articles/lectures, documents, Forgotten Australians, memories

Medical testing on children

by Tom Thompson (guest author) on 12 July, 2011

The University of Melbourne, in 2009, acknowledged its prior use of children in orphanages as human guinea-pigs in medical research. Read Tom Thompson’s recollections of men in white coats giving him injections at a Children’s Home in Parkville, VIC.

Tom, who never owned a picture of himself when he was a child, received the image below just four years ago.

I’ve two scars on my left arm from medical testing of the antigen vaccination for the seed Salk Polio vaccine, done in the late 1950’s.

I don’t know the actual dates in which the different injections were given, as I’d never been to school or known what it meant for days of the week, months or years. I do however remember the events due to the pain and distress we endured.

I vividly remember being lined up before the men in white coats who came and gave the injections which blistered and caused so much pain.

Our life in the homes was strictly regimented and having strange men in white coats was something not to be forgotten.

I spent nearly 6 years in the Victorian Children’s Aid Society home at Parkville Victoria. Just across the road from Melbourne University and the Eliza institute in the same street of Parkville. Both institutions were involved in advanced medical research at that time utilising institutionalised children as guinea pigs. 

Both institutions have acknowledged their culpability in this research and publically apologised, however like Dr Joseph Mengele who experimented on children in the concentration camps and was on the wanted list for (for over 40 years) and the Nuremberg trials over his barbaric experimentation on children, he escaped capture and prosecution and lived out his life in South America.

I believe these institutions and CSL [Commonwealth Serum Laboratories] should be tried for what they’ve done. Under law there is no statue of limitations on culpable homicide. The vaccine used in the early tests was contaminated and known to cause cancer and other health problems.

Some of the original ‘seed’ polio viruses that had been originally obtained from Salk laboratories in the United States of America in 1955 and used to manufacture Australian polio vaccines tested positive to being contaminated with SV40, and yet was still manufactured and utilised by these organisations on children.

Tests in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s confirmed that SV40 was potentially carcinogenic.

I live each day not knowing when or if I will fall victim to some unknown disease.

Governments, medical institutions and health authorities all shout loudly how we should trust them, as they know best, but like Joseph Mengele, the people time and places change, but things really stay the same.

The photo is me at an age I don’t know, it was given to me by Professor John Swan 4 years ago, and was taken at the home in Parkville. The Swan family took me out of the home for weekend visits over a number of years. The photo was taken by Dr Ailsa Swan (who has since died).

Black and white photograph of a young boy standing on a swing.
The photo is me at an age I don’t know, it was given to me by Professor John Swan 4 years ago, and was taken at the home in Parkville. The Swan family took me out of the home for weekend visits over a number of years. The photo was taken by Dr Ailsa Swan (who has since died).


‘Melbourne Uni says sorry for trial on orphans’ 2009 report on The Age website

‘Polio vaccine tested at orphanages’ 2004 report  on the Age website

‘Institutions, the convenient laboratories’ 1997 report on the Age website. This article won the Melbourne Press Club Quill Award.

‘Vaccines tested on Australian orphans’ as reported in The Independent, UK, in 1997.

3 thoughts on “Medical testing on children”

  1. Tom this is really horrifying. In the institution I was in we got no medical attention at all–except I do remember several girls having all their teeth removed because the Welfare thought it cheaper than fixing them. But medical experimentation! I feel indignant on your behalf. But don’t let the idea of carcinogens eat at you, turn it into revealing as much as you can find out. We can get sick from holding this stuff in.
    I send you my support and best wishes

  2. Hi, Tom,

    Thankyou for your information on vaccine experiements 12/7/11.

    I believe vaccine experiements were performed on children in orphanages all over Australia not just Victoria. Not only vaccine experiements but behavioural experiements on psychological traumas produced by various drugs they were experiementing on and electric shock treatment which was used extenstively for erasing memory from theses experiements and also other forms of psychological abuse.

    Psychiatrists were doing theses experiements on F.As have a lot to answer for, for all the abuse they caused to F.As and the government that allowed this to happen. As Prime Minister Menzies in the 50s stated theses children are not wort investing in, this literally gave Psychiatrists and others free range to do what ever they liked and carry on what ever experiements as Psychiatrists Uwen Cameron and Harry Baily of the “deep sleep therapy” procedures also did. Uwen Cameron and Harry Baley were exposed but many other Psychiatrists doing simular experiements have not yet been exposed.
    The various gov. who know all about these experiements have kept very quiet about it as usual, but people are comming forward and exposing them.

    If Premier Anna Bligh or P.M Julia Gillard were abuse like F.As wrere in their childhood, they would screem blue murder and demand great payments of compensation AGREED.
    If I had purposely run over Anna Bligh in my car when she was 13 yrs old , causing her a lot of pain and trauma and severily restricting her ability to further her education work prospects for the rest of her life , and then 40 yrs later because of media exposa I made a show and said sorry and nothing else, that would be the exact similar situation that had occured with F.As. Yet all the abuse they suffered at the hands of Psychiatrists and others no one is offering any compensation of and significance.
    If the shoe was on the other foot they would demand compensation, but as it stands they seem to have the same mind set as PM menzies.

  3. I spent somewhere around 3 years at Leonard st, (V.C.A.S.) from 3 to 6 years old, it was my second home out of eventually 5. I’ve had a few questions about this place, including to my horror this mention of injections, and ‘men in white coats’. Till I had read this, I like many have tried to put these events down and move on, & I was doing OK till the 04 report and obtaining my family paperwork. I’m now 62 years old, still wondering and still horrified with what my memory has to say about the times all those years ago. Yes’ if the shoe was on the other foot there would be an enormous noise about this stuff: I’ve spent the last few years studying and writing about the consequence of our upbringings and conditions, If anyone wants to tell me we came away unscathed at adulthood from these ‘covert’ clinical trials with unquantified substances shot into us, bring it on.

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