memories I have of Redfern are very special to me. The
memories are very real and of very real people like
Father Ted Kennedy, who quietly but determinedly opened
up the Redfern Presbytery to Aboriginal people, and
then the whole Catholic complex, that is, the Church,
Convent and school.
school was used for the Aboriginal Medical Service;
the Convent became what I always saw as a phenomenon
in the Church as many Sisters, Brothers, Priests from
Religious Orders and diocesan priests, as well as many
other people came to speak to and get to know many wonderful
Aboriginal people. These people were often of the Stolen
Generations, the victims of racism on Aboriginal Reserves,
the law and any other way that racism works.
learnt from people like Ted, Mum Shirl and the gentle
and sometimes violent victims of alcohol. These people
lived, and very often died, at “the Church”.
I write these memories I remember the Lands Rights marches
each year in NAIDOC Week. A few hundred people would
gather at the Aboriginal Legal Service in Redfern and
we would walk along to George
to the Town Hall. The Aboriginal Leader would shout,
“What do we want?” and we answered, “Land Rights!” Then
the Leader shouted, “When do we want it?” and we answered,
“Now!” This was repeated all the way. Some of the onlookers
joined us and of course we were on TV news.
special memory is that of spending Good Friday in the
infamous Grafton jail with Mum Shirl. She really cheered
the prisoners and brought them news of their families
and goodies to share. Mum Shirl really stood up to the
screws and got her way - the way she wanted her visits
to be with the prisoners. I also went to Courts and
other jails and Aboriginal Reserves with Mum Shirl.
my stay at Redfern from 1976 to 1984 I learnt so much
from Ted and the many Aboriginal people who lived at
or visited “the Church”. So many have gone to join their
ancestors, but I remember all with very deep love.
1984 I have lived in Wilcannia and am married to Gus
Bates. He was born here but was taken away with two
brothers and one sister. Gus and his brother were put
in Kinchella Boys Home.
has visited us out here. Gus also visited “the Church”
and stayed with Mum Shirl after he left K. B. H. Mum
Shirl came to our wedding in 1986 in Wilcannia. This
was a great joy for Gus. Many of the Redfern “mob” also
came for it (only 1000 km away). After the wedding,
we celebrated on the banks of the Paaka (Darling) River
which is the home of the Paakandgi (Barkandji) Tribe.
may your years ahead be filled with the love and memories
of the people who have stayed near “the Redfern
Church” and those who have spread to other places.
by Germaine Bates