by Jane Harrison
Five Aboriginal people; all stolen from their families, communities, land. Within their stories many other stories unfold – of discrimination, sexual abuse, self-hatred, suicide, mental illness – and of family, belonging and hope. The stories weave backwards and forwards in time, from the children's home where each child 'does time', to a point in each life where they reach a kind of resolution.
In 1992, when the play was first commissioned, few outside the Aboriginal community were aware of this chapter in Australian history, or knew the extent of the issue. The play is not about blame, politics or policies – rather it maps the emotional effect of that pivotal act of violence – that of being taken away. For our community to heal we need to acknowledge the deeds of the past, and how they resonate in every single Aboriginal life.
Jane Harrison began writing for the theatre with the commission by Ilbijerri Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Theatre Co-operative of Stolen, a play about those generations of Australian Aborigines forcibly removed from their families and land over the last century. Writing Stolen over a six-year period also coincided with a personal journey to connect more with her Aboriginal heritage. She is a descendant of the Muruwari people of NSW. Stolen premiered at Playbox Theatre, Melbourne, in 1998, and has productions annually – eight seasons in Melbourne, plus tours to regional Victoria, Sydney, Adelaide, and Tasmania, the UK (twice), Hong Kong and Tokyo, as well as readings in Canada and New York (in 2004). Jane was the co-winner, (with Dallas Winmar), of the Kate Challis RAKA Award 2002, for Stolen.
Her most recent play, Rainbow’s End, produced by Ilbijerri, premiered in Melbourne in February, 2005. She contributed one chapter to Many Voices, Reflections on experiences of Indigenous child separation, a book that evolved out of the Bringing Them Home report into the Stolen Generations, and published by the National Library, Canberra in 2002. As well as writing, she teaches Indigenous Performing Arts students at Swinburne University, Melbourne.