When driving along Shepherds Hill Road at Eden Hills, few people give a second glance to bush land near Karinya Reserve. A colourful hand painted sign along the fence is not easily seen while driving. But if you do stop and leave your car, a sad story awaits you.
Colebrook Reconciliation Park was once home to many indigenous children, taken from their families to be brought up in the way of white people. This was Colebrook Home, the last of three places operated by church group United Aborigines Mission. In the misguided belief that indigenous children were better off brought up like white people, missionaries over the decades perpetuated great pain to many families.
Aboriginal Children at Colebrook Home Quorn in 1930 (State Library SA B49359)
United Aborigines Mission first opened a home in Oodnadatta in 1924, taking in children from different tribal backgrounds. They were forced to forget their language, culture and ultimately their identity to become integrated into European ways. The women who operated the home (known as Sisters) worked with missionaries to give the children a "proper" religious upbringing.
Later there was a deliberate effort to remove children as far as possible from their natural cultural influences. The government objected to the indigenous children being too close to Adelaide, so the mission was relocated to Quorn in 1927 where they lived in the Colebrook Children's Home. It seems that the local community were supportive, a newspaper reporting £300 and £100 anonymous donations toward a new building.
From the South Australian History website: The children placed at Colebrook included those who had been forcibly removed from their parents by government officials, some who were placed there by their traditional mothers or non-indigenous fathers because one or both parents were unable to care for them and those who had been taken from their families by non-indigenous people to work for them and then rejected when their services were no longer wanted. Once children had been admitted to the Home, it was almost impossible to have them taken out by their parents. It often meant that the parents had to pay a substantial amount of money and were subjected to some harsh conditions before the Board would even consider their requests.
Memorial and Photo Montage - Colebrook Children's Home
In April 1944 the Quorn Mercury reported that Colebrook Home had moved to Eden Hills because of an inadequate water supply. It noted that five boys from the home were serving in the RAAF, and three in the AIF. The 1950's saw many more stories in a positive vein about Colebrook Home, but by the 1960's few references appeared in the press.
The changing social climate and more enlightened views on children's welfare saw the licence withdrawn for Colebrook Home at Eden Hills. In 1972 Colebrook Home was closed and the building razed to the ground. No trace of it remains.
Fountain of Tears Sculpture for the Stolen Generation
Colebrook Reconciliation Park is now a memorial to these children and their families. Through the efforts of the Colebrook Tjitji Tjuta, the Blackwood Reconciliation Group, the Aboriginal Lands Trust, and other groups, the 'Fountain of Tears' and the 'Grieving Mother' statues, sculpted by Silvio Apponi, have been created to remember the Aboriginal children of the Stolen Generation.