Prior to British colonisation in 1817 the Wellington Valley was home to Wiradjuri tribes.
The arrival of explorer John Oxley and his convoy 200 years ago would mark the beginning of many significant developments in race relations in Australia.
Records from the Wellington Valley Mission reveal Wiradjuri children were obtained for reeducation and separated from their families, thus the Stolen Generation.
Wellington’s Joyce Williams – an Aboriginal elder affectionately known as Aunty Joyce – was born in Nanima Mission in 1926. The place of birth on her birth certificate reads, “Black Mission near Wellington”.
The highly-respected resident reflected on her a first-hand experience of the Stolen Generation, a topic difficult for her to talk about.
She recalls a “long holiday” to Peak Hill with her aunt and uncle to what she later learnt was an attempt to avoid Protection Board officers when they attended the reserve where she lived.
She estimates the Board would have taken hundreds of children from the Wellington district. Aunty Joyce said the birth of her children in the 1940s sparked a life-long commitment to advocating Aboriginal health.
“My daughter was born in a Chinese laundry in the main street of Wellington,” she said. “My two boys were born at the District Hospital, in a separate section from the white ladies in a back room. I thought to myself, there has to be something better than this.”
Despite having travelled to every state in Australia, Aunty Joyce said it is the people of Wellington who keep her coming back home.
“I’d never live anywhere, only here,” she said. “I’m always happy to get home.”
Aunty Joyce will open the weekend’s bicentenary celebrations through ‘Welcome to the Country’ on Saturday.
“We were first to walk this land; Over mountains, rivers and sunburnt sands; Over rocky canyons; Under native trees; On our tribal land; And we were free.
Those years have gone; Our lives have changed; Of our culture, our race; We are not ashamed.
We are still walking; Side by side; Hand in hand; Aboriginal Pride.”
- Aunty Joyce Williams