Going Halfway Home

Tori Cloudy
April 16, 2024
July 9, 2024
Last Updated
April 16, 2024
Written by
Travis Kym Cloudy-Hensgen
Ugar, Iama and Erub
Written by
Ugar, Iama and Erub
Written by

Going home means something different to all of us, and the place we call home is very special to us, writes Travis Cloudy-Hensgen.

For so many First Nations people, we were displaced from our homes, our families, our Country, and our communities. Whether that be through the Stolen Generations, or through the violent systems built within so-called Australia that systematically work against us. 

The Stolen Generations refers to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who were removed from their families between 1910 and 1970 under several Australian State and Territory Acts.

The hard truth is that it can affect your whole being. Another hard truth is that some of us may never get the chance to find out where our Ancestors come from, the lands on which they walked, the place in which our spirit is connected.

I am a Torres Strait Islander man. I grew up on beautiful Latji Latji Country, and I acknowledge the lands and community for loving, and raising me.

Me on Latji Latji Country. Travis Cloudy-Hensgen

When I was young, I would ask questions about where we come from. I could see clearly my Nan and Pop were not my father’s biological parents. I loved them, and they loved me and I knew we were Torres Strait Islander, but that's all I knew.  

My father was going to be traditionally adopted by his Dator (grandfather), my great-grandfather, but the hospital took him from my Aka (grandmother) before he arrived and he was given to a white family. 

I am so grateful for Nan who I grew up with, she raised me. Nan and Pop had five children and lived on a station in Mparntwe (Alice Springs). They adopted three First Nations children. You could say they were lucky, I suppose. I say lucky loosely, because children being separated from their families, Country and culture is far from lucky, and the experiences that come from this are so traumatic for our people. Many of our Mob were not raised in good homes. 

My dad Ross with the twins, my aunties also adopted by Nan and Pop. Travis Cloudy-Hensgen

The hospital never provided Nan much information about their adopted children's families. Records relevant to forcibly removed children and their families, records that were usually created by protection boards, welfare and education departments, adoption agencies, hospitals and missions were often lost, withheld from families, and even destroyed.

My Aka was born on Waibene (Thursday Island) and was in Gulumoerrgin/Garramilla (Darwin) working as a cleaner and housekeeper. She had two boys and a girl while she was at that place. My father was lost and not spoken of until my Aka was ready to pass on. 

My dad was a park ranger for many years working in different roles on Latji Latji Country and surrounding lands. Dad actually signed up to National Link Up in the Northern Territory and found out that his sister had signed up to find him as well. One day he was driving to work and stopped to put fuel in the car and the phone rang. It was my Aunty. Dad recalls this as such an emotional time to actually get to speak to his sister for the very first time. 

During my late teens after finding some documents that did mention details about my biological grandmother and a last name, I went to social media and searched through Facebook. I saw pictures of people who looked like me and my dad.

Dad and I. Travis Cloudy-Hensgen

I reached out to families. Through truth-telling and undeniable connection with family on Waibene and families living for the longest time on Bindal and Wulgurukaba Country (Townsville), I knew this was my Mob.

I began to really have deep conversations with my cousin Lorna. I found out my grandmother had passed, and the family would like to meet me. One day I got on the plane and travelled to Bindal and Wulgurukaba Country.  

Getting on the plane and travelling to meet my family I had never met before… I was anxious, shaking and sweating. 

Arriving at the Townsville Airport, Lorna recalls driving past and saying, “I think that's him”. She walked up to get me and the nerves disappeared. I wasn’t with a stranger, I was with my sister. I got in the car and felt the exact same feeling with my other cousins who had come to pick me up. 

The windows in the car were down and I could smell the ocean breeze as Island beats played. 

Travis Cloudy-Hensgen

I stayed with my Dator, my great-grandfather. Walking up to the house, the family house, the nerves kicked back in. I remember the first Aunty I met was my Aunty Jane who stayed down the road. She was so funny and straight out. We stood at the door at her house and she laughed, “Don't be shame come inside”. She hugged me and the nerves went away again.

I sat down with my great-grandfather often to yarn stories while I was there. He spoke Creole so Lorna would help me understand. 

We sat out in the backyard together a lot, we would sit under the mango tree. One day while Grandad watered the grass and his garden, he told me he was going to Darwin Hospital to get Dad, but he was already gone. 

Other times he told me stories about him coming to Bindal and Wulgurukaba Country from the Islands to work on the railway, about him serving in World War II, stories about my grandmother, His eldest daughter and how he missed her. I was frightened when he said she would come and visit me now that I was with my family, but it was special because I felt her there. I was home. 

Grandad and I. Travis Cloudy-Hensgen

A connection to family can never be denied no matter the distance or the obstacles. Life takes you to many different places you might call home. You go through so many trials and tribulations. I have been halfway home – my Island home of Ugar (Stephens), Iama (Yam) and  Erub (Darnley) are still calling me.

Going home can be hard for so many First Nations people who are disconnected from their Country. Settler colonialism does not take into consideration what it's like to be connected spiritually to a place and then taken from it – without consent and without care. 

I remember the day I was leaving Grandad’s house. My taxi was pulling up and Grandad followed as I walked out onto the deck. He stood and waited with tears in his eyes to send me off. I felt the tears come too. I didn't want to leave him but I knew I had to return to the other place I call home.  

These memories I will hold in my heart everywhere I go, he has passed and I can't think of anything to be more grateful for then getting time with him.

Lorna and I visiting Grandads grave. Travis Cloudy-Hensgen

For our people we have to sit with the place we call home, with spirit, sit and connect to wherever we are, with our local communities, with the beautiful places we call home.

For all people living in this country, if you don't know the traditional name of where you are, or whose home it is you should find out.  

There is a space for us even if you have to fight for it no matter where you are from. Our Elders' stories are so important. They shape the way we are, they connect us, nurture us, not only us but our whole communities. It's fundamental to listen to the stories from the community and place you call home.

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