We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:14-16)
Doris Kartinyeri is a Ngarrindjeri woman and a member of the Stolen Generations. Soon after birth, she was taken from the hospital and placed in a children’s home, despite her family’s repeated pleas to care for her themselves. Her autobiography describes her experiences in the home and beyond, and her subsequent struggles with Bi-Polar Affective Disorder.
I have an illness. It has taken me a long time to come to terms with it. My healing began when I decided to write my autobiography and I continued to write throughout my illness. With lots of coffee, cigarettes and frustration, with laughter and medication, the journey began. In and out of mental institutions I managed to complete this book.
I recall my stay at this wurengi pulgi [nut house]. I had a brilliant inspiration. In a flash I knew what I was going to call this book. Yes, Kick the Tin.
‘Kick the Tin; was a game we played as children at Colebrook Home. The idea of the game was that we all had to stand around the tin. Then someone would run in and give one hell of a kick to the tin and all us maru [black, Aboriginal] kids would run for our lives, scattering to hide. ‘It’ would run and fetch the tin and place one foot on it, look around, then start searching for the kids. The idea of the game was for ‘It’ to tag the kids found and for the others to make it back to the tin without being caught.
My life has been literally kicked about, just like the tin we used to kick around. I believe that our Aboriginal brothers and sisters experienced much suffering because of the abusive behaviour of white fella governments and regimental, oppressive institutions. By running and hiding, we escaped white fellas’ way. To numb our pain we drank alcohol excessively; abusing our bodies in violent relationships, crushing our spirits, repeating the violent relationships of our protectors. This cycle of suffering continues. Everybody has now scattered in their own directions following their dreams and discovering their roots, taking different avenues just as in the game, ‘Kick the Tin’ …
In writing this book, I have been fulfilled and healed of all my anguish and disillusion. I think it’s important that my grandchildren should know where their Nanna came from and know about Colebrook Home. It’s important that my children and grandchildren know of my hardships and all that I have endured over the years …
To help me write this book, I decided to ask a few of my brothers and sisters [from Colebrook Home] for their stories. Listening to them has made me feel angry and has brought tears to my eyes. It was very hard for these people to present the sorrows that they had endured for many years. These disturbing stories did happen. We will never forget. The thing is that when we share the pain we begin to heal.
A few years back, my day was made by the arrival of my older Colebrook sister, Joyce, from Darwin. We sat in my kitchen and I pulled out the old biscuit tin to browse through some black and white photographs of the Colebrook children. This was part of my healing …
On visiting one of my older sisters, Bessie, I was horrified to hear the disturbing things she had to say … On the verge of tears, I sat and listened. All I could hear was Bessie crying and saying repeatedly, “I remember. I remember. I’m not silly.” I listened and watched with anger as Bessie spoke, stumbling for words, her face expressing great sadness. I felt for her and gave her a hug. There was an understanding between us. Being with Bessie, I suddenly felt a boost of strength. It was a time of healing for both of us as we embraced in the middle of the kitchen. Ω
Reflect: Ask God to reveal some of the hidden truths in your life. When something emerges which surprises you, shocks you, or makes you go ‘A-ha!’, stick with it. Notice the emotion you feel as you name this truth to God. Sit with this truth and emotion for a while. Pay attention to any hints, prompts, images or sensations as you ask God, ‘What would you have me do with this truth? How can I act in love?’
#Lent2020 © Sanctuary, 2020, quoting Doris Kartinyeri, Kick the Tin. North Melbourne: Spinifex Press, 2000. Order it through your favourite bookseller.
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