Oldest Stolen Generation Survivor Nominated for Senior Australian of the Year 2021

Oldest Stolen Generation Survivor Nominated for Senior Australian of the Year 2021

By: Amy Cheng

The things that happened to the Stolen Generation are more horrific than one could imagine, according to a survivor of the Stolen Generation.

Aunty Isabel Reid is the oldest living survivor of those who were forcibly removed from their families, under the NSW Aborigines Protection Act 1909-1969, for being Aboriginal.

“Some of them went through horrific things and a lot of the stories are not talked about, and they keep that to themselves,” Ms Reid said.

“I think there’s a lot of things that went on in the homes that we don’t talk about. I don’t talk about it.

“I’d just like for people to have a little think for themselves, just think what would happen in those homes with young girls, you know, some of those stories that may happen in there.”

Ms Reid was named the NSW Senior Australian of the Year 2021, announced in November last year, and is this year’s NSW nominee for the Senior Australian of the Year award.

As an Elder of the Wiradjuri people, she has worked hard raising awareness of the Stolen Generation to prevent it from happening again.

In 2013, she was made an inaugural director of the Coota Girls Aboriginal Corporation. Three years later, she was appointed as an inaugural member and chairperson of the Stolen Generations Advisory Committee.

Her work led to the NSW Government offering a $74 million reparation package to those forcibly removed.

Passing on the torch

“I won’t be here forever; I don’t want [the work of raising awareness] to stop after I’m gone; I’d just like to make sure that it carries on after I’m gone.” – Aunty Isabel Reid

However, she never saw this as work and was lost for words when she found out she had been named NSW Senior Australian of the Year.

“I wasn’t looking for anything like that, I didn’t think anything like that would ever come up, but I’m very overwhelmed and so happy and pleased that I did get the award,” Ms Reid said.

“It just inspires me to keep going now that I’ve won that award. I feel like it must be good because someone must’ve thought I was doing the right thing.”

Ms Reid would now like to see the younger generation carry on with her work.

“I won’t be here forever; I don’t want it to stop after I’m gone; I’d just like to make sure that it carries on after I’m gone,” she said.

Remembering that day

When she was removed from her family, Ms Reid was just seven years old.

“I can still remember that day. It was horrible. Horrible. We were coming home from school, my sister and my brother, and that truck pulled out and asked us to get in and that they’d take us home,” she said.

“But unfortunately they didn’t, they took us to the police station. We stayed in the cell there and I don’t know how long we were in there but we were in the cell until they took us out.

“I think we cried all night. And then they put us on the train and we went to Sydney.”

To this day, she still has not be able to find her brother.

To this day, she still has not be able to find her brother.

“I haven’t seen him since he went into the home… But I’m still searching for him, I’ve got people looking out there for him,” she said.

“I mean, he may be or may not be alive now but he may have a family out there.”

No feelings of bitterness

Despite this horrific ordeal, Ms Reid has no feelings of bitterness.

“There’s no good in being bitter. I think to get over something as horrific as that, I think you’ve got to look at yourself and think ‘You know, this is not going to do me any good’, so I just got on with things and got on with life,” she said.

“There’s no good in being bitter because I think it will make you a terrible person. It eats at you, I think, and it’s not going to do you any good.”

Ms Reid will continue her work of raising awareness of the Stolen Generation and running new programs.

“It just inspires me to work with people, and I hope that we will put the wrongs of the past put right, that’s my goal to make sure that that’s what happens, and I think it will happen,” she said.

“I hope that we will put the wrongs of the past put right, that’s my goal to make sure that that’s what happens, and I think it will happen.” – Aunty Isabel Reid


See the full list of Australian of the Year state recipients for 2021 HERE.

The Australian of the Year Awards will take place at 7.30pm, Monday 25 January 2021, on ABC TV and iview.

Featured image supplied by Salty Dingo

Article supplied with thanks to Hope Media.