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'At 12, I was stolen from my family. 60 years later, I'm still searching for answers.'

My name is Dawn Daylight and I’m a Yugerra/Turrbal/Jarrawoir woman. People ask me, is that your name for real? I say yeah, I’m a Daylight. I’m a proud person and I want my family to feel proud of who we are and what we’ve achieved. This is a Daylight family story.

I spent my early childhood in Churchill, out on the fringes of Ipswich. My mother was a caretaker of a property that operated as a cattle farm/slaughter house. I enjoyed that time growing up with my brothers and sisters, and all the other Aboriginal people that frequented our place often. Our house was like a safe haven for Aboriginal people, my mother always had hot stew on the stove and it was probably one of the few places in the area that Aboriginal people could be themselves.

My main memory of that era is that I was happy.

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Video by MMC

At the age of 12, I was stolen and sent to All Hallows’ convent –one of the wealthiest, elite private schools in Brisbane. I was forced to work there as a domestic servant. At the time, the college was run by the Church, and more specifically, The Sisters of Mercy.

I don’t recall being taken nor do I know how I got to that place. I have a faint memory of a big, black car, but the details of that day are lost to me now. As a child, you don’t really question those things, you just do as you’re told and what is expected of you. As a child, I never felt like I had a right to ask about what was going on around me.

What I do remember is aspects of my time once I arrived at All Hallows. I remember being locked up at night and not being let out until the morning. I remember the sound of the nuns’ Rosary beads as they walked along the wooden verandas above our heads. I remember lugging big pots and heavy trays of food, baked custards and rice.

I remember not being with my family and or any other Aboriginal people. I was not allowed to go home until I was 18 years old.

Dawn Daylight Lost Daylight Stolen Generation
"I remember being locked up at night and not being let out until the morning. I remember the sound of the nuns’ Rosary beads as they walked along the wooden verandas above our heads." Image: Supplied / SBS.
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What I didn’t know at the time was that my two sisters, Margaret and Carol, had also been sent to All Hallows. Throughout my time there, I never once saw my sisters, and they never saw me.

I’ve been searching for answers for a long time, trawling through paperwork and reading through pages of government laws. I want to know why we were stolen and who gave permission for us to be placed at All Hallows.

Recently, we requested documentation from The Sisters of Mercy and obtained all the paperwork that related to me or my sisters. But what The Sisters of Mercy supplied didn’t make sense. They claim that I was a ‘day girl’ and was working at All Hallows as a paid employee. This is not what I recall at all. I certainly wasn’t a day girl. I was always kept on the grounds. The Sisters of Mercy records revealed that I was being charged board, and that I owed them money for belongings such as pyjamas and toiletries. But that was another inconsistency. If I was indeed a day girl, why would I be paying board?

None of this gave an accurate account of my time at the college, nor why we were sent there.

I’ve held unanswered questions my whole life, and so have my sisters. To know in your heart that you were stolen by someone and put to work at such a young age, with no explanation from authorities – it provides no closure. It’s very painful.

Asking these questions has never been about going for the jugular vein. It has always been about finally putting that feeling to rest. There is a hurt here, one that us Aboriginal people feel and will continue to feel unless there is a point of truth-telling. The next thing is to heal. For me, that is what I am trying to do, I am telling my truth and the easiest thing for people to do is listen.

Lost Daylight is a short film about Dawn Daylight’s pursuit to learn more about what really happened to her and her sisters. It will premiere as part of the SBS Short Film Festival, coming to on SBS On Demand on Friday 13 September.

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