Thursday, 17 February 2022
Kinchela Aboriginal Boys Training Home
I recently had the privilege of being invited to meet with elders and community leaders from the Kinchela boys home, a site that gave rise to significant generational trauma for the Aboriginal community in my hometown of Kempsey. The Minister for Indigenous Australians gave acknowledgement to Kinchela in his speech commemorating the National Apology to the Stolen Generations. He mentioned in that speech that the boys were only known by numbers, not by name. That's a testament to the dehumanising reality of the Kinchela boys home and of the many other institutions like it around the country. Those boys who were sent to Kinchela were stripped not only of their names but also of their identities and their connections to their culture.
While I listened to the elders speak of their personal experiences and the hopes and the plans that they had for the future not just of the site but, more broadly, of their community in Kempsey, I was particularly moved by their generosity in their collective desire to ensure 'that the pain stops with them'. These proud Aboriginal men, these survivors of an institution that systematically stripped them of their culture and humanity, were focused not on what had been done but what could be done for their children and grandchildren. There are currently plans in place to develop the site as one of cultural commemoration, where Australians of all backgrounds can come to acknowledge the past and to appreciate the significance of connection to culture and to community.
Jo Kelly, the project manager for the Kinchela Boys Home Aboriginal Corporation and the driving force of the Indigenous Youth Connection to Culture program, IYCC, has also been leading the charge for a community action plan aimed at ensuring that the voices of young Aboriginal people are heard. The plan has been devised after hundreds of hours of consultation with the community, and it will be used as a tool to increase cultural knowledge and understanding as well as to build pride, resilience and self-esteem.
I'm making this speech in this place today to ensure the Kinchela boys home development project and the work of the IYCC team are recognised here. I will ensure that I will assist in any way that I can in supporting their vision. The courage of these men is outstanding, and they should be respected for the work that they've been doing.