events, Forgotten Australians

Winlaton reunion

by Gabrielle Short (guest author) on 27 May, 2011

Gabrielle Short has organised a reunion of former inmates from the Winlaton Youth Training Centre. The reunion will take place at Open Place in Melbourne on 29 October 2011.

Gabbi has announced:

We are holding a reunion for all those who spent time in Winlaton Youth Training Centre October 29th 2011. I think this will be a great opportunity to catch up with old friends and take a trip down memory lane. I’m sure there will be plenty of interesting stories to tell good & bad. Most of us were put there for no fault of our own, most of us were only running away from the system itself that failed to care for us in other homes, some because of being exposed to moral danger, some as a result of rape, pregnancy, poverty, the list goes on. We were not the bad girls that we were lead to believe and portrayed to the public. I know a lot of girls who still to this day will talk of other homes they were in but not Winlaton because of the shame and stigma that was once attached with being in Winlaton well it’s time to hold our heads up high and be proud of who we are and the fact that we have survived and are still here to tell our stories.

25 thoughts on “Winlaton reunion”

  1. hi,
    i will be there at the reunion,

  2. i was wondering if you have any other ppl coming and should i come

  3. Hi Tracey,
    Thanks for your comments today on this post and on ‘Winlaton file photos’.

    I reckon that Gabbi would be rapt if you attended the reunion. Would you like to call her on 0419320677 or email her at ? I’m sure she’d love to hear from you.

    Congratulations Tracey – on being a survivor and a mother. I can understand why it would be difficult to trust others.

    Thanks for contributing to this website.

    With best wishes,

  4. I will be sooo there!! xxxx. Have often wondered what happened to girls that I shared a terrible time in our lives with. Unfortunately, life didn’t get any better after leaving there. Cheers xx

  5. ild rob a bank just to get there, but if i did that ild get caught lol. have a good day,geez it feels like a family reunion .

  6. Anne life didn’t get better and I too wonder what happened to most people. But the ones who are around now seem to think they are better than some of us and exlude others from thier clicky little group. Hard to believe they are Winnie girls. Must be a different breed/cut throat. Looks like it’s all about trying to assume some sort of power/trip and get what they can while the rest of us are shut out and get not even a hello, welcome.

  7. Hi Colleen & Tracey if you would like to come to the reunion you are more than welcome. My contact details are at the top of this page please ring and confirm so we know how many people to cater for. Hi Marilyn I’m not sure who you are referring to here, this whole reunion event has been opened to all those who spent time in Winlaton no body has been discriminated against everybody that has contacted me has given me thier details and have been sent an invite. It certainly wasn’t me you have contacted because I remember every girl that has rung or emailed me regarding the reunion. As far as the facebook group is concerned we have had some fake profiles wanting to join and when asked if they were in Winlaton we got some very strange answeres which I wont go into on here. My details are at the top of the page feel free to contact me at any time. cheers Gabbi

  8. I found this page by accident & what a lot of memories came flooding back, good & bad. A reunion, who would of thought. I see the reunion is on very soon and rsvp date has been & gone, so I hope it is a great get-together for all involved.

  9. i will be attending the reunion on the 29th of October 2011 thank you for the invitation. What a great chance to catch up and maybe we will get some closure. mixed emotions.

    Regards Marlene Hickey.
    p.s Thanks very much Gabby for the phone call. 🙂

  10. Hi, I was in Winlaton in the 90’s. I have an aunt that was there in the 60’s I think. It was very different than what alot of you have experienced. I am so sorry for what happened to you all. I was there when they had started to shut things down. For me it was truly a turning point in my life. I still have contact with the a couple of the Youth Workers. I live not to far from where Winnie was. It is now a very up market real estate area. Just wondering if there is a group or something that I can join.

    Take Care
    Rach xxxx

  11. Your welcome Marlene it was great chatting to you. Lois it is not too late if you want to come just contact me on the above phone number and let me know so I can add your name to the list. cheers hope to see you both at the reunion.

  12. Hi Rachael thanks for your reply. You would have to be one our youngest and most probably would be in the group of girls who were there when Winlaton was closing down. I have recieved calls from 2 ladies that were the first to enter Winlaton back in 1956 they will be coming to the reunion. We also have ladies that were also there in the late 50’s then we have the 60’s 70’s 80’s and now with you we have covered the 90’s. My phone has been running hot since I put the add in Desperately Seeking column on Sunday. It was great to listen to so many of the girls stories some are still finding it difficult to deal with, some are now relieved that it is coming out into the open. By the time you got there Rachael a lot had changed thank goodness for that, I know while I was there there were a few people who worked there that were trying to change things from the inside and got the ball rolling, I also got calls from some of these people saying that they did not like what they were seeing happening to a lot of these young girls and what happened in there should never of happened. Any way I wont go on, but I do hope you can come to the reunion it looks like it could be a good turn out, I am just going to go along without too many expectations and just go with the flow.

