Children taken from their homes, their families, and their culture: the repercussions are still felt across generations of Australia’s Indigenous people.
For Lansvale resident Bee Cruse, 22, the concept of family destruction is not just academic: it is close family history that she is now witnessing on stage.
Indigenous performance maker Vicki van Hout is directing a new production of Jane Harrison’s classic play Stolen at the Riverside Theatre, Parramatta.
Ms Cruse is working as Ms Van Hout’s assistant under the theatre’s Creative Futures Program.
Stolen tells the stories of five individuals from the Stolen Generation, and the struggles they experience through their lives.
Ms Cruse’s own father was removed from his family at a young age.
“He was part of the Stolen Generation, so he had it really tough,” she said.
“My parents never really did have the opportunities I’ve had.
“But they made sure their kids believed they could do anything, regardless of growing up broke blackfellas living in western Sydney.”
That belief, and unconditional family support, has seen Ms Cruse pursue her chosen career in film with certainty and courage.
“Stolen was actually a play I studied in school, and that was the play that really got me loving storytelling,” Ms Cruse said.
“My heart is definitely in this play.”
After leaving school, Ms Cruse pursued a career in film and television, eventually meeting leading artistic director Lily Shearer while working on a film in the Blue Mountains.
That meeting led to Ms Cruse being recommended for the mentorship program at the National Theatre.
Describing herself as an observer and a storyteller, Ms Cruse said the opportunity to work with Ms van Hout through dance and theatre to tell the story of Stolen was a valuable learning curve.
She said that 20 years after first being performed, the play was still relevant.
“Western Sydney has a very strong Indigenous population, but I think both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people can learn from a play like Stolen,” she said.
”It’s a very universal play in what it tries to teach people in themes and about what really happened, and the hurt.
“And I think a lot of healing can come out of a strong play like this.
“I’m hoping with Vicki and the cast we can really show the essence of that hurt and that healing.
“I’m very, very proud and blessed to be part of this program.”
- Visit riversideparramatta.com.au for further details on performance times and other information for Stolen