For Uncle Richard Campbell, healing from the trauma of his stolen childhood has been a lifelong journey.
A survivor of the Stolen Generations, Richard was kidnapped as a boy and taken to Kinchela Boys Home near Kempsey, where hundreds of Aboriginal boys were raised from the 1920s to the 1970s.
As long as he lives, Richard will never be able to forget the day he was taken from his family.
“They grabbed me and my older brother, pulled us out of the car; we tried to hang onto our sisters,” he recalls, in a video interview. “It was brutal. All we could hear was screaming from our uncles and aunties and cousins.”
The Kinchela Boys Home has been described as a harsh, cruel environment, where boys were abused, had to work for their food, and were treated like objects, not humans. Disconnected from their families and communities, even their very identities were stolen from them as they were referred to by numbers instead of names.
“They told us forget about our name, our culture, our spirituality… they just kept saying, ‘You’re not black, you’re white; you’re not Richard Campbell, you’re (number) 28’,” Richard says.
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“It was a hideous time,” he has told Sydney Catholic. “Physical, mental and sexual abuse – it all happened there.”
Healing Through Art, Faith, and Brotherhood
But Uncle Richard has found a number of avenues of comfort and healing.
Firstly there’s his art: Richard has gained a degree in Fine Arts and is now an internationally recognised artist who mentors young Aboriginal artists. There’s also been the process of reconnecting with the traditions of his Aboriginal identity as a Gumbaynggir Dunghutti man.
Richard’s Christ-centred spirituality has been a source of restoration too; he grew up Catholic before being stolen from his parents, and now gains great strength from the stories of the Bible. His latest painting is one depicting the story of the Good Samaritan, and the cross of Christ is a common theme in his work.
Restoring the Boys of Kinchela
And one of the most powerful sources of healing has been brotherhood with his childhood mates, through the Kinchela Boys Home Aboriginal Corporation.
Supported by the Catholic Aid organisation Caritas Australia, the corporation was established by Kinchela survivors, so they could reconnect with their childhood friends and begin to heal.
“We can hopefully show the way for other people to learn from our pain.” ~ Uncle Richard Campbell
Through the ‘Unlocking the Past to Free the Future’ program, Kinchela survivors have been able to regain social and emotional wellbeing by sharing stories and memories, and exploring how their experiences have impacted on themselves and their own children and grandchildren.
They’re also working to teach the next generation.
“We can hopefully show the way for other people to learn from our pain,” Uncle Richard said. “We’re trying to be the leader, a role model for our kids.”
Making a Difference Through Project Compassion
Throughout the period of Lent – the six weeks leading up to Easter – Caritas is raising funds through Project Compassion, to support programs around the Australia and Asia Pacific region.
Funds will help not only the Kinchela Boys Home Aboriginal Corporation, but projects like:
- Helping vulnerable communities to protect themselves from climate related disasters in the Philippines
- Workshops to address financial and social challenges in Fiji
- Supporting mothers and kids in a domestic violence shelter in Timor-Leste
- Helping a child with disabilities in Vietnam to attend school and have a better life