Ian Hamm is a Yorta Yorta man from Shepparton in central Victoria. In 1964, he was separated from his family when he was three weeks old. He grew up just 50 kilometres away from them, unaware of their existence. Last week the Victorian Government announced that Aboriginal people forcibly removed from their families will each receive $100,000 through a Victorian government redress scheme for members of the Stolen Generations.
Surviving members of the Stolen Generations will also be offered a formal apology and gain access to healing programs as part of the $155 million redress scheme. I welcome back to 3KND Ian Hamm to discuss the importance of this announcement and what it means for those who have lost so much.
Stolen Generations redress program announced The First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria – the elected body representing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Victorian Treaty process – has welcomed the State Government’s unveiling of a long overdue redress program for members of the Stolen Generations. Assembly Co-Chair and proud Nira illim bulluk man of the Taungurung nation, Marcus Stewart, said the harm caused by governments forcibly removing Aboriginal children from their families, Country and community could never be repaired, but an attempt to acknowledge the injustice and provide redress was an important step from the Victorian Government.
“Treaty is about creating a better future, but to do that there’s a lot of unfinished business from the past that we need to tackle first. That’s why truth-telling and redress for our Stolen Generations survivors is a priority for us at the First Peoples’ Assembly,” said Marcus. The sentiments were echoed by Assembly Co-Chair and Bangerang and Wiradjuri Elder, Aunty Geraldine Atkinson. “The damage inflicted on our people when government authorities ripped families apart and stole our children runs across generations and the disadvantage it caused is ongoing. I don’t believe there is anything that can heal that trauma or ever repay that loss, but the package announced today will go some way to helping people address the disadvantage caused by the inhumane practices our people have been subjected to,” said Aunty Geraldine.
The Victorian Government’s program to be unveiled at a ceremony today at Parliament House, will allow members of the Stolen Generations to apply for a payment of $100,000, a personal apology from the Victorian Government, as well as gain access to healing and family reunion programs. “The policies that caused the Stolen Generations were an attempt to ‘breed out’ and eliminate Aboriginal people. Just one of many attempts. But here we are – still proudly practicing our culture and speaking our languages. We have the oldest living culture in the world. We know a thing or two about survival, resilience and resistance,” said Aunty Geraldine.
Ian story continues…..That changed when he went to college and met an Aboriginal education officer who asked him if he knew where he came from. Ian replied his birth name was Andrew James. The person said: “Yeah. I think I know who you are. I’ll get back to you.” Six months later a worker from the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency visited Ian in Bendigo. She told him his birth family, the James family, was a big Aboriginal family in Shepparton. Ian then realised he’d already met some of his birth family but was unaware of their relationship. “It blows you away. She told me I was one of five, ‘You have two sisters and two brothers’. And I asked about my mother. She said my mother died in 1966, when I was two,” he said. “I’ve only got a few photos of my mum. It’s enormously frustrating when people say to me I’m like my mother.
I don’t know what that means. It puts into perspective where you fit in. Or don’t fit in as the case may be,” he said. “The hard part of this is I didn’t meet any of them until I was in my twenties. You’ve only known each other as adults,” Ian said. “It will be the same for anybody who’s been through this experience, the thing that’s the most confronting, the one that you live with every day—that you’ve had to start a relationship as an adult. How do you create those relationships? How do you make them work?” He described the uncertainty of identity he felt as the only Aboriginal man growing up in Yarrawonga. “People would tell me I’m Aboriginal, but what does that mean? My only source of information was what people told me and what I saw on television.
This is the ’60s and the ’70s, and that wasn’t great.” Over the years, moving forward has had its own challenges, especially in finding a way of getting on with things. “When I say heal, for me, I don’t think you get over it, you just get used to it. It’s how I get by.” Ian says he’s largely made peace with his past, but it’s more like a cessation of hostilities than a lasting peace. “There are days when sometimes it just gets to me. I get this overwhelming sense of sadness. And I know exactly what it is. It’s that ‘Where do I fit in?’.”