IT has taken more than 12 months to plan for this weekend’s centenary of the former Cootamundra Aboriginal Girls Home.
The Cootamundra Aboriginal Girls Home is now referred to as Bimbadeen and is situated on the outskirts of town in Rinkin Street.
The Cootamundra Home began as the Cootamundra Hospital, in operation from 1897 to 1910, and reopened in 1911 as the Cootamundra Domestic Training Home for Aboriginal Girls.
It was maintained by the Aborigines Welfare Board until 1968.
This was the place where Aboriginal girls were placed after forcible removal from their parents under the Aborigines Protection Act of 1909.
The idea was to segregate ‘part-Aboriginal’ children from their families and assimilate them into the mainstream community.
The girls were not allowed to remain in any contact with their families, and were later sent to work as domestic servants.
Thousands of Aboriginal children as young as newborn babies were taken from their families and sent to homes across the country.
Hundreds of children attended school and taught domestic duties while in Cootamundra until the home ceased its operation in the late 1970s.
This weekend will see many mixed emotions for the former students, with many of them remembering the heartache of being taken from their families at such a young age.
Among the most joyous memories of the home for the Aboriginal girls were the life long friendships that were formed.
Local Wiradjuri elder Bob Glanville, who is also on the Centenary Commemoration Committee for the Girls Home, said many of the girls who have indicated their attendance to this weekends commemorations are looking forward to coming home.
“After spending so much time here in Cootamundra, many of the former students still today call Cootamundra home,” Mr Glanville said.
Mr Glanville said the celebrations will be an opportunity for the former Cootamundra home girls, their extended families and the community to get together to see and talk about the history, the past operation of the home and the effects on Aboriginal families from the stolen generation period.
The Aboriginal Girls Home has played a big part in Cootamundra’s history.
“During the more than 50 years the Girls Home was in operation, Government records show that around 1200 Aboriginal girls were removed from their families and placed in this institution under the NSW Aborigines Protection and Welfare Boards,” Mr Glanville
Mr Glanville also has close ties with the Girls Home through his mother Iris Glanville, who was employed at the home for 18 years during the 1950’s and 1970s as a cook.
The building that housed the Home was later taken over by the Aboriginal Evangelical Fellowship as a Christian vocational, cultural and agricultural training centre called Bimbadeen College, which it remains as today.
Bimbadeen will be open all weekend from 9.30am to 5pm with former students and members of the public encouraged to visit the
THERE are a number of social activities and formal commemorative events planned over the weekend to mark 100 years of the former Cootamundra Girls Home.
The events will kick off tonight with an art exhibition at the Cootamundra Arts Centre featuring a number of artworks by Fay Clayton.Fay’s works strongly highlight the times at the Cootamundra Girls Home and what they had to endure during their time at the home. There will be a private viewing (between 5pm and 6pm) for the former home students and their families, with members of the public invited to view the works at the exhibition (between 6pm and 8pm).Also set up at the Arts Centre will be a photographic display of state records entitled ‘In Living Memory’.The In Living Memory display was set up in Cootamundra almost 10 years ago, however this weekend’s display won’t be quite as big as it previously was.To conclude the evening a short 15 minute film segment entitled ‘All One’ will be screened in the Tin Shed Theatre. The Art Exhibition at the Arts Centre will be open all weekend.Over the course of the weekend Australian renowned photographer Mervyn Bishop will be available to take individual, family and group photographs.
On Saturday, the festivities will begin at around 9am with a smoking ceremony at the entrance of Bimbadeen.A performance will be held at the foyer and exhibition room of the Arts Centre from 10.15am featuring aboriginal band William and Delmae Barton with morning tea to follow.At 11am at the Arts Centre the official launch of the book entitled ‘Home Girls will take place, with introduction addresses being given by the book’s author Peter Kabaila and the Minister for Community and Aboriginal Affairs Victor Dominello.The “All One” film segment will be re-screened from 11.15am.At 1.30pm, one of the formalities of the weekend’s commemorations will take place at the Town Hall and will include a traditional welcome to country, a message from Cootamundra mayor Doug Phillips, a welcome on behalf of the Coota Home Girls, which will be conducted by local resident Donna Byrne, the daughter of Lesley Whitten a former Cootamundra home girl.Other formalities include a thank you message for returning to Cootamundra, entertainment will feature some Aboriginal welcome dancers, NSW Governor Marie Bashir will give an address followed by other invited ministers.The main commemoration service will conclude with the performing of a tribute song entitled ‘Mum’s Song’ to be performed by Kutcha Edwards.Following the service, a commemorative plaque will be unveiled on the grassed area near the Post Office.On Saturday evening a special dinner will be held at the Cootamundra Ex-Services Club, which is fully booked out with a maximum capacity of 350 people.A number of guest speakers will give addresses.Those former Coota girls in attendance will all be given the opportunity to cut the cake.Entertainment and dancing will be provided by Aboriginal band ‘A Foot Full of Bindis’
A community breakfast will be held at the Cootamundra Public School between 8am and noon.Tours of the school will be available along with a historical photographic display and entertainment.A presentation of a special commemorative canvas will be presented to the Cootamundra community with names of former Cootamundra Home Girls.Bimbadeen will be open from 9.30am to 5pm on Saturday and Sunday, with tours of the former school welcome.Local residents are being encouraged to join in with the centenary commemorations.