Launch of Aboriginal practice guide
29 May 2019
Pictured (from left): Jacinta Thorne, Colleen Pearce and Ian Hamm in front of the painting 'Origins' by Wally of the Mutti Mutti people which features on the cover of OPA's Aboriginal practice guide.
Listening to the individual stories of the Stolen Children Generation
As part of National Reconciliation Week (27 May - 3 June), OPA invited the chair of the Koorie Heritage Trust, Mr Ian Hamm, a Yorta Yorta man, to officially launch its new Aboriginal practice guide for OPA staff, Walk with Me, Talk with Me.
Ian, a member of the Stolen Children Generation, held the audience enthralled as he spoke about his life experiences as an Aboriginal child adopted by a white couple and raised with their biological son and two adopted Aboriginal sisters.
Ian was born the fifth child of a 24-year-old Aboriginal woman, who already had four other children. Sadly, Ian never had a chance to meet her; she died at the age of 26, having never told anyone who Ian's father was or whether she had relinquished the baby voluntarily.
'Pure random chance'
Ian said that when he reflects on his life, he is overwhelmed by the knowledge that "pure random chance" led to him having opportunities to forge a successful career as a public servant and leader in the Victorian Aboriginal community.
Ian was adopted from the same Salvation Army facility as another Aboriginal baby who today is serving a life prison sentence for murder in the United States.
Six months prior to Ian's birth, a baby now known as James Savage was adopted to a white Salvation Army couple who moved to the USA when he was an infant. James, who was black but not African American, felt he never fitted in his adopted family or the Salvation Army way of life, ended up homeless and addicted to drugs and alcohol. He only discovered his Aboriginal heritage after he was arrested for murder.
Conversely, Ian said, he was adopted by a "wonderful couple" and raised in the Hamm family.
'Special motivation' to serve the Aboriginal community
Despite a teacher at his high school suggesting he get a job at the local council depot "because that's where your people work", Ian knew he was capable of far more. He enrolled in a teaching degree where he met another Aboriginal man who helped him track down his biological family. To his immense shock, he discovered he had grown up just 40 kilometres from them. He then forged a career in the Victorian public service, focusing of Aboriginal health, welfare and economic inclusion.
Today, in addition to his role with the Koorie Hermitage Trust, Ian is chair of the First Nations Foundation and Connecting Home Ltd (Stolen Generations Service). He says he believes that if the Hamms had come six month's earlier to the facility and adopted James, and if he had been adopted by the Salvation Army couple, he most likely would be the person in jail while James would be speaking at the launch today.
Ian says he feels a special motivation to serve the Aboriginal community, particularly those stolen as children from their families, land and culture, and praised OPA's efforts to engage in a meaningful and culturally relevant way with the Koorie community.