and things like that. But there are a lot of them there, they come up to me, ask me to pray for them, which I do, and I pray for them and they go out three months later, they’re back again doing the same thing. Because, I’ve done a lot of time in prison and in the prison system, once they get out, the community on the outside hasn’t got any backup to look after the inmates that have been put inside, after a long period of time then they’re let out, out here it’s a foreign world to them. In jail you get everything, you get things, you’re catered for 24/7 you see. All you have to do it get up and do a bit of work here, there and okay go and have your meal then you can go and have a sleep. That’s how the … you’re institutionalised, that’s how it works.
See I’m used to that because that’s what happened in the boys’ home to us. And a lot of these guys, when they get out, like when I got out the boys’ home I didn’t know where to go or what to do or anything else, I didn’t know anything about the world. And it’s the same with these guys, when they’re put in prison, once they get out they’re going to need a lot more support, love, care and attention and guidance and pointed in the right direction to go off with their lives because they don’t know all that, they’re not taught that in jail you see.
[Adjusting to the World Outside]
When I got out I still didn’t feel as if I was free because we didn’t know anywhere else to go in Sydney.
We didn’t know where to go or anything like this so we just stayed at home. Because that’s all we did at the boys’ home, we stayed at home you see. So we didn’t really get much of a contact with people at all.
The only blokes that I seem to have any contact with were bikies. I don’t want to mention their names but there’s a big gang that I ended up getting to know because these guys were more or less the same as me because they’re rejected as well. That rejection part of it comes into it when you’re rejected by society so you come together you know and nearby, you’re all you’re rejected. So I felt at home with them. You know, we had guns and all that, we’d go around terrorising everyone at night, I was right at home. We’d go up the Cross, terrorise everyone up there, about 60 of us.
And I went back to Newcastle where Mum and them eventually came, a lot of my people come from Newcastle assignments. And I ended up mixing up there with the wrong crowd. I had me own drug little scheme running there, I used to sell a lot of drugs and get into fights. I had me own gang, a lot of them sort of, they all came around me, a lot of the young boys in them days, I’m talking about when we had the riots and all that in Harbour Street, Newcastle. I had me own gang, I spent time in jail, I knew how to king hit. I learnt how to king hit when I was in jail and once you learn how to king hit it never leaves you, so that’s why I used to win all my fights because I used to king hit. Bang, it would be over in the first hit. That way I grabbed a gathering of people around me, young guys and all that, all the leather jackets and stuff like that.
Most of them carried guns and everything else. We ended up joining up with the underworld in Newcastle. I did something wrong with them guys and they ended up turned around and put two contracts out on my life. Because my cousin who did 25 years jail, he went to see them and got it put off me because they seemed to take notice of him because he’s done ten murders himself you see.
And that’s the kind of group of people that I started to affiliate with because I had a lot of hate against my own, my own people. Because I blamed them for sending me away and not coming to get me and see me and that and therefore that rejection stuck with me. I hated my Mum and I blamed her, I blamed all the black fellas for not coming to help me, for putting me away. As a kid growing up I wasn’t thinking about the pain and the heartache that would have happened to Mum because my wife’s a counsellor and she counselled Mum at one stage and a counsellor seems to get things out of you that you keep hidden inside you know? And she got it out of Mum and Mum told her that when us four kids were taken from her it was like a knife driven through her heart and she couldn’t stand to watch so she turned around and went inside.
This is what the government thinks, that they were doing the right thing at the time and that … praise them all, good on ‘em … but it wasn’t the right thing.
[Why Were We Taken?]
Well, the government thinks that we were taken because we were neglected. That’s what they say in my report. I’ve read my report right through and it’s all lies of course. Because I was taken care of by my family, by my Mum, by my Dad and we … I had the best life in all my life until I was taken away. And when I was taken away my life had never turned bad and rotten until then and that’s why I ended up joining up with bikies and being with the underworld with the wrong crowd and things like that. It never, ever, would never have happened if I would have stayed at my, with my family.
I was so hurt and broken, I had so much aggression. I mean I’ve had contracts lifted off my life and I’ve been so violent myself. I’ve had five relationships with women. The first wife that I had I used to give her two black eyes. The second wife I knocked her teeth out. My third wife I broke her leg, just crushed it with my hands because I was very strong in the hands. I used to win the hand wrestle a lot. But I had so much hurt inside of my heart that I was just so, so bad that that’s why these women left me know you.
As soon as I got converted to Christianity and I asked Christ to come into my heart I wrote them letters and apologised to them. When my conversion comes into focus that’s how I turned around and forgave the black man and forgave the white man and got on with my life and God is starting to heal me now because I turned around and forgave. I would never have asked for forgiveness if Christ, Jesus hadn’t come into my heart … if you put scalding, hot water on a child you’re going to scar them for life, you see. And that’s what happened when we were taken away as kids, we were scarred for life by being ripped away from our parents and our loved ones. We were scarred for life and there’s no way we can get anything out of that, you see. I mean God can heal us of course, you know, from the deep hurts and the pain that’s inside.
You know, I felt so bad against people, I told you I didn’t trust anybody because I didn’t know anybody who could turn around and could show us any love like a Mother’s love or a Father’s love, you know, we missed out on all that. We weren’t allowed to speak of any Aboriginal culture, language because I didn’t know it because I was taken away at an early age. And so I really lost just about everything. You know, I lost my family, I lost everything.