Narrator Welcome to the Emerging Minds podcast.
Dana Shen [00:00:11] This podcast is part of a series called ‘Listening to the Stories of Healing’ that explores the many diverse stories of First Nations peoples. We will look at the many diverse experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and how these narratives have shaped the amazing work that is happening in the First Nations communities across Australia. Here at Emerging Minds, we like to call it the ‘Secret Garden’. The stories and experiences that non-Aboriginal people don’t always get to see or hear. Whilst these stories include sadness and hurts and sometimes can feel uncomfortable to listen to, it is through listening to these narratives that you will get a glimpse of the deep wisdom, knowledge and healing practices of families and communities. And understand why our First Nations peoples are the oldest continuing culture in the world.
Dana Shen [00:01:01] Welcome, everyone, this is Dana Schen, an Aboriginal cultural consultant working with Emerging Minds. In this podcast, will we be talking to Darryl Bingapore, a Ngarrindjeri Torres Strait Islander man, who has faced much adversity, yet still has the strength and resilience in his own journey of healing to share his story so that others can learn from his experiences. We are sitting in a healing place, which is part of Raukkan, a rural Aboriginal community on the Lower Lakes in the south east of South Australia. The local community has restored this house to support those affected by removal as part of the Stolen Generation. A place to connect back with what has been taken, because for some First Nations peoples, this has been broken and can’t be restored. The Raukkan community rallied to restore this place for healing, a place to rebuild, make new connections with other people that share the same history and adversity.
Dana Shen [00:01:55] Welcome, Darryl. Thank you so much for talking to us today. I wonder if you could start by telling us a little bit about yourself.
Darryl Bingapore [00:02:02] My name’s Darryl Bingapore and that’s from my father’s side, who is a Torres Strait Islander man who travelled in his early years and met my mother, Irene Carter. Irene Carter is a descendent from Raukkan and the Ngarrindjeri Nation. So that’s hence my connection to country. I come from a family of six, of a remaining family of three because of passed members, or family members have passed away. A little bit about myself. I guess being removed at a very early age, I was assimilated into, you know, Western culture and Western society. And that in itself has been a journey for me. So I didn’t grow up on country. I’m back on country and I’m still on my journey and that’s continuous. My connection to country has always been there. And that’s something you feel inside. It’s a lived experience, but it’s also a felt experience. I always knew I’d be, I was a part of country, even though I didn’t live on country. I was taken as a young person. Over the years that meant for me that it was a constant juggling of connections to family and kinship, kinship ties. And we moved around a lot. I was fostered a lot, to many different families as part of that process. Being taken when I was about eight or nine years old meant that yeah life was full of ups and downs for me, so. In many ways it gave me lots of different experiences and it prepared me in many ways for my journey coming home. Assimilation began for me at a very early age, and I didn’t understand what the assimilation process was, or what it stood for, but I actually grew up in it and became part of the assimilation process.
Dana Shen [00:04:06] Daryl, that sounds so tough. And you were saying that you had a lot of families that you, that you moved through and were a part of after being removed. Were any of these Aboriginal families?
Darryl Bingapore [00:04:16] No, not one. Not one. I spent time with mainly white families. I was raised in a boy’s home, Salvation Army Boys Home at Kent Town at Fullarton. Exposed to Christianity at an early age through the early part of my childhood with my family. But being in the boys homes and in orphanages and that was always a part of my upbringing as well. So I had a strong connection with faith and religion at an early age. I was exposed to that. So I was always mindful of what that meant for me. And part of that process, I guess, is thinking what’s fair? You know, what’s fair? How can this happen? But it makes you think about those things in a way that you, you kind of have to embrace them and learn to live with it. You don’t have to make sense of everything that happens straight away because it doesn’t make sense. And it never made sense to me. I, I struggled with it for a long time, to make sense of whose fault was it was it. Was my fault? Was it my mother’s fault? Was it my father’s fault? How could it happen? But yeah, it did. It happened, so. I had, not having a choice in that whole process, it becomes something you just got to get on with. And you and you’ve got to accept it. And you’ve got to really try to to embrace it the best way you can and make the best of what you can for the time that you’re there. And that’s, you know, you’re there for a long time and it’s taken a long time.
