Her name was Sarah.
In the 1930s in Queensland, my great-grandma, a woman of colour, was pulled off her horse and beaten to near-death by a white man.
She went home and essentially slowly died in her bed. No point in getting the police involved. No access to medical support. When you die at the hands of a white man, apparently that’s your own secret shame and fault.
The man who killed her was someone in the town who had raped her on a number of occasions. This was not uncommon, apparently, that women of colour would be sexually abused by white men in the town who called them ‘sluts’ and ‘trollops’ and taunted them. We don’t know if, on that day, she had rejected his advances or there had been a disagreement. But Nana recalls vaguely (as she was only three years old) that her mother, Sarah, came home, laid in bed for days and later died.
Nana and her five-year-old brother were taken in by a couple who had no children of their own. An Aboriginal woman and her aggressive white partner. Domestic violence and sexual abuse marred the rest of Nana’s childhood in that foster home until she escaped as a teen. Nana and her brother had light brown skin, and it was explained to them that their mother was a South Sea Islander and their father was a Dutchman who had left them and their mother to marry a white woman.
For context, South Sea Islander people were routinely stolen, kidnapped or coerced from the Pacific Islands to come and ‘work’ in Australia in the late 19th and early 20th century. In reality, it was free slave labour.
Nana and her brother never saw or heard of their father again. This essentially left them as orphans who were negotiating race for the rest of their lives. They found they weren’t dark enough to be fully accepted into the Aboriginal mob they were being raised in, not light enough to be accepted into a prejudiced white community, and they had no connection to any of their South Sea Islander family or ancestry.