Yokai, a new hub for healing programs and centres for survivors of the Stolen Generations, three years in the making, was launched on Friday 13 May. The project is an initiative of the Bringing Them Home Committee WA, in which the Uniting Church WA’s Social Justice Board and the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (WA) are active participants. It was launched on the 20th anniversary of the death of Rob Riley, a well-respected WA Indigenous activist.
Yokai, a Nyungar war cry, aims to support and address the needs of people who have been affected by the policies and practices of removing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from their families – the Stolen Generations.
Jim Morrison, co-convener of the Bringing Them Home Committee, said that Yokai will empower members of the Stolen Generations and their families to heal themselves by encouraging partnerships, allowing for grieving, reconnecting with language and spirituality and building leadership.
“Enough is enough, our people want to move forward and they can only do that through some culturally appropriate healing activity,” Jim said.
Part of this could involve transforming old mission sites from places of hurt and devastation to places of hope and healing – if that’s what the people want. This is a concept that is already proving to be significant, as the administration office of Yokai is operating out of the office previously used by AO Neville, WA’s chief protector of Aborigines from 1915–1936.
AO Neville was responsible for the policies that made the Stolen Generations a reality in Western Australia, removing Aboriginal children from their families and raising them on missions; away from their land, language and culture, and vulnerable to abuse. His methods were advocated at the time, as was his aim to forcibly assimilate Aboriginal people into white Australian culture.
This level of abuse has had lasting effects on Australia’s Indigenous people. Jim said that members of the stolen generations and their families are 50% more likely to be in contact with police, 15% more likely to drink or take drugs at a dangerous level, and 10% more likely to be unemployed than the broader Indigenous population.
“There’s still that level of disadvantage and poverty that occurs in the Aboriginal community but it’s even more so with Stolen Generation peoples,” Jim said. “We want Stolen Generations people to be empowered to be part of the solution.”
With the support of Curtin University, who now own the building, moving into AO Neville’s old office means Yokai can reclaim a space of hurt and use it to help the healing process.
“It’s really reclaiming what is a dreadful part of our history to reverse the hurt. And there are still hundreds of people that are still living the hurt,” Jim said.
For more information on Yokai visit http://www.yokai.com.au.