“We Were Just Little Boys” Kinchela Boys Home survivors share stories of resilience in new film

Kinchela Boys Home

Kinchela Boys Home Aboriginal Corporation (KBHAC) has today released a short video animation that shares powerful firsthand accounts from Stolen Generations Survivors about the human impacts of the forced Aboriginal child removal policies that created the Stolen Generations.

Among Australia’s most notorious Stolen Generations institutions, Kinchela Boys Home (KBH) saw an estimated 400 to 600 Aboriginal children exposed to routine acts of cultural genocide between 1924 to 1970.

The film exemplifies this year’s NAIDOC Week theme – Get up! Stand Up! Show Up! – in reminding viewers that Stolen Generations Survivors who passed through the gates of KBH and countless other institutions across Australia are still fighting for justice, truth, and healing for themselves, their descendants, and families. “The more we talk, the stronger we get, and it is only through talking that our pain will end with us and our children and grandchildren will not be filled with hate,” says KBH Survivor and KBHAC Board Member Uncle Roger Jarrett.

“We have the right to rebuild our family structures and we have the solutions that will ensure our Survivors’, our descendants’, and families’ social, emotional, and cultural wellbeing, family and community healing and economic wellbeing” says KBH survivor and KBHAC Chairperson Uncle Michael Welsh.

“KBHAC is guided by a survivor-led practice framework where central to the healing process is the practice of truth telling” says KBHAC CEO and co-producer of the film, Dr Tiffany McComsey.

“In keeping with these values, We Were Just Little Boys is a very powerful and moving depiction of this horrific chapter in Australia’s history and the ongoing legacies that survivors want to put an end to.

“It’s an example of survivors leading the way and showing how we all play a part in getting up, standing up, and showing up, not just during NAIDOC Week but always. They show us that without truth telling there can be no healing,” says Dr McComsey.

We Were Just Little Boys takes viewers through the traumatic journey of one group of Stolen Generations Survivors, those taken to KBH in Kempsey NSW where, after being stolen from their families, County, and community, children were stripped of their names, given numbers, and subjected to ‘reprogramming’ and strict regimes of manual labor.

The story is narrated by KBH survivors themselves and illustrated by KBH Survivor, Uncle Richard Campbell, #28. As the film progresses, the significance of the numbers used in the opening credits becomes chillingly obvious:

“…And then they said I didn’t have a name.” (04:48)

“I was a number.” (05:02)

“We all realised when we stepped through that gate, that little boy didn’t exist anymore.” (04:01)

The story is retold by survivors as they remember the moment they were taken from their families, through to the ongoing impacts of trauma once they were released as adults onto the streets.

“When we got back to our own people, we opened our mouths, and this strange voice came out of us.” (11:45)

“They couldn’t recognise me. Not black, not white, I didn’t belong.” (11:54)

It is difficult not to share in their pain for the 19-minute duration of the film. For survivors, this is a pain that lasts a lifetime.

“Every time I go home, I go to the railway station, nothing can ease that pain, since it will never leave me, till the day I die”. (03:36)

Kinchela Boys Home Aboriginal Corporation is encouraging everyone to watch and share We Were Just Little Boys this NAIDOC Week, as an important contribution to truth telling.

While many scars may never heal, some KBH survivors said they have found solace in the truth telling that comes with sharing their stories and memories.

“Now we are telling our story and people are listening to it. It helps the pain lessen a little bit.” (13:54)

In dedicating the film to their parents, partners, and children, KBH survivors remind us that they are not the only ones who suffered as a result of these past policies, but that trauma reverberates through generations and its impacts are still felt today.

“For the survivors of Kinchela Boys Home, this film is a tribute to their bravery and resilience and a call to action,” said Dr McComsey.

“Once you watch this film, the call to action is clear. We must all get up, show up, and stand up to ensure what happened to Stolen Generations Survivors never happens to any child ever again. Together we can support Survivor-led solutions that will create meaningful and lasting intergenerational healing.”

We Were Just Little Boys can be viewed here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4Hw9d91k2E >

/Public Release. This material from the originating organization/author(s) may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s).