Remembering Australia's Forgotten Mothers: Reclaiming Lost Identity in Colonial History
Author: Ruth Skilbeck, PhD
Essay Title: Remembering Australia’s Forgotten Mothers: Reclaiming Lost Identity in Colonial History
Publication: Journal of the Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement, Vol 3, No 2 (2012)
This fugue narrative tells the story of the start of the author, Ruth Skilbeck’s, search to find her Australian mother’s family of descent. Her mother was adopted in Sydney in the first half of the twentieth century, and passed away in 2008 in London.
Her mother’s adoption as an infant occurred during the time of the policies of mass removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in Australia, in an era colloquially known in Australia as the “Stolen Generations.” At the time of writing, the author did not know her mother’s birth family background. This story is told as grief and as healing, like playing or listening to music, an emotional catharsis. In telling this story, the author, as art writer, reflects on the healing power of personal storytelling as communicative action in the public sphere, and starts to reflect on the significance of the absent mother, women’s art and writing, and transitional objects, in women’s cultural history of empowerment. The context of the story is Australian colonial families with hidden histories. The narrative includes digital photographs by the author.