Abstract: By tracing aspects of the life story of Kim Burke’s grandfather Alexander (Alec) Nickel Lewis and his father Matthew Lewis, this article aims to unravel the secrets kept in order to blur any reference to the true racial identity of family members. This was for good reason, in an attempt to avoid the bureaucratic interventions with which Aboriginal lives and movements were regulated by the Australian government. With this family the White Australia Policy impacted upon their lives and their efforts to retain and reclaim an Australian identity under the shadow of the Boer War. The many trials that Kim’s great grandfather, as an Aboriginal soldier in South Africa, had to undergo to repatriate to Australia show another aspect of the impact of racial segregation. It is shocking to realise that the passing of the White Australia policy in 1901 impacted on Australian Aboriginal men and their families who were in South Africa for the purposes of serving the Empire. This also determined the hardships of my family over time, the later removal of my grandfather’s siblings and secrecy about their descent. The family was torn apart by government policies for the removal of Aboriginal children. Not only were members of this family actively working around policies that existed to socially ostracise them but others in the Australian community in particular were assisting them to achieve social justice in extremely difficult circumstances. Lastly, through Kim’s grandfather’s reticence about his identity, his life-long quest to reunite his family and the disquiet and sorrow in his life, we learn of the long-term consequences of the Australian policy of removing Aboriginal children from their family.
Keywords: Aboriginal family history; Boer War; White Australia policy.
Copyright © Kim Burke and Victoria Grieves 2013. This text may be archived and redistributed both in electronic form and in hard copy, provided that the author and journal are properly cited and no fee is charged.