Peter Sutton points out how difficult it is to learn the truth about the missions’ critical role in Aboriginal–settler relationships (‘On a Mission’, April). In 2007, I had the good fortune to film the Sisters of St John of God’s centenary celebrations in the Kimberley. Sisters returned from all over Australia and Ireland to visit the missions where they had worked. It was an eye-opener to me, a non-Catholic, to witness the love, respect and trust that the local people had for the Sisters, who had not only taught them but nursed them in the leprosarium and the Native Hospital. As one local said, “They came and they stayed … sharing our conditions.”
Recently the Sisters have collected their old photographs. They have put them on a database and are inviting locals to identify themselves as children. Sometimes, for the first time, they are also seeing their grandparents.
Julie James Bailey