Among Us: A Story of the Stolen Generations

Documentary by Richard Franklin, 30 mins
Among Us is a story of the Stolen Generations of Victoria, where Aboriginal elders return to the institutions in Ballarat that they were removed to as children between the 1950's and 1970's.

They are interviewed by acclaimed Indigenous director Richard Frankland, and in their own words, paint a vivid portrait of life in the homes, and the personal and emotional challenges faced as an adult separated from family and identity.

Sunday 13th February 2011, 6.30pm, 8.15pm
Melbourne ACMI Cinemas - Free Admission

Presented by not-for-profit Indigenous organization, Connecting Home.

ACMI Australian Centre for the Moving Image
Alfred Deakin Building, Federation Square Flinders St, Melbourne VIC - (03) 8663 2583
Free Admission - Tickets available on the day from the Tickets and Information Desk

Among Us - DocumentaryAs part of his work assisting members of the stolen generation to heal and reconnect, Jade Andrew Johnson documented as many of the Victorian Stolen Generation members' experiences as possible.

One such record is Among Us, a moving documentary directed by Richard Frankland which follows members of the stolen generation on their journey back to Ballarat to visit the institutions they were placed in as children ...

Lou Pardi The Beat

Jade Andrew Johnson was inspired by his parent's work in cross-cultural awareness. He was working as a chef and often catered for their sessions. During his time observing, he saw them change people's perceptions of Aboriginal people. Regional Police officers, principals and teachers walked in with preconceived judgements and walked out with completely different notions.

As Johnson puts it, "to hear them turn around and say, 'I'm sorry and I acknowledge your traditional owners and your elders past and present', it has just changed lives. It's changed mine. I'd always thought that you were born this or that and it's good to have the opportunity to change people's attitudes."

Almost four years ago Johnson started work with Connecting Home, who work with stolen generation members. Understanding the nuances of his culture, he's perfect for his role. He explains how he introduces himself to a new client. "If it's an elderly person I usually address them as aunty or uncle, regardless of whether there's no blood connection it's an Aboriginal respect thing that you call someone older than you elder. I usually say Hi my name's Jade, I'm originally from Echuca which is your Yorta Yorta country, and then I usually start telling them some of my family names, because in essence, we all grow up knowing different people, but sometimes that family name can make people a bit more comfortable.

There could be a great great grandparent of their descendants that knew my grandparents and then that kind of - it makes a connection. It takes that seriousness out of that first introduction. When we all meet another person it's building that trust and rapport with them, before they tell you their whole life story. If someone genuinely knows that you're an aboriginal and you're very respectful, some people will just sit there and tell you their whole story. I won't even be able to get a word in."

As part of his work assisting members of the stolen generation to heal and reconnect, Johnson's aim is to document as much about Victorian Stolen Generation members' experiences as possible. One such record is Among Us a moving documentary directed by Richard Frankland which follows members of the stolen generation on their journey back to Ballarat to visit the institutions they were placed in as children. "It was actually via a lot of feedback from community members to say that they wanted to go back and visit some of these institutions," says Johnson. "We sent out invitations to about 700 people who were registered on our books and we had roughly 25 - 30 people turn up on the day. It was basically an opportunity to go back and relive and reclaim some of their childhood memories and also do it with people who were in similar circumstances. It's one thing when people say, 'yeah, I understand', but do they really understand where they come from?"

It also gave the stolen generation members a way to share their history. "I see this as a big stepping stone for some of the people who were involved with it to actually share their story with the general public. For some people who did share their story it was the first time that their family members had ever heard or seen them talk about it. So when we first had our screening on February 13 in 2010, originally we had a lot of young people who were in there who were very interested to see what their grandparents had said, because it was kind of a taboo thing, not to talk about it. It's being disrespectful to ask your elders about who they are unless they tell you. So this was just a great opportunity for the younger generations as well as older generations."

Johnson accompanied the group to Ballarat and was a driving force behind the production, together with many people and organisations who assisted with records and statistics. His work is certainly challenging and he's found the experience educational. At the end of the day though, he says, "The people are my family and community members and I feel obligated to help people find their way home." After many years (although it's more recent history than many care to acknowledge), it's a big ask, and Jade clarifies the goal. "Finding your way home here and now is being able to know who you are, where you come from, maternal and paternal; and you've got to know those things to fully understand your identity. We have to know where we are before we know where we're going."