There were tears and hugs at Hills Shire Council on Tuesday night (22nd August) when Hills Shire Councillors unanimously agreed to rename Langford Smith Close in Kellyville to Nimbus Close because of its connection to the founder of the Marella Mission Farm for Aboriginal Children.
Marella Mission was founded at the corner of Green and Acres Road (where the Bernie Mullane Sports Complex and Livvi’s Place playground now stand) by Keith Langford Smith and his wife Gwen in 1948 and operated until 1986.
Aunty Rita Wright, who along with Jan Wright has spent over three years campaigning to have the name changed, was just two years old when she was taken, along with her four-year-old sister Janet, by welfare authorities and sent to Marella in 1955.
She says her mother never knew if her girls had been murdered or stolen and never spoke again. The 70-year-old said: “Being stolen from my family to ‘protect’ me has deeply damaged my life. I have thought of suicide many times. “
She said the children living at Marella were often hungry and cold. “We worked as slaves … we had to pick the fruit, look after the animals, make butter, do all the housework, including hanging the washing out during winter in the cold. I was so little I had to stand on a fruit box to reach the clothesline.
“We lived in a chook pen on mattresses for a few years and then moved to some Army Nissen huts that were donated. I didn’t even know I was Aboriginal until I ran away from Marella Mission in 1970.”
She said children living at Marella Mission had a very hard life and many, like her, were sexually and physically abused.
When Hills Shire Council was approached about the name change it contacted the 38 residents in the street, with the vast majority saying they supported the name change.
Resident Sheryn Carusi spoke at council on Tuesday night saying she had lived in the street for 20 years and was speaking on behalf of the majority of fellow residents who had only recently found out about Marella Mission and who Langford Smith was.
“We are proud to live in the Hills, but not proud to continue to honour Keith Langford Smith. We don’t think it is appropriate and strongly object to our road continuing to bear his name.
“The past can’t be undone but by acknowledging what happened and removing any honour connected to him, we can give those who still live with the memories a chance to heal and know we are a community who really cares.”
Councillor Mila Kasby moved the motion to approve the name change and forward the proposal to the Geographical Names Board.
She cried as she thanked residents for their empathy and generosity in supporting the change. She was joined by Aunty Rita who comforted her and cried alongside her.
After the meeting Aunty Rita said she was “over the moon” with the result. She said the name change will mean so much to the 16 survivors of Marella.
“Now I will be able to sleep,” she said.