Tree an­chors life jour­ney

Pilbara News - - News - Court­ney Fowler

As Josie Alec looked up at her birth tree, she rem­i­nisced about what she de­scribed as a for­tu­nate life.

“My step­dad took me here on my birth­day last year and he said to me: ‘You know love, that’s the tree your mum made you un­der’,” she said.

“I had my other big sis­ter and her hubby with me and they ex­plained to me how the old girls used to walk from the old re­serve to the river.

“One day on her way back, mum had me, right here out bush, and that’s my birth con­nec­tion to Roe­bourne.”

In 1973, Ms Alec was born un­der a tree near the Hard­ing River, but it would not be long be­fore she would be taken from her mother and her cul­ture in the most hor­ren­dous way imag­in­able.

“I am part of the Stolen Gen­er­a­tion and it has taken me about 12 years to know that lit­tle story about my tree,” she said.

“One of the old girls told me wel­fare took me from the re­serve when I was about two.

“Me and my brother Kevin got taken … we weren’t as dark as my other broth­ers.

“My mother wasn’t there at the time and as soon as she re­turned she raced back to the court­house and tried to get me back — she nearly got locked up she was smash­ing on the door that hard.

“I think about the old days a lot.

“It must have been so hard for my fam­ily.”

It would take Ms Alec an­other 12 years to find her way back to Roe­bourne through the wel­fare sys­tem as a young girl.

“Years af­ter we all got taken away, the wel­fare sys­tem be­came all about rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and send­ing kids back to their par­ents to visit,” she said.

“When I was 12 my white fos­ter fam­ily moved from Perth to Wick­ham and I re­mem­ber them driv­ing me out to Yande­yarra com­mu­nity to where my mother lived.

“They left me out there for about two weeks liv­ing out bush in the tra­di­tional way — it was a to­tal cul­ture shock for me.”

A few years later, Ms Alec’s fos­ter fam­ily moved back to Perth, but she found her­self drawn back to Roe­bourne by a se­ries of co­in­ci­dences that brought her home to stay.

“The first time I came back to Roe­bourne out­side of the wel­fare sys­tem was when I was on my way to work up in Broome,” she said.

“My car broke down here in Roe­bourne … a fella called Matthew Darby got my brother to come help me and we ended up stay­ing with my fam­ily be­fore I got the money to buy a car to go to Broome.

“Af­ter that I went back down to Perth and I was al­ways un­set­tled, go­ing around in cir­cles with abu­sive boyfriends … and then my house burnt down and I was left with noth­ing.

“They say fire is like re­ju­ve­na­tion — well that mo­ment was a bless­ing.

“It led me and my kids back to Roe­bourne and I haven’t lived in Perth since.”

Af­ter 10 years of liv­ing in Roe­bourne, Ms Alec re­con­nected with her cul­ture.

She be­came a teacher, es­tab­lished a suc­cess­ful act­ing ca­reer, sat on a com­pany board and started her own busi­ness.

“None of that would have hap­pened if I hadn’t come back, with­out all the old peo­ple guid­ing me,” she said.

“For some peo­ple the Stolen Gen­er­a­tion is the worst thing that ever hap­pened to them and it was a ter­ri­ble thing.

“But I feel re­ally blessed about the life I’ve lived … I’ve got white sis­ters and I’ve got black sis­ters and my fos­ter par­ents are like an­gels on earth.”

Dur­ing Roe­bourne’s 150th an­niver­sary next year, Ms Alec will be the first Abo­rig­i­nal ac­tress from Roe­bourne to fea­ture in a big Aus­tralian film.

“Isn’t that a happy co­in­ci­dence — 150 years of Roe­bourne and be­ing the first Roe­bourne chick in a film like Blue Dog pre­mier­ing in the very same year?” she said.

“You never know what curve­balls life is go­ing to throw your way, but I al­ways tell my kids in a town like Roe­bourne, there’s so many op­por­tu­ni­ties knock­ing at their door.

“I’m still learn­ing and still ac­cept­ing the past, but com­ing back to Roe­bourne has been life-chang­ing … I’ve found my way back to my coun­try. “I’m home.” Ms Alec is writ­ing her story in a book, The In­vis­i­ble Line.

Pa­tri­cia Cooper with her younger sis­ter Josie Alec un­der her birth tree near the Hard­ing River.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.