Dana Shen [00:05:47] It sounds like it was so confusing as a young person, Daryl, to actually try to make sense of any of it. As you’ve got older and as you’ve got into adulthood, what have been some of the other impacts on you from being part of the Stolen Generation?
Darryl Bingapore [00:06:04] A sense of fairness. I couldn’t get my head around what’s fair and what’s not. I became involved in social justice issues very early in life because I experienced a, not racism in many words as the black and white issue, but racism in many different forms of being different. Why was this happening to me as a young black boy? It was difficult to come to terms with. And being different, was it because I was just taken away? Was it because I just came from a broken home? Or was it because I was black? I don’t, you know, I was working through all these things. And I. I was in a boys home that had lots of boys from different backgrounds, different races, different religions. White boys, Greek boys, Italian boys. You know, we were all there at the same time. So I didn’t see it as being a black and white issue. I just, it was a hard time in my life where I guess families were experiencing hard times. And the result of that was me being in a boys home.
Darryl Bingapore [00:07:07] It wasn’t to me at that point a black and white issue. It was just an issue that I was confronted with, that families were faced with hardship in their life. And that involved lots of people. It wasn’t just, mainly black people. There weren’t, a lot of, a lot of black boys, you know a lot of Ngarrindjeri boys, a lot of traditional boys and people from all over South Australia, people from different states. And to me, it became about what’s fair in life, you know, why is it happening? So I took on a sense of social justice issues very early on in life about how people were treated and why they were treated the way they were. And you develop your life skills based on your upbringing and the hardships you encounter, whether you’re black, white or brindle, you know. Those issues are real. And that’s there for everybody to experience and you do the best you can. Social justice issues, issues to me became a very big part of my life. And I found myself drawn to a sense of fairness, you know. It was almost like, you know, the bronze Aussie, fair day’s work, fair day’s pay. And I just saw that as a very broad spectrum. It wasn’t about me as an individual. It was about what was just fair.
Dana Shen [00:08:24] Darryl, as you’re talking about all the experiences that you went through, but also the other people that you saw, different cultures, you didn’t think of it as necessarily a white or black issue. I wonder if you could talk a bit more than about what it meant for you in being part of the Stolen Generation. What did that have you thinking?
Darryl Bingapore [00:08:45] Interesting you should say that, because I think for a long time, I never really considered myself a Stolen Gen person. That in a sense is an important component of how I perceived a sense of fairness, because I didn’t see this as just being a black or a white issue. In times of hardship it was about what families experienced, whether they were black or white. I grew up thinking I wanted to get a job. I wanted to get an education. I wanted to belong to something. I wanted to own something. I didn’t want to go through this process anymore of not feeling like I belong to anything. Where was I? I was in a boy’s home. I went to different families. I went there without a sense of belonging. So it, for me it was, it wasn’t about being stolen. It was about finding a place that was mine. I didn’t actually really think about being a Stolen til many, many, many years later. I never really looked at myself as being a person that came from Stolen Generation until I’d worked through all the issues that come from being stolen. Removal from family. Removal from community. Removal from country. The loss of language. The loss of kinship. The loss of family ties, extended family. I spent many, many a good years developing what I thought would be the skills that would see me having a better life and not having to put my children or my friends through those torrid times that I went through.
Darryl Bingapore [00:10:22] So I didn’t really see myself as stolen and I just looked at the positive side of that and thought, well, I’ve just got to create a better life. You know, I’ve got to, I’ve got to find a way that I can, I can embrace this and it’s going to work for me. So I concentrated on just head down, bum up and just go for it. And I adopted that at a very early age. The only way I’m going to get through this is, I’ve got to survive it. If I let this get to me, you know. And those skills and the experiences that I had, I started to develop at a very early age, and they gave me the strength and the knowledge. I gained a lot of experiences through, through all of those places where I’d been and the experiences with different families and the family structures and, you know, I spent quite a bit of time with a Greek family growing up. And in many ways their family structure was similar to what I experienced at an early age with their extended family. Lots, lots of people around, lots of family around. And it reminded me of what I didn’t have, but I adapted so well to it because I didn’t have it. It wasn’t by choice. It was I had no choice. So I had to make the most of that. And that was a good experience for me. As sad as we might think it at the time, having no family and being fostered out and, I guess, you look at it and you think, well, you know, it was a good time. I had people around me who cared about me and I spent the best part of my life with that family. And I still keep in contact with them. Not so much now because of I’ve gone on and lived that, that part of life where my family’s grown up now. I got married and I aspired to go and have a good family and a good family life through work and through a career. But that prepared me for coming home as well.
