Sunday, April 12, 2015


Excerpt from 'THE CLOCK OF TIME' by Gertrude Ruston.  (pp 176-178)

"Family problems, including those of aborigines, needed considerable tact and took up much of our time.  One very nice aboriginal girl name Kathie came to see us in great distress.  She was a working girl, educated and nicely dressed.  When working she boarded her young baby son with two white women in South Perth who were running a type of school called, I believe, "Essanda" or something similar.  They wanted to adopt the boy but she had refused permission for them to do so.

When Kathy went along to see her child she found that the two women had moved and taken the boy with them.  She knew that they had spoken of going overseas and she asked us to prevent them from taking her son.  We immediately took up the matter with the police and Child Welfare Department, but neither would take action.  I have often wondered whether their attitude would have been different if it had been a white child that was missing.  We were told they could not afford to send police flying around Australia to trace the missing people and, in any case, they would be unable to take the child out of the country on their passports.  The papers also took up the matter but nothing was done and the child was taken out of Australia.

*Some time later, about five years I believe, the boy was traced in Europe and we understand he was brought home.  At the time of the disappearance rumours were circulating that the women concerned were communists. and that people of that political persuasion were hoping to send a number of young aboriginal people to communist countries to be indoctrinated, and then brought back to Australia to influence their own people.  (I can remember mum being very distressed about this missing boy and I know she did everything in her power to help at the time).

There was a case of incest whether a mother gave evidence against her husband who had violated her daughters and he was sent to prison.  As time went by, and there was a possibility of him being released on parole, the wife was terrified that he would search them out an that murder would be committed.  Arrangements were made for a change of domicile and a change of name for all of them, and we hoped this would prove sufficient protection to allow them to live an entirely new life.

Wives of husband who had been in gaol and had become addicted to homosexual practices, came to us in tears because their husbands no longer desired normal sexual relations.  This was a case for the Marriage Guidance Bureau and we hoped some solution was possible.

Men and women came to us seeking help with V.D. and we drew attention to the need for further publicity.  We felt all young people should know the "dos' and donts" of sex and where to obtain help if required.

Dozens of problems concerned with door-to-door salesmen came our way, and w learned how unscrupulous many of the travellers were.  One of these cases was concerned with an encyclopaedia.  The salesman knocked at the door and there was no answer.  He noticed that there was a woman in bed on the verandah and went over to try to make a sale.  She told him she was too ill to be bothered.  He asked her to sign her name on a paper he had and he would then come back and see the husband.  She could just manage to sign her name and did so.  He filled in the rest of the form and sent along the encyclopaedia having asked her to sign that she would purchase same, without her knowledge.  When the books arrived the husband went to the firm and was told that his wife had bought them, and her signature was produced.  The husband refused to accept the books and returned them, but the firm charged him for them.
 Poor man!  He came to us in great distress as his wife was dying of cancer and neither of them could read or write except just to sign their names.  I got in touch with the firm and threatened to have the case published in the daily paper if the books were not accepted back and an apology made to the man and his wife.   Needless to say we were assured that it was an error on the part of their office and nothing more was heard about it.

As expected, the bureau indicated very clearly a number of gaps in our laws and services.  One of the most urgent was the need for an emergency housekeeper service, the facilities at Wanslea being insufficient and, in many cases, unsuitable.

Working mothers asked where they could send their children during school holidays.  It was sometimes possible for them to obtain their own holidays at the same time as their children once a year but, unless they had family or friends to help there were long periods when their children were at risk if left to their own devices.

Details of these needs were passed back to me as Honorary Secretary of the Council of Social Services.

While at the C.A.B. I was made a Justice of the Peace."

*I knew there had been newspaper articles re the missing aboriginal boy and after much searching on "Trove" I have actually found the newspaper report concerning this young lad and his return to his mother.  The article appeared in "The Canberra Times" on Tuesday, 8th September, 1970 and reads as follows:  

"Adbucted boy returned to Mother" and shows a picture of Mrs Trimmer and her son Barry at Perth Airport.  

