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People's Voice Publishing
Recipes for Survival: Stories of Hope and healing by survivors of the State 'Care System in Australiae
This book is about surviving some of the most difficult childhood experiences imaginable.
Dr Richard Hil, Centre for peace and Conflict Studies. University of Sydney, states in the preface:" ...The editors and contributors are to be commended for the strength, honesty and clarity they have brought to this book which speaks important truths about past harms and current struggles. It also gives others courage to tell their own stories or to know that they are not alone and that what they experienced was not their fault. Through the mediums of poetry, memory work and self-reflection we learn about the privations of care and the long road to healing and recovery. As Karen Laura -Lee Wilson remarks: " the harsh lessons I learned ensured that while my children were growing up I embraced them with as much love as i was capable of showing: never resentment and always support."
... This volume tells stories through the lenses of of survival and healing. ..."
The following is an excerpt from my contribution that was published in "Recipes for Survival:"
"After our parents' violent break-up on Christmas Eve 1948 we moved to Spring Hill, Brisbane in August the following year. It was just as well my brother and I had a bond to support each other in times of difficulty because, with our father gone, we were neglected in our mother's care. She managed a guesthouse and was obsessively busy and preoccupied. My brother and I rarely saw her - even at breakfast. Perpetually hungry, we children scoured the kitchen for food. Even though I was seven years old I learned to cut bread for our standby bread and milk breakfast and made sandwiches for school. Unaccompanied, we walked to the local primary school. Sometimes we wagged it and spent the time skinny-dipping at a nearby waterhole. We joined a gang of children and roamed the streets after school and at night. (God only knows what our mother was doing all that time). When she was around, she was grumpy and fierce.
In the evening just before closing time at the pubs we stood outside and begged for pennies. Sometimes my brother sneaked into the bar room and collected coins left on the windowsills. When caught, he was sworn at. We always split the takings and soon became regular customers at the local fish shop where we purchased potato cakes, two for a penny, and a packet of Throaties for my persistent cough. If we were still hungry we stole fruit from the local grocer. Apples were our main targets. Eventually, fed up with our regular shoplifting, the owner contacted the local policeman who paid a visit to our mother. She was shocked to hear about our activities.
Shortly after the visit, our mother took us to see His Grace, the Most reverend J. Duhig. Our mother was brought up Catholic so she thought it appropriate to see him about her dilemma. We children were brought up Anglican; we had no knowledge of the Catholic faith. Nonetheless, the archbishop arranged for my brother to attend Nudgee Junior College and I was placed in Nazareth House, Wynnum. My mother told me I was going on a holiday. I would make lots of friends and have fun. my mother said she had to go away for a spell because she was 'on the verge of a nervous breakdown". I didn't know what a nervous breakdown was, but I knew it was something to do with our parent's separation.
On 3 January 1950 my mother and I set off for Nazareth House. I thought she would come and collect me in a couple of weeks.. Early into my stay, my mother visited me on my birthday before she embarked on a long holiday up north to recuperate. I remained there until late August of that year. Things became easier for me when I became a Catholic. My brother was placed in the designated boarding school and completed the school year there.
I don't know the reasons why my mother faced up to her responsibilities and eventually rescued me from the orphanage in August. My mother inadvertently emitted a gasp of horror when she saw me on my release. My head was shaved and I had weeping ulcers on my scalp. I had also lost weight.
I don't know why she had not contacted her relatives in Sydney to apprise them of her situation and send us to stay with them until she recovered. She never spoke about her relatives. Our mother's kindness lasted for a year. Then she reverted to her cruel, nasty self: she bashed us regularly, belittled our father and us and constantly kept us hungry. My best strategy to remain in that environment was to give her absolute obedience at all times. To survive, my brother and I formed a binding bond to support each other whenever difficulties arose. That bond remains today...