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Issue #1662      October 29, 2014

Survivors returning to Kinchela

Manuel Ebsworth remembers the day he entered Kinchela Boys Home in 1955 as a five-year-old. “The day I walked in, they took me at the gates – all the boys stripped you off, they took all your clothes, shaved all your head, covered you with flea powder then gave you a uniform with a number on it,” Ebsworth said.

Painful past: Elders Michael Welsh, Willie Leslie, Richard Campbell, Manuel Ebsworth, Ian Lowe, Vincent Wenberg, Cecil Bowden and Harold ‘Bluey’ Smith with part of the gate from the Kinchela Boys’ Home, where they spent much of their childhood.

Former inmates of the home now call those gates “the gates of hell.”

“It was just a brutal home and we were all too frightened to do anything,” Ebsworth said. “The rewards you got were not what you expected as a child. We scrubbed the footpaths with a toothbrush and the staff put the hose over you while you were scrubbing the footpath naked.”

Not only that, they were scrubbing children as young as three from one until five in the morning. “They didn’t need a reason; they didn’t explain anything to you. They were child molesters, paedophiles, who got satisfaction from causing hurt,” Ebsworth said.

Although it will be difficult to walk back through those gates almost 60 years since his first traumatic time, Ebsworth will join other survivors and their descendants at a 90th anniversary commemoration to honour the memory of the Stolen Generations children who passed through the home since its opening in 1924.

The three-day event is being organised by the Kinchela Boys Home Aboriginal Corporation, of which Ebsworth is chairman.

From Friday, October 24, until Sunday, October 26, the event is open to not only local Aboriginal people but also the broader community of Kempsey and surrounding towns of the NSW mid north coast.

The weekend will allow Kinchela men to tell their stories of sorrow, sadness and despair of what life was like in the home, but it is also hoped it will bring about a journey of reflection, growth, survival and – most importantly – healing.

“I think going back to Kinchela is going to be a heart-wrenching time for all of us, but we’ve got to face our demons,” Ebsworth said. “We can face our demons now and we’ve got to tell what really happened behind closed doors, and the truth will hurt – it’s got to hurt because it hurt us.”

NSW Aboriginal Affairs Minister Victor Dominello will attend the commemoration, to which the NSW government contributed $10,000 as well as $28,000 for the KBH Survivor Recording Project being screened on the weekend and telling the stories of 25 men who lived at home.

Yet for many survivors of Kinchela, the government response has fallen short of being enough to alleviate their pain and suffering.

“In general there has not been an adequate response by either the federal or state governments to meet the needs of the Stolen Generations and our families,” a statement from Kinchela Boys Home Aboriginal Corporation said. “Not enough resources are provided to organisations such as ours – organisations that we have developed and that we and our families play a central role in.”

“Healing models”

“We are not the same as organisations providing services to members of the Stolen Generations and which view us as clients. Our healing models work for us and our families and we need to be supported to develop and sustain them,” the statement said.

The corporation said the 90th anniversary highlights the need for government to talk to members of the Stolen Generations so it can address their exclusion from current Aboriginal policy discussions.

The Kinchela home was built by the Aborigines Protection Board to train older boys who had been removed from their families under the Protection Board’s policy of apprenticing Aboriginal youths as farm labourers. Later it became a home for younger boys removed from their families by the Aborigines Protection Board, the Aborigines Welfare Board or the Child Welfare Department.

Up to 500 Aboriginal children were held at the home until it closed in 1970, with 30 to 50 housed there at any given time.

Ebsworth said his records reveal he was sent there because a Catholic priest didn’t want him growing up to be a Protestant like the aunt who was raising him. He spent 10 years in the home, where he said you were taught that nobody wanted you and all you learned was “hate and prejudice”.

Ebsworth is hoping the 90th anniversary event will help former Kinchela inmates come to terms with their brutal childhoods and help them cope better.

“I don’t think it can ever heal, but hopefully it will ease a lot of the pain we went through,” he said.

“Kinchela Boys Home was the Devil’s playground to the children there. There’s a lot of our blood, sweat and tears there. We met the Devil and we defeated him. Kinchela is him.”

More details on Kinchela face book

Koori Mail

Next article – Maules Creek case continues

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