FOR Ballarat Aboriginal elder Murray Harrison, contributing to the inquiry into institutionalised abuse was another big step in the healing process.
Mr Harrison this week finished sharing his traumatic experiences as a member of the Stolen Generation in a public forum.
In submitting to the Victorian government’s inquiry into the handling of child abuse by religious and other organisations, the respected Aboriginal elder spoke of his terror of being dragged away from his family home as a 10-year-old and locked in a cell.
Mr Harrison, 70, was the first indigenous Ballarat person to travel to Melbourne to take part in the inquiry, and he wants others to do the same.
Uncle Murray, as he is known by many in Ballarat, was taken from his aunt and uncle’s home in Gippsland with his brothers and sisters and taken to an institution in Melbourne.
He was there for two weeks before being moved to the Ballarat Orphanage.
Unlike many other indigenous children at such places, he was not physically abused. But he said the mental scars stayed much longer than any physical wounds could.
Mr Harrison’s second cousin John, whom he only met years later, was an example of the long-lasting effects.
John bore physical scars for decades and became a chronic alcoholic, before committing suicide in the 1980s.
“I began my healing process when Kevin Rudd said sorry in 2008, but John never got that chance. I did this for him as much as myself,” Mr Harrison said.
“If he (John) could’ve had someone to talk to in an official way like they do now then maybe he would still be here.”
Until then-Prime Minister Rudd’s apology, Mr Harrison said he was unable to even close the curtains at his house, as it triggered memories of being locked in a dark room, with a steel door being slammed shut.
Until the apology, he would often wake up screaming during the night, decades after having his freedom taken from him.
Mr Harrison said the apology almost instantly cured his mental demons and said contributing to the inquiry could have similar effect on other abuse sufferers who were still struggling to cope.
“Now is the time for you to say what you got to say and it will help you,” he said. “Every time you talk about these things the healing starts. Once you get a release valve, it does make a lot of difference personally.”
The inquiry remains open until September.