Impact of the colony’s first residential boarding school on Aboriginal children

Published in the June-July 2017 issue

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Two hundred years ago, Rosemary Norman-Hill’s great-great-great grandmother Kitty was forced to abandon her Aboriginal way of life and live in the colony’s first residential boarding school, the Parramatta Native Institution

Old records show Kitty was one of the first Aboriginal children to be removed from their parents under forced assimilation orders.

A Doctor of Indigenous Philosophies candidate in the Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian Peoples, Rosemary is investigating the Parramatta Native Institution to bring an Aboriginal perspective to the earliest act of assimilation through child removal. The Institution was founded in 1814 by Governor Lachlan Macquarie to ‘educate, civilise and Christianise’ Aboriginal children.

Rosemary Norman-Hill

“It is clear from the General Orders that the intention was for these children to lose their language, their culture, their heritage and their Aboriginal way of life,” said Rosemary, who has extensive experience in Indigenous child and family welfare, and a Bachelor of Social Science from Southern Cross University.

“These children, including my great-great great grandmother Kitty, were the beginning of the Stolen Generation.

“As an Aboriginal researcher, I’m analysing and interpreting primary documents and pictures through the lens of an Indigenous paradigm to discover the extent to which they can reveal the impact on the social, emotional and cultural wellbeing of the children who were placed there.”

Rosemary’s thesis is ‘They went back to their heathen ways’: An interpretation of early colonial perspectives regarding Aboriginal children placed in the Parramatta Native Institution 1814-1823. Over the eight years the Institution operated, 37 Aboriginal children are listed as having lived there.

“These children and their experiences have largely been forgotten over time; yet the research will argue that with their story came the first Indigenous child removal policy in Australia, proclaimed by Governor Macquarie on the 10 December 1814,” Rosemary said.

The Darug community endorsed the study for Rosemary (a Darug woman herself) to work with the Parramatta City Council. She organised the 200 year anniversary commemoration of the Institution’s opening by Governor Macquarie on 18 January, 1815.

Rosemary is the founder and Chief Executive of Kirrawe Indigenous Corporation, a not-for-profit organisation on the Gold Coast. Its program Kirrawe Kidz helps young people develop identity and pride as First Nations’ youth.

“The research is exciting because I’m learning new knowledge that informs the work I  do with the Indigenous young people at Kirrawe.”

The Doctor of Indigenous Philosophies program offered by the Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian Peoples at Southern Cross University encourages candidates to pursue in-depth studies on issues relevant to Indigenous futures. During this three-year postgraduate degree, students use Indigenous methodologies to answer Indigenous questions.

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