Honour for ‘stolen’ boy

Robert Isaacs at Clontarf Aboriginal College.
Robert Isaacs at Clontarf Aboriginal College.

Now, decades later, he has been nominated for the 2014 WA Aboriginal of the Year award.

As part of the Stolen Generation, Dr Isaacs was taken from his family when he was six months old.

‘For 17 years I was locked away 24-7, not knowing where my brothers and sisters and the Isaacs family were,’ Dr Isaacs said.

‘I never had that tender loving care that a mum would give to their child. I missed the upbringing of being with a natural parent and I didn’t get the Christmas toys or the nice lollies that kids get today ” I was in an institution that was very tough and very hard.

‘I was among 250 boys who were migrants from other countries; there were only eight Aboriginal boys there.

‘They used to call me the black so and so because of the colour of my skin.’

The Catholic nuns in Subiaco brought up Mr Isaacs until he was three years old. He was then transported to Castledare Boys’ Home, then Clontarf.

Once he left Clontarf at age 17 in 1973, Mr Isaacs got his first job in the Public Health Department.

While he was out surveying the lodging houses on Newcastle Street, Northbridge, one woman’s inkling led Mr Isaacs on a journey of self-understanding.

‘I knocked on the door and this little old lady answered it,’ he said.

‘I said ‘my name is Robert Isaacs’ and I had a badge on my shirt and she looked at me, she kept looking at my shirt and my badge. She came out and said ‘are you related to all the Isaacs family in Margaret River, Busselton, Bunbury and that area?’.’

Mr Isaacs told her he was trying to find his family, but no one had told him where his parents came from.

‘She said, ‘I know your mob, I know you haven’t got time to talk, but if you’d like to come back and see me’,’ he said.

‘I did that and she walked me around from her home to Beaufort Street and there was this big building and the doors were locked. She knocked on the door. The next minute, the doors swung open and there was a mob of people there and straight away I knew they were my family. They were the Isaacs family.’

Dr Isaacs later set up Australia’s first indigenous school ” Clontarf Aboriginal College ” and dedicated his life to helping improve health, housing and education within Aboriginal communities.