Stolen Generations survivor Aunty Lorraine has been healing her mob for 20 years


At 81, Aunty Lorraine Peeters shows little sign of slowing down.

"I'm hungry to help others .... I need to heal as many of my mob as possible."

Aunty Lorraine has used her experience to develop a program to help other members of the Stolen Generations work through trauma.

A Weilwun and Gamilaroi woman from western New South Wales, her own journey of healing started when she began to recall her childhood.

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that the following article contains images of people who have died.

Aunty Lorraine was just four years old when she was forcibly removed from her family living on the Brewarrina Mission as part of a government policy of assimilation.

It was a pretty scary event for somebody only four years old," she recalls.

Aunty Lorraine (front right) and three of her sisters at the Cootamundra home, before they were separated from each other.
Aunty Lorraine (front right) and three of her sisters at the Cootamundra home, before they were separated from each other.(Supplied: Shaan Peeters)

Aunty Lorraine and her five sisters were taken to the Cootamundra Aboriginal Girls' Home to be trained as domestic servants (her two brothers were taken to the Kinchela Aboriginal Boys' Training Home on the mid-north coast of NSW).

The girls' clothes were burned and their names were changed.

"For the next 14 years of my life there, we were brainwashed to act, speak, dress and think white and punished if we didn't. We were not allowed to speak language, culture or even talk about family."

Aunty Lorraine and her two-year-old sister were cut off from their elder sisters who were put in separate dormitories in the Cootamundra home.

"We weren't allowed to bond with our older sisters," she says. "We were never even allowed to talk to them or go near them."

The pain Aunty Lorraine already felt was made worse as each sister left the home to be put out to work as a domestic.

"The trauma was just compounded. You know, with the grief and that, of losing somebody again."

Aunty Lorraine at Cootamundra dining room
Aunty Lorraine (in the foreground) in the dining room of the Cootamundra home.(Supplied: Shaan Peeters/Aboriginal Affairs NSW)

When Aunty Lorraine was 23, she got married and had a couple of kids and, over the years, connection to her Aboriginal culture faded.

"There's two things they couldn't change ... the colour of my skin and my spirit. But all the rest was just — I was assimilated, a 100 per cent into the community, you know," she says.

Unravelling the pain of the past

But everything changed when Auntie Lorraine was 54.

It started with a reunion for the Cootamundra girls' home, held in Sydney.

At the gathering, Aunty Lorraine discovered many of the women who had been at the home with her had passed away.

"There was so many girls that weren't there — that I'd found that ... had died along the way," she says.

"And I think that was like, you know, 'Why did these women end up like that?'"

The trauma of her past started to surface.

"It just came at me in in this huge wave and I didn't know how to pull myself out of it," she says.

"I thought I was going insane."

"I just took to the bottle for a whole weekend."

Her daughter Shaan came down from Newcastle to care for her mother.

"I had somebody to rescue me and pull me out of that hole," she says

"Can you imagine if somebody didn't have that support? I could have stayed there forever."

Aunty Lorraine (in black and yellow dress) and with four of her sisters and a niece.
Aunty Lorraine (second from the left) and four of her sisters as adults, and a niece.(Supplied: Shaan Peeters)

Aunty Lorraine was lucky to see an expert who assured her she was having a normal response to what she'd been through.

This empowered her to start a journey of self-healing.

"I just started writing on my computer for three years solid," she says.

"I sat there and wrote until I had addressed every issue I was going through."

Self-healing leads to community healing

Auntie Lorraine's experience lead her to develop the Marumali Program for healing — 'Marumali' is a Gamilaroi word meaning 'to put back together'.

"For Aboriginal people of the Stolen Generations ... and any Aboriginal person, the ultimate in healing is to be reconnected to everything that you've lost," she says.

"It's like your identity is gone so you've got to find out what is your true identity."

Aunty Lorraine started giving healing workshops using group work (in the form of yarning circles) where people share their stories and help each other self-heal, through a seven-stage journey based on Aunty Lorraine's own experiences.

She says one important step is helping people understand how behaviour can be shaped by the legacy of trauma, which is also passed on through the generations.

Aunty Lorraine giving the Marumali Program
Aunty Lorraine giving the Marumali Program(Supplied: Shaan Peeters)

Central to the workshops is helping people to restore their individual connection to spirituality.

"In our culture, our spirit is the very core of who we are — like our country, identity ... language, everything," she says.

And at the end of the workshop participants reflect on where they've come from and how they can rebuild their future in a more positive way.

The Marumali Program has been running successfully for 20 years now, and with the support of her daughter Shaan, Auntie Lorraine continues to give healing workshops — both in the community and in prisons.

Her program also trains anyone who works with Indigenous people, in how to provide culturally-safe support.

Aunty Lorraine has received an international award for services to psychotherapy.

And she helps advise The Healing Foundation, a government-funded body that supports Stolen Generations and their communities.

"I should be retired by now, but my passion is so great," she says.

(Source)


1 comment


  • Toni Abrahams

    I had the privilege of meeting this lady in the early 70’s. I am white but grew up with an Aboriginal family we have a special bond even to this day. She welcomed me into her home unconditionally.


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