The Stolen Generation footy star and the nun who changed his life

Sonny Morey at Glanville Hall, formerly St Francis House. Picture Matt Turner.

At very last, he experienced an clarification for the unpalatable notion which experienced lingered quietly in the again of his consciousness for a lot more than six many years. Ever because that awful day he was bundled into a federal government car when taking part in on the dry mattress of the Todd River in Alice Springs.

Morey, who would go on to turn out to be a champion SANFL footballer, was just seven when he turned a member of the Stolen Generation, ripped from his local community below a coverage which wrecked the life of innumerable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

In the many years to arrive, there was an not comfortable question gnawing away at his soul. As time passed, he created a wealthy and worthwhile everyday living of his individual. But the question was generally there. Just beneath the surface area. Casting an ever-so-slight shadow on his overwhelmingly positive disposition.

“Why hadn’t my mother arrive looking for me?”

And then, in August very last yr, below the midday sun in Central Australia, a petite 83-yr-aged nun with a thick French accent shipped the answer.

“Your mother searched for you until eventually she died … she in no way gave up,” she stated.

It was a uncomplicated sentence, but unleashed a sophisticated wave of thoughts in Morey, a proud Arrernte man, Central District Football Club wonderful, state participant and runner-up to Malcolm Blight in the 1972 Magarey Medal.

Around a cup of tea at his Williamstown dwelling, which overlooks the vineyards of the southern Barossa Valley, Morey struggles to find terms to describe that moment.

“I considered, when I was a small bloke, that my relatives experienced overlooked me or deserted me or weren’t looking for me,” he states. “To find that out, and at this time of my everyday living … I do not get also psychological mainly because I have experienced to toughen up and harden up mainly because of what I went via. But I found that hard. Really hard.”

The nun’s name was Sister Megali and Morey experienced only learnt she was continue to alive the earlier day. He was on a reality-acquiring mission in Central Australia with biographers Robert Laidlaw and Robin Mulholland, attempting to study a lot more about his stolen earlier.

The just one-time silky smooth wingman and dashing defender experienced been on earlier undertakings to Alice Springs several instances but with constrained results. This time, having said that, he struck gold.

Around the earlier couple of many years he experienced discovered and arrive to know his sister, Phyllis Gorey. The pair experienced distinct mothers but shared the exact same father, a white Irish station proprietor known as Tom Gorey.

Throughout their serendipitous Alice Springs tour very last yr, Morey, Laidlaw and Mulholland fulfilled Phyllis in the vicinity of the financial institutions of the Todd River, not much from the location exactly where Morey was kidnapped again in 1952.

Their discussion turned to Megali, who experienced arrived in Alice Springs in the late 1950s as a missionary to provide steering to the Indigenous populace. Morey experienced a imprecise understanding of Megali, and now his sister advised him how shut the nun experienced turn out to be to his mother, Nancy Pununga, and other girls of her tight-knit local community.

If he could find her, Phyllis advised, Megali could be ready to drop some mild on Nancy, and how the abduction of her firstborn son impacted her everyday living. But Phyllis did not know if Megali now lived in Adelaide, Alice Springs, or was even continue to alive.

Afterwards that day, Morey and his biographers talked about their quest about lunch in a close by procuring mall when an Aboriginal woman, who experienced been quietly fixing a Sudoku puzzle on a close by table, overheard and joined the discussion.

It turned out Morey experienced fulfilled the woman, Bessie Parsons, at a Stolen Generation reunion a lot more than twenty a long time in the past. Their backlinks went again even further – Morey and Parsons experienced equally lived at St Mary’s Hostel in Alice Springs immediately after they were eliminated from their people.

Parsons knew some of Morey’s relatives history, knew of Megali and advised a priest at a close by Anglican Church who could know a lot more about the French nun’s whereabouts.

So the Adelaide trio knocked on the door of the rectory at the Anglican Church of Ascension, exactly where they fulfilled Cannon Brian Jeffries who confirmed that yes, Megali was continue to alive. She was retired in Alice Springs but no, he did not know exactly where she lived.

