In a surprising twist to the legacy of the Stolen Generations, one descendant vows that before he dies he will re-bury his long-deceased uncle in 'Country' and fulfil a childhood promise he made to his father.
“Uncle Kitchener’s all alone in that grave... Before I die, I want to bring Uncle home.” – Norm Brown
This is the story of one Indigenous family’s search for reconnection - a generation after it was torn apart by an Australian government policy of forcibly removing Aboriginal children from their parents. We follow the journey of ailing Elder Norm Brown who is embarking on a quest to right a wrong and return his Uncle Kitchener to ‘Country’ and the place from where he was stolen.
We first encounter Norm Brown striding through a field of stone crosses in Kingaroy Cemetery. He is an elderly and ailing man who needs the help of a walking frame. Norm inches towards Kitchener Brown’s grave: a patch of dirt marked by a plain white stick. This is the spot where a ‘Reserve Funeral’ took place five decades ago... “We gonna take you home, Uncle Kitchener, so you won’t be lonely anymore,” says Norm, addressing the only unadorned grave in the cemetery.
Through archive photos, intimate interviews with Norm and his family, and set against the backdrop of lingering Queensland rural landscapes, the story unfolds: In 1908, as children, Norm’s Uncle Kitchener, Norm’s father and two other siblings were stolen by policemen while playing at Nebo Creek. The children were taken 600 kilometres south to the Aboriginal reserve of Cherbourg. At the reserve the children’s surname was changed from Barker to Brown because, they were told: “they looked like nice little brown kids”. The children never saw their parents, brother or homeland again.
None of Norm’s family members were buried in ‘Country’, but most have been buried side by side in Cherbourg cemetery. When Norm’s Uncle Kitchener died in 1959, not one family member was given the opportunity to be at his funeral. Now, despite his deteriorating health, Norm is determined to change all that and have his uncle re-interred in the family’s homeland.
BRINGING UNCLE HOME follows the journey of the exhumation and reburial of Uncle Kitchener, while also painting a touching personal portrait of Norm, an Aboriginal battler who now faces his own mortality. Norm is greatly supported by his wife, Judy, daughter, Lynette and his extended family on this journey of reconnection. This is an intimate and profound time when past wrongs are righted, family knowledge is passed down and decisions of one’s last resting place are made.
Co-Produced by StarSapphire Productions & Wild Fury
Written & Directed by Grania Kelly
Edited by Axel Grigor
Broadcast 2011, ABC