"Once Ruby had recovered for the birth of her child she was forced to return to the same station where she she was raped again by the same men. Ruby returned to the settlement pregnant once more. Prior to her 16th birthday she gave birth to her second child and, like the first, this child was sent to Sister Kate's home in Perth."
Marion Kickett shares the harrowing story of Ruby and describes how her early experiences impacted on her life. By forgiving people involved in these terrible events, Ruby started a healing process which led to her realising a dream. Ruby participated in Marion's research on resiliency in Aboriginal people.
"When Ruby’s father died in a work accident she was removed from her mother and placed in Moore River Native Settlement. Ruby was only ten years old at the time and never saw her mother again. She, like all the other girls at the mission, was trained in domestic work.
At 14, Ruby was sent to a remote cattle station to work. She was repeatedly raped by two of the station owner’s sons. When it was discovered that she was pregnant, she was sent back to Moore River. Ruby gave birth to her first child on her 15th birthday. The child was removed immediately from Ruby and send to Sister Kate's home in Perth.
Once Ruby had recovered for the birth of her child she was forced to return to the same station where she she was raped again by the same men. Ruby returned to the settlement pregnant once more. Prior to her 16th birthday she gave birth to her second child and, like the first, this child was sent to Sister Kate's home in Perth.
Ruby was forced to return to the same cattle station for the third time. Again, she was repeatedly raped, returning to the Moore River settlement. Like the other two, this child was sent to Sister Kate's home in Perth.
When interviewed for this research project, Ruby explained that at age 18, she felt like she was nothing. She had been totally traumatised by her experience at both Moore River and the cattle station. Ruby remained at Moore River until she married at age 20. Once free from the mission, she finally searched for her mother, eventually finding her grave. She was never reconnected with her three children.
Not surprisingly Ruby became an angry person, an alcoholic, and what she referred to herself as 'a victim'. After two broken marriages, her relationship with her two daughters ended, and whilst imprisoned Ruby accepted help. She was 39 years old and felt that she had hit rock bottom. She believed it was now time to crawl out of the dark hole she had dug herself into.
The first adversity Ruby dealt with was her addiction to alcohol and smoking. Ruby then dealt with her anger. Once she conquered her anger she had to do what she described as, "The hardest thing I have ever had to do in my entire life. Forgive." Ruby forgave those who had wronged her. She stated in her interview that it was so hard to do this but just as important to do.
By forgiving the wrongs committed against her, Ruby let the traumatic events go and started her healing. She was no longer a victim and, at age 47, Ruby felt free and at peace with herself. She was now able to move forward and put right the wrongs of her past.
Ruby’s experience demonstrates the true meaning of forgiveness by an Aboriginal person who has suffered the colonial experience." Adapted from Marion Kickett's PhD thesis
Stories are precious
"As Indigenous people of this country, our stories are precious. They have survived over generations. Our elderly have passed them on to us and we will continue to pass them on to our children. We have our own ways of telling and listening to stories which are important to us.
When we come into mainstream health services, either as clients or workers, we find very different ways of talking about people's lives. We find a focus on aims and objectives, or on projects which involve easily measure outcomes. Often these ways of talking about people's lives do not fit comfortably for us (nor many other people).
The telling of stories however is something we can relate to. As Aboriginal people, we have always told stories about our lives, and we know how important it is for people to be connected to their own stories, the stories of their family, their people, their history. The stories are a source of pride. When people become disconnected from them, life can be much harder to live." Barbara Wingard
A message from women of Arnhem Land to the Aboriginal community of Port Augusta
"Their words speak for us. Their stories are so similar to what we experience. It is like they are talking for us as well. It’s like we are sharing the same problems under the one tent. We know now that these things are not just happening in Arnhem Land but also down south.
We are thinking of them and now we would like to pass on something to them. We want to share our stories with them, just like they shared their stories with us. We will speak about our experiences and then link these together with the experiences of those from Port Augusta. This is about sharing knowledge and sharing stories together." Dulwich Centre
Check out the paper Liking Stories and Initiatives: A narrative approach to working with the skills and knowledge in communities by David Denborough and colleagues.
This project involves communities which are experiencing hard times exchanging stories. These stories are about "special skills, special knowledge, about hopes and dreams and the ways that people are holding onto these."
> Judy Atkinson