The upcoming day the trio visited the close by Catholic presbytery, exactly where a courteous parish secretary supplied equally a cellphone variety and an tackle.

Laidlaw and Mulholland take up the story in their biography which will be introduced at Central District Football Club on Saturday: “Sonny’s nervous times turned to pure pleasure as, at very long very last, he and Sister Megali embraced in a warm bear hug,” they publish. “There was one thing very touching looking at very well-created and continue to athletic-looking Sonny smothering this tiny, frail nun in his arms.”

Inside a couple of minutes of discussion, a life span of uncertainty and disappointment lifted from Morey, as he discovered that Megali experienced expended a long time browsing for him at the request of his mother and her relatives.

The search experienced tested futile, mostly mainly because she experienced been looking for a man with a very last name of Gorey, not Morey. When he was eliminated from his relatives, authorities experienced quietly transformed Sonny’s very last name, possibly to take out all ties with his station-proprietor father.

The persistent Megali experienced tracked down a man known as John Gorey in The united states but could not find Morey and sooner or later claimed to the relatives that she considered she was chasing a ghost.

The revelation that his mother experienced been browsing for him her total everyday living sparked a flood of reduction for Morey, who experienced struggled for a lot more than sixty a long time to comprehend that she would have deserted him.

“It was not only reduction, but belief in men and women,” he tells SAWeekend, when requested to demonstrate how his viewpoint on everyday living transformed all through that just one temporary discussion. “And the belief that mothers will in no way give up on their little one. And when you think about it, they carry them … they are the carriers of everyday living. And for somebody to just give it up … that is not on. And I then realised that.

“I generally considered that, someplace in the again of my mind, they would in no way give up. But to find out that my mother in no way threw the towel in, she was generally looking for me, that was very critical to me, and to my ladies … my daughters.”


Morey is now 75 and the walls of his snug semirural dwelling are peppered with framed photographs of the relatives he holds so expensive.

He and wife Carmel will rejoice their 50th marriage anniversary in December. They are proud mom and dad of daughters Kim and Nicole, grandparents to Christopher, Michael, Tarnee and Kyan, and will welcome their initially wonderful-grandchild in November.

He performs golfing 2 times a week at the close by Sandy Creek Golfing Club and stays a keen supporter of the Central District footy club, exactly where he is significantly-liked. He created his debut in the club’s initially ever league staff, against West Torrens, in 1964, experienced the initially kick of that sport (it would have been a intention also, he states, if not for an Eagles participant camped in the goalsquare), was the initially Bulldog to engage in two hundred online games and was a family name all through halcyon times of the SANFL.

Central District two hundred-gamer Sonny Morey in action against Norwood at Norwood Oval in Spherical 15, 1976.

He won plaudits as a clever wingman when he was club very best and fairest in 1970, and experienced reworked to a dashing again pocket when he was runner-up to Blight in the league’s most prestigious award two a long time later. By the time he retired in 1977 he experienced clocked 213 league online games and four state online games in a profession which attained him choice in a Central District very best staff of 1964-2003.

He coached Eudunda for a few a long time immediately after retiring from league footy and turned the initially Indigenous premiership mentor in the Barossa and Light association right before returning to guide the Central District below-17s side for a ten years, mentoring several gamers who would go on to have considerable SANFL and VFL occupations.

Outdoors of soccer, Morey finished an apprenticeship as a fitter and turner with the Postmaster General’s. He expended 30 a long time with PMG and then Telecom, exactly where he finished as a foreman right before using a separation bundle all through a restructure.

He managed Gawler Sportspower for former teammate Tom Zorich for twelve months right before accepting an solution to be part of SA Law enforcement as a local community law enforcement officer to help bridge the gap among Aboriginal communities and the law enforcement. Right after a thirteen-yr profession at SAPOL, Morey retired in 2006 and then labored on the Australian Crime Commission’s investigation into little one abuse in outback NT and WA for six months.


