Introducing the Stars of the Show

Guest blogger: Rachel West-Captain - 2021 Monica Clare Research Fellow

I found my birth family. My Mum’s family. My Aboriginal family. My big, beautiful, broken family.

My Story - this was the little book I was given by the Government, about my adoption. Image courtesy Rachel West-Captain. 

Left: Post on Reconnect.FreeThe Facebook Post that found my Family in just over 24 hours.

Right: First message I received from my birth family – My Aunty Joy’s Message to me. I cried.

Image courtesy of Rachel West-Captain.

The last few years I have been meeting everyone. I have nearly met everyone; not quite.

The very first time meeting my family. 

Left: Me with my cousin Shona, 10th December 2016. The first person I met from my family. 
Right: Me with my birth Aunt and birth Uncle, 28 December 2016. Aunty Joy and Uncle Bob.

Photos courtesy of Rachel West-Captain.

It’s been an emotional roller-coaster ride. I thought my life would never be as exciting again as the time I found and connected with my birth family. But then I won the Monica Clare Research Fellowship from the State Library of Queensland.

2021 Monica Clare Research Fellowship webpage.

Now, I have moved to Queensland and I am living a dream of researching my family history.

Me researching. Image courtesy Rachel West-Captain.

As well as experiencing the lifestyle of living in the Sunshine State. I can't say that hasn't been distracting, exploring this gorgeous place! ;)

Queensland adventures. Image courtesy Rachel West-Captain. 

I have collected an exquisite range of information over the last five years, from many different sources. I've built a gigantic extensive family tree on Ancestry.com - which is a life long dream come true - building my biological - my real - family tree. That means the world to me. I don’t know why, it just does. There are 1852 people in my tree, as at the date I write this. It is a massive work in progress! I love Genealogy.

Part of my family tree on Ancestry.com. Image courtesy Rachel West-Captain. 

I had a beautiful and incredible upbringing in my adoptive family. I am thankful that I am who I am today thanks to my adoptive Mum and Dad, Col and Rosie.

My adoptive Mama and Papa, Col and Rosie Lucas, at The Dish in Parkes, NSW where I grew up. Photo courtesy Rachel West-Captain.

My end goal is to produce a book, presenting all of the interesting things I have found about my Aboriginal family history, and I hope to share this book with my family of exactly 50(!), ‘Immediate’ surviving ‘West family’ members, who are all impacted by being descendants of a Stolen Generation family. My Grandmother had her 12 children including my Mum removed from her care. My Aunties and Uncles could count on their hands the number of times they have seen each other. Many of my Aunts and Uncles are still yet to meet. It’s a tragedy. Three have passed, including my dear Mother Rosalind. We did not meet.

Joan Margaret West 

My Grandma Joanie West with her Baby, at Church at Goodooga Tin Camp in 1963. Image courtesy Rachel West-Captain. 

This Lady Had All Her Babies Taken Away

My Grandmother's Story in Murruwarri Language - Short Film / Voice Clip (13 seconds).

Spoken By Thira-Mayinj Haupt, written by Rachel West-Captain from The Murruwarri Language.

Grandma Joan West with her baby, at church in Goodooga Tin Camp in 1963. Image courtesy Rachel West-Captain. 

The first West Family reunion photo, 2002. 7 of 12 West siblings (most meeting for the first time). Photo courtesy Rachel West-Captain. 

I desire that my Aunties and Uncle’s and their children - my cousin’s - and my cousin’s children, will have an information source to learn and know more about their Mother, Grandmother and Great Grandmother - Joan Margaret West. This Magnificent Lady, who endured a life that included the trauma of having 12 children, but no children.

Picture of Grandma Joanie West on the front cover of Dawn Magazine, February 1956. Aged 15-16. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

I would like to publish our Aboriginal family history story, which tells us all about my admirable Great Grandparents - my Great Grandfather Bindi West, and my Great Grandmother Terrisa Captain; where they came from, who our family was, and why it matters. Because it matters. You know?

My Great Grandparents Bindi West and Terrisa Captain. Photo Courtesy Rachel West-Captain.

State Library of Queensland might hold clues into my Aboriginal heritage. I desire to find the hidden treasures buried in the library's collection. I am also positive I will uncover information that can be added to the library collection, while I am researching South-West Queensland and North-West New South Wales Aboriginal history.

I hope to uncover all of our family history and discover our Aboriginal heritage. Find photos, stories, and cultural knowledge, and capture this information in a book forever for our future generations, and for the world….. (and also in the form of film….. Our families story…. Watch this space… Exciting things to come.. One day….)

Rachel West-Captain

Idea for the potential title of my book. 

The Monica Clare Research Fellowship is generously supported by donations to the Queensland Library Foundation.

Commitment statement

This blog contains Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander content, which has been made available in accordance with State Library of Queensland’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Collections Commitments.

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