The Centralian advocate Tue 6 Jun 2017
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Community newspapers -- Northern Territory -- Alice Springs; Tennant Creek (N.T.) -- Newspapers; Alice Springs (N.T.) -- Newspapers.; Australia, Central -- Newspapers
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26 FEATURE TUESDAY JUNE 6 2017 CAVE01Z01MA - V1 LOOKING at a photo of an African-Americansailor, David Simmons couldnt see anysimilarity to himself, even though his motherswore he was the spitting image of the man inthe picture his father. But the man in the picture was not the man he knew as his father growing up. David was 17 or 18 when he learned his father was Malcolm Butler, an African-American sailor who was stationed in Perth during the end of WWII. I clued on that something was going on when I was going in a taxi one day with my uncle and his son and the bloke said are you Americans? and my uncle said no, but this bloke is and he pointed at me, he said. When I got back home I said to Mum Uncle Les reckons Im American, I always thought I was just Aboriginal. Mum said, yeah your dad came from the US and she went and dived in this case and came out with the letters and photo and said you were going to be called Malcolm, after him. Now 72, David grew up as an Aboriginal man in Perth with six siblings before moving to Yirrkala in East Arnhem Land about 20 years ago. He is one of potentially thousands of Australian children fathered by Allied servicemen during their postings down under in WWII. Davids mother, Eliza Barron, was a Noongar woman from Perth who met Malcolm Butler when he was on the USS Corpus Christi, which arrived in Australia in July, 1944. David was born in June, 1945 and Malcolms ship departed when he was just two months old, on August 27, 1945. He sent her some money to fly to Pearl Harbor to meet him there after the war, but mum didnt go, David said. She was going into a totally foreign world, and she had other children. David never got to know his father, even after he found out who he was. The letters and photos Malcolm had sent his mother were burned by his stepfather, making tracking him down incredibly difficult, as there was little information known about him. I really regret not keeping those letters because he had his naval ID, David said. I tried (to track him down) when I was 35, I rang up people and finally got through to the navy they gave me a mailing address back then. I never followed it through. I would have really loved to ... they had a thing on TV for a while about locating lost family. I would have loved to get over there and meet the family before the old man carked it. That would have been good for my kids, my littlest one is 12 and she wants to know about Dads side. Its something we should have kept up to speed with in the old days, but without the whiz bang communications of today it was pretty bloody hard, everything had to be kept physically. Upwards of 800,000 Allied troops were stationed throughout Australia during WWII, from Townsville to Perth, and a need for infrastructure through the Red Centre meant many troops were stationed in Alice Springs, Tennant Creek, Katherine and Darwin. Karen Hughes is one of three researchers working with almost 30 families throughout Australia studying the impact of children born of war, and the race legislation at the time in Australia and other nations that devastated and ripped mixed-race families apart. She said there was similar research into the impact of children born due to conflict internationally, but little done in Australia. While 12,000 Australian women left as war brides it was far more complicated for mixed-raced relationships. Both Australia and America had extremely prejudicial race policies. The race-based legislation at the time in each of those countries was trying to uphold this mythical white nation, Karen said. Australia had the White Australia policy and Immigration Restriction Act, and in the US their immigration was similarly restricted the only people of so-called colour allowed into the US were of Chinese or African descent. Even if Aboriginal women were able to marry African-American serviceman and have a child together, in that time in Australia it was made clear they were not able to emigrate to the US. Karen said research highlighted the heartbreaking human impact of the discrimination, which is left out of the history books. Its to bring out that history of injustice, she said. Theres lots (of research) on the war bride ships that went overseas, but there were also Aboriginal war brides and nothings been written about them, and also the white women who married African CHILDREN OF WAR An unknown number of Territorians are carrying around a DNA secret they know nothing about. Researchers are determined to enlighten them I ALWAYS THOUGHT I WAS JUST ABORIGINAL