At Morey’s dwelling, hanging proudly in the hallway in a location that is difficult to miss, is an Aboriginal dot-art portray known as Inerte – an primary do the job designed by his Alice Springs sister Phyllis – which depicts a few generations of Aboriginal girls travelling to bean tree destinations.

It is a lasting and notable reminder of a heritage which he practically missing when two strangers, a man and a woman, approached him and his cousin John Leo on a balmy day in 1952.

“As young children we just made use of to run up and down the Todd River and engage in,” Morey states. “It didn’t subject when you arrived dwelling mainly because the relatives experienced no panic that any individual in their ideal mind would want to pinch a kid in that section of the planet.” He’s referring to the tradition of Aboriginal communities performing as just one to ensure the security of their children.

“But the welfare program was totally exterior of that, and they noticed an possibility, and bang, I was gone. It was practically kidnapping. I was gone. I didn’t see John once more. He was just left there crying.”

John Leo was a yr more mature than his cousin. He lived with the unfounded disgrace and unreasonable blame of that moment for the rest of his everyday living and turned to alcohol to ease the hurt.

Morey is persuaded his father was complicit in the events of that day. In reality, he thinks Tom Gorey was possibly the instigator, using a federal government coverage as a car to rid himself of an embarrassing illegitimate son.

As the existence of his sister Phyllis attests, the station proprietor was a repeat offender when it arrived to dalliances with the Aboriginal girls who labored on his assets, and it was a exercise closely frowned on.

Interracial interactions were outlawed throughout significantly of northern Australia in the initially 50 {cbf6da10fac2230370cea9448ed9872290737d25c88b8c8db3eefaf8c399e33d} of the twentieth century, and Morey thinks his father tipped off federal government authorities looking to acquire and institutionalise the products and solutions of this sort of interactions, ostensibly with a purpose of providing the children with a civilised upbringing.

Morey cannot bear in mind significantly of what happened immediately after he was thrown into that dim federal government sedan, apart from looking at his cousin crying as they drove off.

“From that issue onwards, every thing was just blank, mainly because I was terrified,” he states. “Over the a long time I have learnt to management that panic but that was just an horrific moment. I can continue to come to feel it now. It is a very disagreeable sensation.

“You think, ‘Jeez, I’m gunna die’. I considered I’d finished one thing improper – but I didn’t know what it was … It was very hard. To glance again on it now, it appears a bit simpler, but, at the time, it was very, very standard.”

For a long time, he lived with an overpowering sensation of guilt. To be focused like he was, he figured, he need to have fully commited a major wrongdoing.

But he was just one more target of a raft of misguided federal government guidelines which a 1997 Bringing Them Dwelling report believed eliminated at least a hundred,000 Aboriginal children from their mom and dad.

“As a nation, it is one thing that is section of the history and we’ve bought to study with it and have an understanding of it,” Morey states. “But what kind of mental wellbeing troubles has this caused to men and women all throughout the country? This is profound. There were men and women eliminated willy nilly. This was the Aboriginal local community Australia-large. This is a challenge.”

And so Morey turned a ward of the state. For six a long time he lived below the strict routine of the Australian Board of Mission’s St Mary’s Hostel in Alice Springs.

The confusion of his abduction was compounded by the reality that he only spoke Arrernte, so did not have an understanding of the peculiar language all people at St Mary’s spoke.

“I felt like I was deserted by my relatives, mainly because I considered they’d arrive whenever and I’d go dwelling,” he states. “But that didn’t happen. And so, as you get more mature, you think your relatives has missing curiosity in you, and so you go on.”

He devoted himself to studying hundreds of books to help get a manage on the English language, but in the process missing his grasp on his indigenous tongue, a consequence he seems to be again on with regret.

“If you drop your language, you drop your id. You drop who you are,” he states.

And then, in 1958, without warning or clarification, he and two other boys (Peter Butcher and Wally Gardener) were bundled into a plane and flown to Adelaide. It was one more moment of unfathomable trauma and upheaval. But this time, there were no feelings of guilt.