Dana Shen [00:12:22] Darryl, l can hear that you had so many different experiences growing up. Good and bad. How has that affected the raising of your children and how you parent your children?
Darryl Bingapore [00:12:33] Good question. I think if I look back at it now, I’ve got to be brutally honest and say I was very, very ill prepared. When you don’t have family and you’re not brought up in family, you don’t know what you’re missing. You know, you’re too young. You don’t understand that process. But when you when you grow up without that support of family, and particularly culturally, you’re very well, ill equipped. So, you know, it’s not just about being able to provide in a family. I always thought it was it was important to put a roof over my my family’s head and food in the cupboard and be a staunch worker and be a good provider. But that’s not what family is. Family is much much more than that. We quite often get the material aspect of life confused with the kinship side of life and the connection with what family is really all about.
Dana Shen [00:13:31] What has supported you to heal through a lot of these tough times? What has given you strength?
Darryl Bingapore [00:13:37] Wow. The things that have given me strength in that, I guess, is the journey in itself. The downs, the disappointments. When you mess up in life, you learn the hard way. And it’s about finding people that you can, you have a sense of trust and a connection with, who matter, who make a difference in your life. They’re there to support you not only in good times, but in bad times. So I think that’s what I learnt. I learnt it it was important to have those connections at an early age. And strength comes from disappointment. Strength comes from concrete learning. Strength comes from making mistakes and having a vision and a discipline, that having made mistakes is what drives you to get it right. And when you’ve had so many disappointments in your life, all you strive for is you just want to get it right, you know. And look for the least path of resistance in the process. So you become astute in many ways. You become very people orientated. You become a bit like a psychologist, you know. Like you read into things at an early age. You start to discover body language. What relationship is about. What conversation is about. You listen intently. And outcomes, you know, what you learn in that friendship that you may have had with a person or a relationship.
Dana Shen [00:15:11] Daryl, thanks so much for sharing that and all the learning you’re having about this. It’s going to be so great for other people to hear about it, too. You spoke earlier of coming home and connecting back with country. What’s that been like for you?
Darryl Bingapore [00:15:26] In a nutshell? Awesome experience, but very humbling. I’ll go back a little bit with this story because I think it’s important that having an early introduction to faith and Christianity at an early age has been a legacy throughout my life, where I struggled for what was right and what was wrong and what was a sense of fairness. Because as a kid I sometimes, I sat back and I said God, you know, like why is this happening? You know, it’s not right. People shouldn’t have to suffer this way. But it makes you who you are and you you have to roll with it. You have to go with it. There’s no right or there’s no wrong way. There’s no defined yes or no with me. A lot of it was about, let’s just roll with this and see where it goes. But I always had a strong, disciplined mind. A strong sense of who I was from a very early age. And I think that’s what guides you through life. I think being Stolen Gen now, I can look back at myself and say, you know what? Yeah, I am. I am. I am. I’m a result of being a stolen child in a time that was pretty traumatic. And embrace it. And embrace it in a way where it it was good for me. And it hasn’t just all been bad. Sure, there’s been lots of tough times through that process, but I couldn’t have become the person I am today if I hadn’t been through it. I, I, you know, I always thought that the best way to to tackle life would be to to look for the best in people and give the best in yourself. So I grew up that way. I grew up looking for the best in other people. And if I wanted the best from them, I had to give the the best of myself. And that’s the way I embrace life. Wherever I went.
