Finding family

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Finding family

ONLY three years ago did Annette Doolan discover who she really is.

“It started off when my Dad mentioned to my sister that we were indigenous,” she said.

The Venus Bay mother has been on a quest to discover more since but the shame of the Stolen Generation meant relatives were unwilling to talk about her indigenous ancestry.

Even today, much of her family history remains unknown, with little of the information she needs to fill the gaps available.

“All the records were destroyed and names were changed because they tried to make us non-indigenous people and assimilate us into white society,” she said.

“Although the Stolen Generation happened so many years ago, the effects are still being felt today. It’s just so hard when there are no records.”

Ms Doolan’s paternal grandmother, Edith Pratt, was Aboriginal and she lived in Bungendore in New South Wales. She also lived with her family in a bacon factory in the town of Tumut, but the factory no longer exists.

“But we can’t find anything about her. We keep hitting brick walls because the documents were destroyed by the government,” she said.

“Mum met Nanna and said she was a very quiet lady. She used to sit in the lounge-room in the dark and she had dark skin.

“We can’t find anything about her. We can find where she was born and that’s it. Apparently she was a beautiful woman.”

Ms Doolan knows Nanna was treated poorly by her family because of her Aboriginality, and over time, her father’s surname was changed in a bid to cover his past.

“I’ve never seen a photo of my Nanna. She died when she was 63. Mum is helping me with my Dad’s side of the family but she does not even know about Dad’s family,” Ms Doolan said.

She spends many hours at the computer in often fruitless bids to search for information about her family and ancestry.

“I do not know what my cousins look like and I don’t know what my aunties look like. It’s really sad,” she said.

“It’s about having a sense of where you came from.”

Ms Doolan has turned to the Ramahyuck District Aboriginal Corporation – a provider of health and community services to indigenous people – at Wonthaggi for guidance in her search.

There she has found the listening ear of manager Sonia Weston. Together, they are now working with staff at Aboriginal Affairs Victoria to try to find more.

Ms Weston, whose own mother was part of the Stolen Generation, said, “When you go into the family records and you can’t find any family history in the First Fleet or the other records, then you know you probably have an indigenous connections because the Stolen Generation records were destroyed.”

Birth records relating to Aboriginal children were also sparse, as Ms Doolan said many indigenous women had their children at home. Had they attended hospital, more often than not their children would be taken.

“Or Aboriginal women were not allowed into the birthing suites to have their children,” Ms Weston added.

Ms Doolan has also joined Facebook web pages dedicated to helping people discover their Aboriginal connections, with little success.

“One lady wrote back and said she had never heard of Pratts in Queanbeyan or Bungendore,” she said.

Ms Doolan remains buoyed by the help she has received so far, including from Aboriginal elder Aunty Karen from Queensland who has been helping Aboriginal people find their families for 20 years.

Despite the challenges of finding accurate details, yet alone anything at all, Ms Doolan still remains hopeful of discovering the information she needs to feel complete.

 

 

 Still looking: Annette Doolan, with her daughter Taullulah, is desperate to discover more about her Aboriginal ancestry.

Still looking: Annette Doolan, with her daughter Taullulah, is desperate to discover more about her Aboriginal ancestry.

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Posted by on Feb 3 2015. Filed under Community. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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