“Not this time. This time, I was just attempting to determine out: ‘Why are they using me? All the other children are left. Why just me and these other two fellas? Why us?’.”

It is a question he continue to cannot answer, but the go introduced him to St Francis House in Semaphore – one more Board of Mission’s dwelling charged with caring for Aboriginal boys taken from their mom and dad.

The home’s list of former people reads like a Who’s Who of considerable Indigenous figures and integrated future soccer stars, activists and artists Charlie Perkins, John Moriarty and Gordon Briscoe. Harold Thomas, who would go on to style and design the unique Aboriginal flag, was also amid their variety. As was Vince Copley, who performed soccer for Port Adelaide.

The St Francis House constructing is now known as Glanville Hall and made use of for weddings and events, but when the dwelling for Aboriginal boys shut in 1959 it left its remaining people without lodging.

Morey was amid the quickly-to-be-homeless boys photographed for a newspaper article which highlighted their plight.

Planet War II veteran Sydney Maguire and his wife Ada were residing in Gawler when they noticed the story in The Information. The couple previously experienced a few children but made the decision to take in Morey as their adopted son.


And so, the then 14-yr-aged Morey knowledgeable his third substantial upheaval. But his introduction to standard caucasian relatives everyday living continued a distressing pattern of traumatic everyday living ordeals. He experienced entered a dwelling rife with domestic violence. He remembers Sydney Macguire not as a father determine, but a lot more of a drunk and a wife basher.

“That was one thing that I in no way expected. I arrived from a dwelling exactly where there was only young children – the grownups were just men and women who arrived and advised you what to do and manager you close to. I found it tough to arrive to terms with domestic violence.”

Ada Maguire sooner or later summoned the courage to leave her abusive partner and moved with her adopted son into a home in the vicinity of the Gawler soccer oval exactly where Morey was previously creating a name for himself.

By the time he was seventeen, he experienced won two A Quality very best and fairests at Gawler Central Football Club and in 1964, two months right before his 19th birthday, was section of the initially Central District SANFL league staff.

He reckons the resilience he was pressured to study all through his childhood held him in very good stead on the footy area, exactly where he was also usually the subject of racial abuse from equally opposition gamers and supporters.

“I bought known as some awful names – but that is not gunna destroy you if they call you names,” he states. “I glance at it this way: I’m not a racist. I handle most people the way I want to be addressed and if the personal is a racist, they have a challenge. They have to get about it, not me.”

But do not the comments hurt?

“Nah, nope. I have been via all this (his traumatic childhood) so absolutely nothing any individual yells at me is heading to make any change to me.”

Mulholland and Laidlaw are equally also stalwarts at Central District. The former, an Irish immigrant, performed against Morey all through the 1963 Gawler league grand remaining, and joined him at the Pet dogs from 1968-1974. Laidlaw is a very well-identified journalist and creator in the Gawler and Barossa region, and is the Central District club historian. They were equally blown away by the fateful convert of events all through their pay a visit to to Alice Springs very last yr.

“Sonny generally talks about spirituality, not in a sloppy way, just to make you know the deep feelings that Aboriginals have for every single other and for the country,” Mulholland states.

“But we experienced a collection of coincidences … exactly where just one factor led to one more as if it was meant to happen. Possibly there was one thing deeper at engage in below. Some thing we do not have an understanding of.”

The biography is the 17th reserve Laidlaw has possibly published or co-published. Nearly all have been about activity. But he understands this story is significantly broader than basically soccer. “It was practically like Sonny’s mother Nancy was looking about our shoulder, mainly because every thing just fell into location,” he states. “I think Sonny’s story is just so particular. Sonny Morey is possibly the very best story I have been involved with in soccer.”

Sonny: Sonny Morey’s Inspirational Stolen Generation Tale, published by Robert Laidlaw and Robin Mulholland, edited by Peter Cornwall, was printed with help of a Point out Government grant. It is accessible via the Central District Football Club’s on-line retailer.

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