It's amazing how the people who feature in stories about Aborigines who achieve academically all turn out to look just like people of European ancestry. Why? Because they clearly are overwhelmingly of European ancestry. They look nothing like Aborigines. The lady above is even hyphenated, for goodness's sake!
She does have a slight "suntan" but to a degree well within European norms. Vanessa is quite simply good-looking. She would be a social success among any group of white Australians.
How she came to originate in an Aboriginal family, one can only speculate, but mixed ancestry is common among urban Aborigines so she may well have simply got a very fortunate roll of the genetic dice that featured all or most of the "white" genetics in her ancestry. Though we should perhaps note that there is no mention of her mother below.
Her life story does show that her childhood among Aborigines ended in producing serious distress for her but her tale below is clearly very one-sided. Why did the social workers remove her from her Aboriginal family? We are left to believe that it was because they were inhuman monsters.
The fact of the matter however is that removing a child is very rule-governed and in this case the aim was protective. It is very common for Aborigines to treat their children very negligently and even abusively so there must have been reports of that nature in this case.
But despite her difficult childhood, that evil white society recognized her talent and moved her into the upper echelons of that society.
So combined with many other similar stories, this story does reveal a very clear lesson. It is not at all the lesson intended by the narrator but it is clear nonetheless: Real Aborigines cannot achieve academically. It is only ones who are not really Aborigines who can. It reasserts the great importance of European genetics
As a child I lived on Gadigal country in Redfern in Sydney, before moving out to social housing near La Perouse. Through a white lens, people would say we were poor. But there was something really powerful in being appreciative of what we did have and that was community, family, kinship and love. We were living with poverty and struggled at times, but we never went without.
The Department of Community Services (DOCS, now the NSW Department of Family and Community Services) removed me from my family in 2008 when I was 10. It was around 10 o’clock at night, and I was in bed. My older brother, thankfully, was at my mum’s place that night. Dad was out on the balcony and he yelled, “Bub I’m so sorry, they’re coming to get you.” I looked out the window and saw all of these red and blue flashing lights.
I heard a knock at the door and it was a caseworker. She said, “Hug your dad one last time, you’ve got to come with us.” I remember hugging my dad so tight that I could feel his tears drop on my shoulder.
When I was in the DOCS car, I vomited because I’d been crying so much. I didn’t know what was going on. I was placed into an emergency foster home that night. I remember the caseworker saying to me, “You can’t go home because your parents neglected you and your parents don’t know how to look after children.” I was really confused, because I remembered my dad raising my nieces and nephews and cousins and playing a prominent role in their lives. I was like, “What do you mean that my dad doesn’t know how to raise children?”
I went to around eight or 10 foster homes in that first couple of years. That’s considered a low number. Behind the scenes, my family was battling the court system. My parents, who had no knowledge of the legal system, were put into a room to advocate why they should be allowed to parent their child. No one ever asked me what I wanted.
I was passed around as if there was no soul in my body. The foster homes that I went to were white – they weren’t my kin, even though my aunties and uncles had put their hand up to take me in. During my third year in out-of-home care, I lost my Pop. He wanted to take me in, but I was robbed of those years with him because of the state system. I went from spending every weekend at Pop’s house, hearing stories, sharing our culture, having a Sunday roast, to seeing him for sorry business after he’d passed away.
My experience in foster care was a driving force for me to make the most of my career. I thought, “I’m going to leave this state system, I’m going to go back to my family and I’m going to get that time back that was robbed from me.”
At 18, I was accepted to study social work and criminology at UNSW. I met with a senior law lecturer to talk about whether I should study law. I remember she said, “It’s been 15 minutes and I’m already wondering why you didn’t originally enrol in law as your first degree.” In that moment I was like, “Shit, someone genuinely believes I’m capable of doing this.”
I’m in the sixth year of a seven-year combined law and social work degree. As an Indigenous student studying law, you’re reminded every day of what you don’t have. In corporations law you’re reminded you don’t have tenure to your land. In criminal law you’re reminded all your people are being locked up, removed from their families and communities and subjected to punitive measures rather than support. I work part-time as a paralegal in the pro bono team with Sydney law firm Gilbert + Tobin. One of the most beautiful things about working there is it’s built on the values of giving back. The team is like family. I’m lucky to have their guidance and support on the right side of the fight for humanity and justice.
The year that Kevin Rudd gave his apology to the stolen generations was the same year I was taken. I remember everyone felt so proud as a nation, but the reality is, the same executive powers are removing our babies. This is still occurring today. [In 2018, First Nations children made up almost 40 per cent of all children in out-of-home care nationally, despite being 5½ per cent of Australia’s child population. About a third were placed with non-Indigenous carers.]