Dana Shen [00:17:17] Darryl, what do you think these values came from? You know, the way you see the world.
Darryl Bingapore [00:17:24] I think it’s inherent. I think as a Ngarrindjeri person as a, culturally and historically, I think it’s part of you who you are culturally and as a person. Along the way, I spent time with lots of different people and lots of different families. When I started work as a young man, I aspired to be, to join the army. You know, I came from a very regimented upbringing. You know, institutionalised, regimented lifestyle. I thought, I wanna join the army. I want to, I want to be a leader. You know, I saw myself as somebody that was part of the team. You know, you learn to be part of a team at a very early age, if you want to survive. If you go against the flow, you’re not going to get far. So I aspired to be around people and a people person. you know, one of my aspirations was to join the army and be a soldier. But that was short lived. I soon discovered that wasn’t really for me. It was just part of what was happening to me as I was growing up. And then I went on to join the, well, I became involved in in work, in a structured lifestyle. I became a leader at work through a team leader. I went to TAFE and did middle management courses. And then I became involved in the youth justice programmes as I myself found it difficult to work through, having been taken and having to work through that whole process. I knew how difficult it was. And the problem with it that I discovered at a very early age was that there weren’t very many people that could interpret it from where a victim comes from. So my passion was to work in that area because I think I had particular skills in talking to people and putting in a different context and being able to, I guess, personalise it and translate it. They’re the skills that you learn at a very early age in life, through work, through relationships, through friendships, they’re the skills you get. They’re the skills that you fine tune and develop as you go go through life.
Dana Shen [00:19:41] Darryl, it just sounds like and as you’ve been talking, that there’s been so many ups and downs in your journey, in this journey of healing.
Darryl Bingapore [00:19:49] It has, it has indeed, it has indeed. It hasn’t been without its pitfalls though. I’ve tried to have a relationship on many different occasions. I got married. I went through a 12-year relationship. I had children in that time. I’ve been in mixed marriage relationships. Somehow, they just never seemed to work out. And it wasn’t until years later that I actually took the time to sit back and look at that and think to myself, why? Why? You had all the skills. You had, you had the intelligence. You had the tools. Why? What was wrong? But I think the emotional content and the family support that goes with building that foundation and the strength that’s really, really possible to have a strong relationship and family. You don’t question it until you’ve, until it’s gone. And not, never having it, I was always behind the eight ball, you know. Never having the support and the skills and the family values structure that went with that, I found myself behind the eight ball a lot of the time. So, you know, it became a hit and miss in the end. And I couldn’t really, I look back at it now and I can’t beat myself up over it. It was just that I was, I wasn’t ready for it. I was poorly equipped to take on the role as a father and a, and have a family.
Dana Shen [00:21:15] Yeah. Even without the experiences you went through, parenting and relationship and having kids is so hard anyway. Have you got any grandchildren, Daryl?
Darryl Bingapore [00:21:27] I got two grandsons. I’ve got a lovely daughter. I’ve got two great sons.
Dana Shen [00:21:32] What is your vision for them?
Darryl Bingapore [00:21:35] My vision for them is to just to just to be happy and have a righteous life. And be happy. Be happy within the family that they create. But to be happy within themselves. You know, my daughter’s wanting to do work within the Aboriginal community now. And I grew up as a, you know, I spent some time in in in SAPOL as a community constable. And she said to me, in the early stages of wanting to get away and and give back to community. And it’s a funny term isn’t it, give back to your community, give back to your people. We’ll, you know, we think, you know like, that term is always referred to people like myself that are looked at as Johnny-come-lately’s or coconut’s, you know, like give back. What are you giving back? I can’t give back what was taken away. You know, it’s it’s about trying to find a sense of ourselves. What am I giving back? I have nothing to give. I have nothing to give to start with but me. And I thought to myself, when she ‘oh I wanna do things with the Aboriginal community. I want to get involved in in that type of work, Dad. You know your name was so well known around Adelaide and working in different services and people talk about you’. And I go, you know, I shook my head and I thought to myself, you know, like do you know how hard it is to hear your daughter when you’re a Stolen Gen person, that she’s now wanting to go come back to country and community and give something back? And I thought to myself, how do I give you and support you what I never had? How can I support you through this process that I found difficult myself? I wasn’t not, I was never a part of my community. I was never a part of what you’re looking for. And I can’t give you the advice that you’re looking for. As a Stolen Gen person, it’s very difficult just to even encourage her to a point where she might gain something from that. Because I feel quite aggrieved by it, the whole process. I can’t give something that was taken away that I never had to begin with.
