Rex Morris was born at Purfleet in 1953 to Shirley and Rex. He was just four years old when welfare authorities came to Taree with the intention of forcibly removing children with fairer skin from their families. This threat was constant for First Nation families up until the 1970s.1
With connections at Byrock and Bourke, Shirley and Rex left with their four children. Rex has fond memories of his time in Byrock. The family then moved to Bourke where they lived in a water tank for three months until housing became available at the Aboriginal reserve.
In the early 1960s Shirley became bedridden for months. With her husband away, Rex cared for his mum and siblings. Aged just 10, he made the terrifying trip into Bourke to ask the welfare authorities for food as his family was starving. Thankfully his brave walk yielded a chest of food to support the family during this time.
The family later returned to Purfleet and it was then that Shirley became involved with the Black Power Movement. In 1972, Shirley, son Rex and five young men from Purfleet (including Willy Bungie) drove to Canberra to protest against the Government’s land rights policies. It was during this time that Shirley’s youngest children were taken by police. She returned to Taree while Rex and the men from Purfleet stayed at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy for the next six months.
The Tent Embassy was established in Canberra in 1972 with protestors initially focused on land rights, but later expanded their protests to other issues.2 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Embassy and Rex intends to go to Canberra to celebrate this important milestone.3
Author: Janine Roberts with the kind help of Rex Morris.
1 Australian federal and state government agencies and church missions removed children between 1910 and 1969 (but well into the 1970s) as a policy of assimilation. https://www.commonground.org.au/learn/the-stolen-generations
2 National Museum of Australia, https://www.nma.gov.au/defining-moments/resources/aboriginal-tent-embassy
3 Oral interview with Rex Morris 21 October 2021.