Maylands Baptist Church

Sadie Canning’s testimony

July 27th, 2008

Testimony – Sadie Canning

June 2008


Today, I am privileged to say a few words for my Lord.

You probably want to know a bit of my background.

I was born to a traditional Aboriginal woman who could not speak or write English and who did not know the love of Jesus.  She was my mother and I loved her.

1920-30’s was a very dark period for Aborigines.  In the goldfields area we were considered the worst and were not recognised as human beings.  It was only after the 1967 referendum that black people were recognised as human.

During 1905 an Act of Parliament was announced to take away all half caste children from their parents and place them in government institutions.

In the early days curfews were declared and all Aborigines lived on the outskirts of town. In order to get the Aborigines out of town, the police resorted to horses and whipped our people and charged with guns.

Our mothers were always on the run from government authorities.  Mothers, babies, children were charged with horse and guns.  At times half caste children were snatched away and put into government institutions – sometimes to distant areas where they never saw their loved ones.

Why was this cruelty?  This was all because the colour of skin to did not fit in with the white Australian policy.

I was one of these children and was taken when I was 4 years old.  Imagine if your mother was constantly on the run – sometimes with two or more children.

How did this all change?

A missionary, Mr R Shenke from Victoria heard the call of God to take the gospel of Jesus to help the wild blacks of the goldfields and had prepared a refuge.  God had a plan for me and I was placed in the care of missionaries and was with about 60 other girls.  We were cared for by caring foster parents from England, Mr and Mrs Jackson.  They had not relatives and spent their lives at Mt Margaret Mission.  When they retired, they had nowhere to go, so they spent some time in Leonora and we, the home girls, cared for them and we buried them as our mum and pop.

I grew up in a happy environment.  Mt Margaret Missionaries taught us life skills, sports (especially tennis).  They gave us an education, and we were taught by a dedicated English lady.

I was there at Mt Margaret until I was 18 years old and I applied to train as a nurse. 

I cannot praise the Lord enough for His goodness and will never cease to praise Him. 

I gave my heart to the Lord at 12 years and was later baptized.  I applied to train as a nurse in Perth, but W.A. Hospitals did not take Aboriginal girls, so I was rejected.  I applied for training at the Salvation Army Hospital in Richmond Victoria.  I believe I had a colleague who did her training at the same hospital, Susan Ball.

I studied for my general nursing, midwifing and child care in Victoria.

When I was ready to go into the workforce, I applied to go to Leonora.  I believe the Lord led me there to help my Aboriginal people.

Leonora was somewhat a racist town and never had an Aboriginal nurse before and I was always proving myself that I was equal to the task ahead.

Do you know what?  The Lord had been my constant guide and never left me – even though I’ve wandered and strayed, He was always with me.

Leonora Hospital was a 46 bed hospital with a one doctor practice.  We relied on the mine ambulance to transfer us to Kalgoorlie.  There was no Royal Flying Doctor Service, no bitumen road – just rough corrugations.

Always short-staffed and had to train Aboriginal girls with simple nursing procedures.

The town was not used to black nurses, but soon they were accepted.  I could ramble on about my experiences.

In February 2008 I was invited by the Prime Minister and cabinet to attend the official “sorry” speech by Mr Rudd.

I went with mixed feelings.  I did not really care whether they said sorry or not.  Many things had been offered over the years, but never carried through, but one thing I knew for certain; having been placed at Mt Margaret Mission with caring missionaries (who taught us the love of Jesus), I had received Christ as my Saviour.

My favourite chorus:

The place where I first met my Saviour

Will forever be precious and dear.

Every inch in that old fashioned building

Seem to tell me that Jesus is near.

Perhaps some will think I am foolish,

But I only express what I feel.

I love, yes, I love the old Bethel where Jesus to me became real,

The old church building does not stand any longer,

But I still love the old Bethel.

Do you have a Bethel where you can come close to the Lord

And pray and worship Him alone?

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