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Hear Our Voice

Uncle Gerrard Shaw

Uncle Gerrard’s story is a warning that the injustices of past government policies must never happen again – and what it looks like when government works together with Aboriginal communities.

What does it mean to have your voice heard – truly heard? Why is it important that our communities are the heart of decision-making and leadership for outcomes that will affect us? This October 2023, Australians will be asked a simple question: should we recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our national constitution? As we head to the polls and the campaign heats up, we wanted to ask both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people why they will be voting Yes. In this collection, diverse storytellers came together to share their personal and real-life experiences that is motivating their support for the proposed Voice to Parliament. No matter what happens at this referendum, whether a majority of Australians vote yes or no – their voices continue to be a call for change. A call for a better, more just future… For an Australia that celebrates and recognises Indigenous sovereignty. 

This story was shared by Whadjuk Nyungar Elder Dr Gerrard Shaw. You can listen to his story above, watch the video or read the transcript below.

Uncle Gerrard’s story is a warning that the injustices of past government policies must never happen again – and what it looks like when government works together with Aboriginal communities. A warning that this story contains reference to the Stolen Generations.

This story was recorded at the Joondalup Reception Centre in September 2023.

Gerrard’s story was also translated into Mandarin by Luoyang Chen. You can read the Mandarin interpretation of his story by downloading the transcript here.

More about the storyteller…. Uncle Gerrard Shaw is a Nyungar Yued Whadjuk man and Culture Keeper. Gerrard obtained his Masters and PhD at Murdoch University, writing about the reclamation of his Aboriginality and true events in the lives of his ancestors. 

Hear Our Voice was made possible with funding from the Australia Communities Foundation.

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Copyright © 2023 Gerrard Shaw

Feature image: Original screen grab from film by Peter Cheng, edited by Centre for Stories.

This story and corresponding images have been licensed to the Centre for Stories by the Storyteller. For reproduction and distribution of this story/image please contact the Centre for Stories.

View Story Transcript

GS: Thank you. Well, we’ve been listening  to  some very  beautiful  stories, very enriching  words.  As Ron  just mentioned,  I  am  Whadjuk Balladong  Yued  Nyungar. They’re  my  credentials  and  I  can  make  claim  to  those  things  through  my  grandmother,  Victoria  Blurton, that  connects  me  to  the  Balladong  people. My  mother  was  born  at  Catterby  which  is  near  New  Noorcia  and  that  connects  me  to  the  Yued country.   

It seems  to  me,  every  Aboriginal, every  Australian  Aboriginal  person,  has  been  affected  in  some  way  or  other  by  past  policies. And, you  know, there’s  issues  of  Aboriginal  deaths  in  custody, stolen  wages,  stolen  children  and  that’s  the  one  that  I  can  identify  with  very strongly. I’ve  been  on  that  journey  for  most  of  my  life.   

I think you’ll find the statement in the Aboriginal deaths in custody royal commission, that if an Aboriginal child denies his or her identity, bad things will follow. And because I was removed from my own family, I was prevented from knowing who I was or where I come from. And it’s pretty much the story of any person who identifies as Stolen Generations. And in the past, governments have attempted to address these issues through royal commissions, even apologies, reports and enquiries, but that’s as far as those things go. And I think the Voice for us as Cindy was saying, it allows us to urge the government to go beyond words and do something about these past injuries that have been caused. 

I  was  delighted  that  Ron mentioned  Walyalup.  I  feel  very  close  to  the  city  of  Fremantle. I’m  part  of  the  Walyalup Elders  group  there  and  I  also  was  interested  when  Fitzroy  Crossing  was  mentioned  in  that  country  up  there, there’s  Uncle  Jack  Shaw,  who  is  connected.  So,  when  you  realise  that  you’re  of  Aboriginal  descent, you’re  never  alone,  you’re  never  alone,  but  the  reference  to  the  Aboriginal  deaths  in  custody  in  that  statement:  if  a  child  denies  their  identity, bad  things  will  follow,  that  was  certainly  true  for  me,  as  Ron  referred  to.   

But  for  the  last  20  years  or  so, and  it’s  thanks  very  much  to  Aunty  Marie [Taylor]  who  was  mentioned,  she  is  my  niece,  we  are  all  connected,  she  was  the  one  who  welcomed  me  home. And  it  took  me  as  you  said,  she  took  me  under  her  wing  too,  and  she  was  for  me  in  those  early  years,  my  elder, the  one  to guide  me  and  teach  me,  and  she  took  me  along  to  Walyalup  to  the  first Elders  meeting  there. And  I  can  only  speak  highly  of  Walyalup because  there  was  first  of  all  the  Mayor  Brad  Pettit  who  initiated  a  lot  of  things, changing  the  date  of  Australia  Day,  which  is  a  very  courageous  thing  to  do,  and  now  the  Mayor  Hannah. These  are  people  who  have  allowed  Nyungar  people  to  have  a  voice,  to  speak  about  things that  can  inform  the  broader  community  of  the  wealth  of  cultural  stories, dreamtime  stories, that  fill  all  that  whole  area  around  Fremantle.   

And  I  was  interested  to  hear  you  talk  about  the  [Cockburn] Wetland  Centre, I  think  we  might  have  met  there,  that’s  right.  I  delivered  my  full  story  there  on  the  Stolen  Generations, sharing  a  little  bit  of  my  life.  But  you  see,  the  big  challenge  is  you  can  never  recapture  those  lost  years.  And  I  think   an  example  of  that  was  when  my  older  brother, who  is  actually  my  elder,  and  before  I  do  any  welcomes  here  in  and  around  Perth,  I’ve  got  to  ask  his  permission,  you  see,  and  he’s  more  than  happy  for  me  to  do  whatever  I  can  do. Yes,  Luisa was  hoping  that  he  would  have  turned  up  to  that  day,  the  open  day,  but  they got  lost.   

But  just  a  couple  of  years  ago, we  had  a  Shaw reunion  and  we  were  privileged  enough  to  have  Len Collard  there  and  it  was  a  small  group  of  people. And my  brother,  my  older brother  was  there  and  he,  for  the  first  time,  embraced  me.  Now  we’ve  been  reunited  for  some  years  now, but  that  was  the  first  time  he  could  actually  embrace  me. And  it  was  a  beautiful  moment.  I  felt  owned  by  him,  just  as  I  had felt owned  by  Aunty Marie. And  all  the  Collards,  they’ve  all  taken  ownership  of  me,  and  given  me  something  that  I  didn’t  have,  that  is  an  identity. And  knowing  who  I  am  and  where  I  come  from. It’s  something  everyone  needs  to  know  and  should  never  be  prevented  from  finding  those  things  out, because  bad  things  will  happen.

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