‘When I was taken away it was the saddest thing happen to us all. Where there were bad head hitting and crying, that was really bad. When I got to the home, I seen so many children, but I didn’t understand what they were saying and the other children taught me English, nobody else taught me. It wasn’t a very good place to stay, it was terrifying and very sickening. We couldn’t relax, and there was hardly any hope. Not much help at all, in the home. Not from missionary, not from others. Some cared about you, some didn’t. But the way of life lived in a home was terrifying. I wouldn’t like to go through it again, or for any children to go through this sort of life.

Here is a poem I wrote about my family and being taken:

I was born under a paper bark tree, where the smell of fresh air was clear, not knowing what is ahead of me. So young in heart and harmony, the first step was under a tree. The loving feeling that I knew was always there when I needed it. But it never lasted for me to see.

We would have to flee in our land, with family that love me dearly, the feeling of sadness closed near, then the years of good feelings with family were gone. There time was run, but we were surprised by Mr. Sweeney sneaking up on us before we could run away and hide.

They had taken me, leaving was a breaking point. My heart was pounding, I needed my family. Sad faces watch with broken hearts, being led into a cage where there was no escape. The car that took us was like a prison van.

No crying allowed, tears would still  fall to the end. Tears would reach to the end if we ever meet again. My love for all will never end. Reaching the destiny so scary.

The family food was so yummy. Walking home, what used to be carrying leftovers for me. Camp set up to have a rest. The sound of sticks and didgeridoo. Fall asleep, all night through. I never reminded myself of all the happy times.

When I wrote these stories I used to think that I could go back to the same old place and start it over again, but you couldn’t.’

 – MARGARET COOPER SHIELDS, DARWIN NT, 2019

Past resident of the Retta Dixon Institution