  13. When I first entered Winbirra the remand section I was made to strip off and stand naked while they scanned my body for scars or tattoos. The reason for this was that we were looked on as criminals and this was a way of identifying us in case we committed any other crimes. Mind you I had never committed a crime in my whole life but my crime to them was running away from another institution. In fact if you were a ward of the state and had run away that was considered a crime in those days and you were automatically put in 48 hours lock with a mattress on the floor with a pot. Running away was our way of escaping from the abuse and torture that was being dished out to us in the other homes. So instead of trying to find out why we were doing this they punished us by putting us in jail. They can use whatever words they like but it was a jail for children and we were treated as adult criminals. I spent my whole childhood in institutions from when I was 8 weeks old, so what does that say about the system. It was the system that raised me so how was it that if this system was so good how the hell did many of us end up in jail.

  14. I would like to say thanks to Gabbi for all the work she has done to get this reunion of the ground.To some it will be a healing process,and for others it will be a chance to meet up with old mates that they spent their teenage years with.For myself,I doubt if there would be many there from my time in Winnie,but one never knows,I may be wrong.I want you all to have a wonderful day,and hope that all works out well for you all.

  15. looking forward to reuinion sat , i was at winlaton from 63 to 64 not good memories at all was 14 and pregnant at the time spent a bit of my stay in goonyah remember the slits in the doors bad memories of matron somerset and others remember k. sisters and little angie cant remember last name hope i bump into someone i remember . if not doesnt matter , we all have the memortes good not many and bad . see you sat gaby thank you all for doing this for the girls elaine

  16. And thankyou to you Lyn for your kind words and encouragement over the past few months you have been a pillar of strength. Glad you can make it down for the reunion. I’m getting really excited now looks like we are going to have a big turn out. See you on the day. xoxo

  17. I was the youngest girl to be admitted to Winbirra, (the Remand section of Winlaton) in December 1968, this was to become the first Christmas of four that I spent inside the walls of Winlaton. This first remand was to then become one of the longest times recorded, being 9 months before I was finally made a Ward of the State.
    The system struggled to cater to my needs, I was sent home to a sexually abusive father and a mother who was more interested in her extramarital affairs than her daughter. So the cycle of running away from home and placing myself in moral danger became the norm as I felt safer and properly cared for whilst residing at Winlaton.
    I wasn’t a “bad” girl just a girl screaming out for help but in a system that did not acknowledge or have the resources to offer help to me.
    At the age of fifteen I was finally released, to a foster family where I spent 6 months in a home that demonstrated a loving caring environment, something I had never experienced whilst living in the wider community.
    I eventually went home to my family, again this was not the wisest of decisions but all I ever wanted was my mothers love. I left soon after realising the folly of this move and left home never to return to reside under the same roof as my family.
    Whilst in my early 20′s I went back to Winlaton and became involved in the Triad Program and the Winlaton Support Program. This provided me with a sense of purpose and that the years I spent in Winlaton had some meaning.
    Many years later in my early 30′s I started working in residential houses as a youth worker and 20 years later I can happily say I have had a rich and fulfilling career. I never dwelt on my past, however, I used it to remember how I felt when I heard the keys turning in the door when we were locked in our bedrooms for the night, this created a wonderful sense of empathy however I never shared my past with the youth I worked with as I believed they had their own issues to deal with. I have not regretted my past as this has made me the person I am today.
    I am very disappointed that I missed the reunion at Winlaton as this would have been the equivalent of my high school reunion given the years I resided there. I have very fond memories.
    If there is another opportunity to have a reunion I would love to be involved.

  18. Institionalized there were quite a few who spent a lot of time in Winbirra, one who was at the reunion spent 2yrs she would of been in there the same time as you 68-70 another one 18mths 68-69 you may remember them. It was an awful long time to spend in that place as a young girl. I spent 3 and half years straight all up 70-73 so our paths may of crossed.

  19. Hello all just thought I’d let you all know the Winlaton reunion was a great success. As each one walked through the door looking a little apprehensive not sure what to expect, within minutes of meeting the other girls all the nerves just melted away, everybody got on so well, even those who were not in thier at the same time talked with each other as though they had known each other all thier lives, it was so full of warmth love and laughter, and we even had one girl scale the fence for old time sake, it was hilarious. This would have to be the best and funniest reunion I have ever been too. And its on again next year the last weekend in October, so hope to see a lot more there. And a few more absconding over the fence. cheers 🙂

  20. Yay Gabrielle!

    I am so pleased that it went well. Thank you for posting your invite on this website and for letting us know how it went.

    Now, can I nag you for photos of the reunion? By Friday 11 November, so I can get them up before I leave the Museum when the exhibtion “Inside” opens? I mean, no pressure or anything….If that is not a ridiculous ask, you can email them to me at:

    (And of course I respect and appreciate that some former Winlaton women may not want their identity and image to be made public)

    Best wishes,

  21. Thanks Adele and also thanks for allowing me to post the invitation on the site. I will message the Winnie girls and ask if any have any objections to having the photo’s on the Musuem site. The one’s that are ok about it I will send only with them in it. Will get back to yo soon.

Comments are closed.