'I was stolen from my mother when I was two years old'

The late Ray Jackson
Ray Jackson (1941-2015)


By Ray Jackson, 3 August 2014

It was 1943, I was two years old and my mother - an Aborigine - was married to a white Australian when he went and gave his life for our country.

All I know is that my father was a soldier and he went up to Papua New Guinea. He was killed on the Kokoda Track and instead of giving his wife a war widow's pension, the bloody government came and took his children away. Because of my mother's Aboriginality.

There were four children at that point in time and I was the third. I think there were two boys and two girls. We were split up, the four of us, we were split.

My name was then changed to fit the adopted family.

I went into, I believe, a Catholic home, where I lived for a year. Then I was given out to another white family and went from there.

Ray Jackson

When I went to primary school in 1946, after the war and when the migrants started to come out, for a few years I copped sh*t. I was different, I wasn't white but I wasn't black either. So what the hell was I?

Maybe that's when the walls went up, surrounding myself in all this crap.

When I found out about the sob side of my birth, I was in my mid-30s, married with four children.

In my mid-teens, I found out that I was adopted; my cousin and I were having a fight and he made a statement, something along the lines, "you're not even a member of this family", so I asked my [adoptive] mum and she denied it at that time.

I had the opportunity to make a decision as to what I was going to do. Was I going to proceed to find the family? For personal reasons, I decided I had my own family.

I didn't bother.

Maybe that was wrong, maybe I should have done something, but I didn't.

I struggled with this for many years. My mother was of that era where she was frightened to go into the Aboriginal side of my birth.

Getting information from her was like dragging teeth out of a chook, she didn't want to talk about it. I must admit I had the sh*ts with her for doing that. I don't know whether that's right or wrong, I'm 73 now and that's a long time ago. I've had to live with that knowledge for 40 years.

I'd never tried to hide my Aboriginality, but I never came out of the cultural closet, so to speak.

That didn't happen until 1991.

Because of the lack of records, my major stumbling block is not knowing my family name. I still don't know. I haven't tried to locate my brothers or sisters, I don't think they've tried to locate me. My siblings are out there somewhere. Where though, I don't know.

The number of children being taken these days is horrendous. I've read about this. I've seen it. I've tried to help families who've had their children taken, but you're fighting a behemoth.

To take the coppers on is bad enough, but to try and take on a government and its policies, no one out there will listen to you.

I have the greatest admiration for the grandmothers from Gunnedah, who kicked this all off.

I've met some of these grandmothers, I've been to their homes. They are not unfit people. They are not living in some drunk and drug-addicted slovenly hell hole.

And yet the government says these people are not suitable.

Yes we do have drunks, yes we do have druggies, some of them are mothers even, but in the wider family, not all of them are drunk or drug-affected.

When you walk into an Aboriginal house, the first thing you see is a wall covered with photos. Photos of family of those who have gone, those have just come and those who are in between and growing.

Walk into the kitchen, the fridge is covered with children's drawings. That is a normal home. That is pride in your family and children, and that is not being recognised.

These people need assistance, they need help; they don't need their children taken from them.

Ray Jackson, President of the Indigenous Social Justice Association.