Published on: 7 June 2016

The Year 9 and 10 PSD students had an eye-opening lesson today, as they heard from Sheila Humphries, an Indigenous elder who was forcibly removed from her family.

Sheila told the boys about her personal journey of sadness and survival. Being padlocked inside a dormitory with 60 other girls, eating out of scrap buckets to stay alive, wearing the same dress for a week and the floggings she and her friends endured.

“When government officials came, we got shoes and socks, ribbons in our hair. It was a big show,” she said.

“It took me a long time to come to terms with what had happened to us, I wouldn’t talk to anyone, I was very withdrawn from all the hurt over the years.

“Some 5000 girls went through the New Norcia orphanage, one of thousands of homes where Aboriginal girls were taken and forgotten.”

Sheila is an inspiration, a respected elder and an acclaimed Indigenous artist. She started painting in 1994, the year she came to terms with what had happened throughout her life, and the year she first grieved for my mother.

“Mum passed away in 1952, and it wasn’t until 1994 that I woke up sobbing my heart out. All I wanted was my mummy, a 54-year-old grandmother crying for her mother like a little child.

“In that orphanage we were not allowed to mourn, Rev Mother said ‘get on with your work,’ so we pushed everything aside and got on with what we were doing.”

“I really felt for Sheila and what she went through. It was great she could speak to us and educate us on what happened, an important lesson for us all to learn,” said Max Martin (Year 9).