Her healing can help others
WHEN Maryborough’s Maree Lawrence was growing up in country New South Wales she often wondered where she really came from.
“I knew I was adopted but kids at school used to say I was Aboriginal because I had dark hair and eyes and my skin was also dark,” Maree said.
“My school mates called me ‘Blackjack’ and I would often ask my parents if I had Aboriginal blood in me – but they said I was probably just a mix of Spanish.
“But I felt I had more in common with the indigenous students and would often mix more with them than anyone else.”
It would be years later when Maree married and moved to Brisbane that her husband encouraged her to trace her background and find out who she really was.
She contacted the hospital where she was born – and gradually a whole chapter of sadness, excitement, relief and tragedy unfolded before her.
“The hospital confirmed I had been put up for adoption shortly after my birth – I then realised I was a member of the Stolen Generation,” Maree said.
“My mother and her parents had been packed up and moved from their river bank camp in country New South Wales and were taken to a mission near Sydney.
“There my mother went on to have six children – I was the third – and all were removed from her at one stage or another.
“A family friend can remember being in the hospital after I was born and watched as a nurse took me away from the arms of my mother as she fed me.
“Eventually I was adopted by a white family and raised as a white.”
Maree’s research also uncovered that her mother died in tragic circumstances about five years after the birth and she was buried in an unmarked grave.
“An aunty told me where she was buried and took me there, where I just collapsed on the grave and sobbed for about an hour,” Maree said.
“I was crying because I thought maybe if things were different, I could have changed things for her.”
Today Maree is working and raising a family in Maryborough where, with the support of Centrelink Indigenous Services Officer Brenda Williams, she has returned to university to obtain her Bachelor of Human Services (Counselling).
“Brenda has been very supportive in letting me know what assistance I am eligible for while at university and continues to give me ongoing support.
“I want to help people and I especially want to help the grandchildren of the Stolen Generation – and there are many of them.
“It doesn’t stop with those of us who were taken.
“There are many people who haven’t healed and whose anger and tears carry through to other family members.”
Maree believes her life experience has been for a reason and that she is now where she is meant to be.
“I feel like I’ve come the full circle – I’ve been able to heal and move on with my life and now I have the opportunity to help others heal as well,” she said.
This month marks the second anniversary of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s apology to the Stolen Generation.
Centrelink has a network of Indigenous Services Officers. Phone 13 63 80.