“We used to climb that tree. There were other bigger ones we use to climb too.”
“We used to come in that door there and that’s where we would stand and sing in the choir.”
There were lots of little stories circulating in quiet conversations among the hundreds of people who gathered together on Saturday 27 October at the historical site of the Moore River Native Settlement, later named Mogumber Mission.
They had gathered to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the venue to share stories, revisit old memories, shed some tears, and for some, to start some healing.
People travelled from all parts of the state to share in the event. For some it was the first time they had returned to the place for 40 years, while others came to honour their parents or grandparents who had been placed there or even born there.
Key organiser of the event was Yued woman Stephanie Mippy, chairperson of the Kaalip Aboriginal Corporation (KAC).
Stephanie was really pleased with the event and the many volunteers and supporters who helped to make it happen, including Jim Morrison, Chairperson of the WA Stolen Generations Aboriginal Corporation (WASGAC).
Jim acknowledged funding for the event that had come from the Noongar Charitable Trust, the Healing Foundation and the Tabitha Trust of the Uniting Church in WA. He said that WASGAC will now be working with KAC in developing a 100 year Commemorative Booklet that will be published and circulated to interested people before the end of the year.
For people who have only memories or stories of a place that has so significantly shaped their lives, being able to take something tangible with them that tells some of their story is understandably valuable.
Len Ogilvie, the oldest survivor who was taken to Moore River during the period before it was a church-run facility, spoke of the mixed emotions he felt about being there. His feelings were shared among many when he said “there are good memories and bad memories, but probably more bad than good.”
At one point Rev Dennis Doust, Uniting Church WA minister, who worked as a teacher at Mogumber Mission when in his 20’s apologised to the group.
“I was ignorant and arrogant” he said as he asked for forgiveness and gave his encouragement to those present to keep working for justice and healing.
But the day was for Aboriginal people and their families who had been impacted by the Stolen Generations practices that took them there in the first place. There were certainly plenty of tears among the crowd as people heard songs, watched dances and made wreaths for relatives who had died there.
Stephanie was keen however, to make sure people also saw the hope in the occasion.
“This is a sad place, but we can make it into a place of healing and show the strength our people have,” she said.
Read more about the Moore River Native Settlement here.