Responses to the National Apology to the Stolen Generations : Mount Isa

Valerie Craig, 2009

On 13 February 2008, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd delivered the historic Apology to the Stolen Generations on behalf of the Parliament of Australia. Following the Apology, State Library of Queensland captured responses from a number of Queenslanders from a range of backgrounds and geographic locations, recording their impressions, feelings and memories surrounding this event.

In June 2008, State Library, with assistance from Queensland University of Technology and Queensland’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, recorded digital stories (2-4 minute videos) with a group of Brisbane residents. This project later extended to encompass regional Queensland with stories gathered from residents of Cairns, Cooktown, Hope Vale and Mount Isa.

The following stories were recorded around Mount Isa in May 2009. The information about each interviewee was captured at the time of recording and may no longer be current.

Robyrta Felton is a Mornington Island elder who has significantly contributed to her community and broader issues of Indigenous rights and reconciliation. Among her numerous roles, she has been a member of the Mornington Shire Council, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commisssion (ATSIC) and the Junkuri Laka Justice Association. Ms Felton talks about the difficulties that previous government policies have brought to the lives of Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders. She also talks about the need for the Government to take decisive action on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues.

Patricia Lees claims Australian nationality with Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal and Irish ancestry through her mother being a Murray Islander and her father Irish. She is a member of the Stolen Generation, being removed to Townsville and then Palm Island. She was the first Queensland woman of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent to join the Women’s Royal Australian Navy in 1967. Patricia has undertaken significant participatory and representative roles within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC); the Inaugural Queensland Indigenous Advisory Council, chaired by Mr Neville Bonner and through her long term employment with West Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Corporation for Legal Aid. Patricia gives her feelings about the Apology and what it meant to her family. She also talks about the issues surrounding the Apology, including the lack of consensus between the two sides of government, the lack of an impact it has made on the lives of Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders and the need to think of future generations.

Valerie Craigie is the Manager at MOB FM, Mount Isa's Indigenous radio station. She is from the Kalkadoon people in Mount Isa. Valerie talks about the emotions that the Apology brought up for her and the transgenerational effects that the removal of her family members has had.

Lila Pigliafiori-Baker is a Darnley Island woman through her father, late Telly Mapoo Baker and a descendant of the Gangalidda people through her mother Edith Joy Johnson/Sarmardin. She lives in Mount Isa and currently works for the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. Lila talks about her Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage, including the experiences of her mother living under the Aboriginals Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act 1897. She also talks about people with mixed backgrounds being accepted by individual communities.

Jasmin Minniecon comes from a long line of Indigenous activitists and rights campaigners. She is currently working at Centacare, Family Services in Mount Isa. Jasmin talks about the experiences of her family, including her great-grandfather Sam Watson being removed from his family. She talks about what the Apology means to her and what it would have meant to the previous generations of Aboriginal people.

Barry Lea is the Production Manager at MOB FM, where he also hosts the morning show. Barry is originally from Hervey Bay. He has also played rugby union for the Wallabies and the Queensland Reds.  Barry recalls the event that the radio station held at Mount Isa on the day of the Apology. He also talks about his hopes for the future twelve months on from the Apology.

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