The Stolen Generations and Palm Island remembered in new memoir

[by Xenica Ayling]

 Image: supplied

Pattie Lees was only 10-years-old when she was taken from her mother and sent to live on Palm Island – the island once dubbed ‘Australia’s Alcatraz’.

 

Written in partnership with her son Adam, A Question of Colour, out 24 August, provides a first-hand account of Pattie’s experiences during Australia’s assimilationist policy era.

 

It also recounts her survival following a decade of sexual, physical and emotional abuse as a Ward of the State.

 

When asked why sharing her story is so important Pattie said “I lost my voice on Palm Island, but now I’ve got it back and no one can shut me up again. What happened to my family is still happening and these stories need to be told in order for Australia to have a sense of history and why reconciliation is so hard.”

 

The memoir includes copies of documents from the original 300-page file compiled during the institutionalisation of the Janke family, including several letters from Pattie’s mother that were never passed on.

 

Ultimately the book is a testimony to Pattie’s mother’s love, and endurance.

 

“We had the most important thing which was love” said Pattie.

 

“You survive and the scars are inside, but you don’t drop your bundle, you carry on.

 

When Pattie’s story, and the stories of other members of the Stolen Generations, are known and respected as well as those of the Europeans who claimed these lands as their own, we will know that we have reached that point where we can say yes, we are a reconciled Australia. – Kevin Rudd AC

Available August in all good bookshops and online from Magabala Books — RRP $22.99

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