Grandmother’s Darwin-Sydney exodus during World War II celebrated in Aboriginal school curriculum

80 years ago, a little girl was just 10 when she and 94 other Stolen Generation Aboriginal children fled Croker Island when the nearby town of Darwin was bombed by the Japanese during World War II .

Disclaimer: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that this article contains the names and images of deceased persons.

Nida Lowe was taken from her family in the Barkly area of ​​the Northern Territory in the late 1930s as a child and spent time at the Kahlin compound in Darwin before being moved to a mission on Croker’s Island, northeast of Darwin.

When Darwin was bombed in 1942, missionary Margaret Somerville helped the children flee the island and travel 5,000 kilometers in 44 days to Sydney by boat, foot, train and truck.

After the war they returned to Croker Island, and it is believed that around the early 1950s Mrs Lowe moved to Darwin, later moving to Katherine.

Nida Lowe reunited with Margaret Somerville later in life.(Provided: Rosemary Ward)

After having two children in Darwin, Ms Lowe eventually had 10 more children.

She sadly passed away in 2009 before some of her grandchildren, including Abbey and Hudson Ward, got to know her.

But now they honor his legacy and proudly share his story.

An image of Nida Lowe sitting with her grandson Hudson in her lap, holding her hands and smiling
Hudson said he only had vague memories of his late grandmother when he was young.(Provided: Rosemary Ward)

Family stories passed down

Hudson, 17, has only vague memories of his grandmother as he was so young when she died.

“Mom and dad took us as kids to the territory whenever they could, so we could get to know mom’s side of the family,” he said.

“My mother always shared stories with us explaining what Nanna did with other people on this journey and showed her incredible resilience.”

A close-up image of Nida Lowe
Nida Lowe was born in 1932.(Provided: Rosemary Ward)

Together with her 13-year-old sister Abbey, the couple created a painting of their grandmother’s journey showing the path she traveled across the continent for an NAIDOC exhibition at their school, West Moreton Anglican College.

“To show how far she’s come as a kid my age,” Abbey said.

She said she was glad the school made an effort to celebrate their grandmother’s story.

“My Nanna is such an integral part of my family’s culture and it’s really good to hear that people care about her story because it’s really important to me,” Abbey said.

Abbey (left) and Hudson (right) in school uniforms, holding artwork in front of the table with more artwork on Nida Lowe
Abbey and Hudson Ward said they were proud to share their grandmother’s legacy with their schoolmates.(Provided: West Moreton Anglican College)

Hudson said it felt good to share her grandmother’s story of resilience with her classmates.

“It makes me happy that they’re learning about it,” he said.

Hudson also learned “meaningful words” from her grandmother’s language, Wambaya, for an oral performance at her school during her NAIDOC celebrations.


“We learned the words ‘light’ and ‘together’, light being lajarri and together, barlagga,” he said.

“It’s pretty good to learn more about my grandmother and her culture.”

At the college, innovator in learning from Indigenous perspectives Phyillis Marsh, a MaMu woman of the Mundubarra people, leads the college’s approach to integrating First Nations knowledge and culture into the curriculum.

Her work includes facilitating weekly cultural lessons and a leadership program for First Nations students.

“As part of the preparation for the experience, we went to the WestMAC grounds and used ocher to paint our skin while wearing our school uniforms for taking pictures and for the performance.”

* The ABC was granted permission to use the person’s name and likeness by his daughter.

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