Dana Shen [00:23:44] Yeah, and also something that you were just learning for yourself.
Darryl Bingapore [00:23:47] That I’m just discovered from myself so it’s a difficult place to be. Coming back to country for me has been enlightening. And if I hadn’t been, I guess with my substance abuse and my burn out and the work that I was doing. And the friends, you know, I got some amazing friends that were there for me, in my time of need. And if it hadn’t been for those friends, I sometimes wonder where I would be. But having a sense of faith and spiritual belief in the process of coming home. and I always knew who I was inside. It’s just that I was having difficulty getting there, that’s all. It was just, it’s a few hurdles here and there. And I knew I had to move away. I never had a sense of community or family. And there was this constant searching for something. What was missing? And I was always quite troubled by it. I can honestly say it, coming home was a very good grounding for me. But it’s been a real eye opener, too, because I’ve got to go through this whole coconut process again, this whole Johnny-come-lately process again. But you know what? If if you’ve got a strong, strong sense of who you are, I think the walk is is relatively without too many hurdles. And if you just just remember why you’re there. Or and what you discover is not always going to be to your liking anyway, you know. Coming home wasn’t about happy times. It was about finding a sense of myself.
Dana Shen [00:25:22] Through the journey that that you’ve been speaking about, do you think it’s important to share this journey with other men? Why would this be important, do you think?
Darryl Bingapore [00:25:31] Interesting that you say that. I think that, that comes from, one, it come from the type of work that you get involved in as life progresses. Army life. It was a sense of family, a sense of belonging, a police force, a family, cultural protective type background. Group settings, cultural men’s groups. They’re all important aspects of finding yourself. Sitting, sitting with like-minded people, like minded men, men who have shared the same experiences. Men who have been through the same trauma. So we had a basic common interest, I guess, good or bad. We had a sense of belonging. We sat in that circle. We shared our stories. And so I became involved with the Christian motorcycle club. It’s not about faith so much, although it is a Christian motorcycle club. It’s a sense of community. And we like to involve the Aboriginal community in that. So that’s my aspect on and my my slant on the brotherhood, because I like to involve the community as part of the outreach that I do with the club. And that’s a brotherhood thing. If I can get them to to look at what community means for me through their eyes and they take that back and share that with their families. Well, that’s a wonderful thing.
Dana Shen [00:26:52] Given everything you’ve learnt, Darryl, what could other men in the community do to support each other in healing?
Darryl Bingapore [00:26:58] We can take the time to listen to each other. I think it’s important for men to spend time with men. Because we are people persons. Because we need to interact with each other. Because it’s about our wellbeing. Spiritually, it’s about our wellbeing. It’s about being in the presence of another man who can relate to to what you’ve experienced, good or bad. So, you know, put simply, it is it is a sharing time, in discussion, in fun, and in hardship. It’s important for our wellbeing, our spiritual and emotional wellbeing in that process of sharing.
Dana Shen [00:27:38] Thanks so much, Darryl, for being so honest about your experience, the ups and downs and the healing journey. Was there any final words you want to share before we finish?
Darryl Bingapore [00:27:49] I don’t know about that. I think, you know, my parting words would be if I could pass on anything to anybody, it would be always look for the best in somebody and give the best in yourself. Because it’s not about a right or a wrong. And that’s the best bit of advice I can give.
Dana Shen Thank you for joining us in our podcast series, Listening to stories of healing.
Narrator Visit our website at www.emergingminds.com.au to access a range of resources to assist your practise. Brought to you by the National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health led by Emerging Minds. The National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health under the National Support for Child and Youth Mental Health Programme.