Many of the girls said this maybe the last time they will go back to Cootamundra. There were mixed emotion amongst the ‘girls’ as well as families who were affect by the past removal policies. The formal commemoration ceremony at the Town Hall which was held on Saturday August 11 was a very moving ceremony. Aunty Isabel Reid gave a warm Welcome to Country, Aunty Katey Bryant welcomed all guest to Cootamundra on behalf of all the ‘girls’ and spoke about the significance of the day. Aunty Lorraine Peeters also spoke on behalf of girls. Before Aunty Lorraine commenced her speech, Aunty called all the girls up on stage to stand with her so they were all as one.
Once Aunty Lorraine finished her speech, the girls two at a time emptied coloured sand into a vase. This was a symbolic gesture from all the girls past and present, forever one. The vase is engraved with the words “1912 – 2012 100 Year Commemoration Cootamundra Girls Home ‘We are all one’”. It was very emotional and moving to watch and I don’t think there was a dry eye in the hall.
Other events that were on over the weekend were the Cootamundra Arts Centre hosted an art exhibition, opening on Friday 11 August, which gave the general public the opportunity to experience the personal journey of Wiradjuri Artist, Fay Clayton. Fay, a former Home Girl, has created a powerful visual interpretation through her paintings and associated art work. Fay introduced her artwork. She says; “My art heals my past hurts and helps me deal with the traumas of the past and to continue each day.”
There was a localised version of In Living Memory display, which features selected images from a series of 1000 black and white photographs from the State Records of the former NSW Aboriginal Welfare Board (1919-66). Most of the photographs were taken to document the work of the Board and to promote its policies of the time.
'The Girls', a segment of ‘All One’, documentary film being produced by Gaia Films on the Aboriginal Homes, was also screened at the Arts Centre. This film tells the stories of the lives directly from the Girls who spent their childhood in the Cootamundra Aboriginal Girls Home.
There was the launch of 'Home Girls', Peter Kabaila's latest book on the history and the former Home resident’s experiences, a plaque unveiling and a commemorative dinner. The final activity on Sunday 12 August was a community breakfast in honour of the formal residents at Cootamundra Public School. Most of the girls departed Cootamundra from the public school and started their journeys home. Some of the girls said it was sad saying goodbye to their sisters and hope that they will reconnect again soon.