PERTH, Monday....Tears streamed down the cheeks of Mrs Kathy Trimmer as she clung to the son she had not seen for six years, when they were reunited at Perth airport yesterday.

It was a highly emotional affair as the slim, part aboriginal boy, folded himself in his mother's arms, bewildered and uncertain, while his young brother Ivan held his hand.    The reunion brought to an end one of the strangest abductions in Australia's history, a tug-of-war between Mrs Rene Heisler, the woman who wanted to have Barry educated behind the Iron Curtain and a part-aboriginal mother who wanted her son raised in his proper home.

Barry, an eight-year-old was taken from a Perth children's home without his mother's permission six years ago, and later was taken to East Germany.

Barry's name is McKenzie because that was his mother's maiden name as he was born before she had married.  She married a white man named Trimmer.

Barry's companion during the flight, Miss May Taylor, said at Perth Airport "He referred to Mrs Heisler as his 'other mother'.  He told me that he and Mrs Heisler had crossed over to West Berlin by car about a month ago and that they had been living in a suburb called Karl Marx"

Barry walked off the aircraft with officials from the Department of External Affairs and holding Miss Miller's hand.

Miss Miller told a reporter that through the flight from Melbourne, Barry had been in high spirits and was looking forward to meeting his "real mummy" and brothers.   "He speaks a little English" said Miss Miller. "but every now and again words fail him and he breaks into German".

I am so pleased to have been able to give you the happy ending to this remarkable story and if you should want to read more about it you can find it on "Trove" under the date shown above and the heading "Adbucted boy returned to Mother" in the Canberra Times.


  1. wow. your mum really was a get-in-there-and-do-it person. so glad that young boy was returned to his rightful mum and home.
    As for door-to-door salesmen, my dad bought a set of encyclopedias too, but failed to make the payments on them, so they were collected a couple of months later. He also bought a recipe book which I still have now, and a kitchen mixmaster.
    I remember many days coming home from school and finding salesmen sitting on our back porch. If no one answered the front door, they'd go around the back, through the gate, but when they tried to leave our dog prevented them. They had no choice but to wait for one of us to come home and release them.

    1. Yes my mum never let anything beat her if she could avoid it.
      I guess the internet put paid to door-to-door salesman and now we constantly put up with ads on the internet, TV and other media.
      I think a lot of people were coerced into buying items they couldn't really afford as those salesmen really had the gift of the gab.
      I love the story of your dog keeping the salesmen waiting till someone arrived home. Serve them right.

  2. Heartbreaking stories. I am so glad that young boy was returned home - and am confident that if he had been a white boy, or if the abductors had been aboriginal more effort would have been made at the time.

    1. A story that finally had a happy ending for all concerned.
      I think we all feel a little that way about skin colour having an effect on the way many are treated, even today.

  3. Hari Om
    Sentiments as expressed are felt here too... but something else struck me very forcibly... how each age has its 'demon doctrine' and that the young and impressionable are their targets. We can read the comment here regarding Communist infiltration and almost brush it aside. In another forty years time, I wonder what will have taken the place of the current extremism???

    One thing is certain, it is organisations and folk like your mother who ensure continual raising of standards in society. Bless them all. YAM xx

    1. I dread to think what type of extremism will be present in the world. I fear for my grandchildren and great-grandchildren. T Their world will be so different to the world we know and have known to date.
      I do think many organisations still fight hard to keep the standards high, xx

  4. isn't it wonderful that child was finally reunited with his mother

    1. I too think that a wonderful story and one can only hope he fitted in well when back with him mum, new dad and siblings.

  5. I'm glad that the boy was returned to his mother. How frustrating for those trying to help, and not get any support from law agencies.

    1. So many things happen that nobody seems able to control but in this case it eventually turned out well.

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