Whitlam Institute

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

Who am I?

Who am I?

Mabel Cardozo

Year 7

My name is Nieia and I belong to an aboriginal tribe. We all know our place in our tribe. It is where I belong.


We know who we are. 


I am learning what all the other 5-year-old girls are learning; the important things, how to cook, how to help the tribe, how to survive.            


I belong here. 


Everything has always been as it should be, until this day. The day...

The day it all changed.


 A big black truck came rumbling up past our camp. Mama was scared. My tribe was scared.

I was scared.


The big black truck stopped just out of sight, sheltered by the trees. My mother didn't say anything as she ushered the young ones under the shelter, but I knew we were all thinking of one thing....


The stories of the stolen children. 

Three white men walk from the concealed truck towards us making unfamiliar gestures and speaking a language we did not recognise. But their meaning was clear, I knew what they meant. 


They had come to take us young ones away.


Their eyes searched through the tribe and they fell on me, the only child who had not yet taken cover.


Did I know my life was about to change forever?


The shortest of the men pointed at me and the other two grabbed me. My tribe threw spears and shouted while I struggled and kicked as hard as I could.

But I was half paralysed by fear.


They ran with me to the truck and deposited me in the back. One of the men ran back to help the third who had been struck in the leg by a spear.


I screamed for my mama, nothing else mattered!


The truck began to move, and my tribe followed. Mama in the lead. I hammered the glass, tears pouring down my face and wondered.


I wondered if I would ever see my Mama again.


I screamed till my voice was gone and cried till there was no tears left in me.


I was in the truck for a long time.


They took me to a place where I was taught to be a slave, always considered lower than the white people.


I don't belong here.


I'm quickly learning the new laws and language I must use. I am now 9.


I am forgetting who I am.


Sometimes at night I can hear my mamas voice saying, “where has my baby gone? all I want is to hold my baby.” I know the voices in my head. I can't really hear her.


Though I wish I could.


I am now 14 and I dream that the white men apologise, and they let us go home.


But it is only a dream.

It has been almost 13 years since I was taken from my tribe. I can barely remember my life before here. But I know it is important to cling to the memories I have. I promised myself I would stay loyal to my people.

But I feel a million worlds away from them.



I am now 24 and have a family of my own. We live the white man's ways.

But who are my people truly?


One day I will venture and find my mama. I will find my true people and the place I belong, then I will know...


Who I am.