by Adele Chynoweth on 14 May, 2019
The blog is now closed. Thank you for trusting the National Museum to tell your history. Continue reading “Fare thee well …”
by Adele Chynoweth on 14 May, 2019
The blog is now closed. Thank you for trusting the National Museum to tell your history. Continue reading “Fare thee well …”
by Adele Chynoweth on 16 November, 2011
Inside: Life in Children’s Homes and Institutions opened 15 November, 2011 at the National Museum of Australia, Canberra. Here are some photographs from the event, taken by George Serras. Continue reading “Photos from “Inside” opening”
by Andrew Murray (guest author) on 14 November, 2011
“Institutional abuse does not stop when we age out of the system”. Former Senator Andrew Murray shares the essay that he co-authored with Dr Marilyn Rock The Enduring Legacy of Growing up in Care in 20th Century Australia. Continue reading “The Enduring Legacy”
by Adele Chynoweth on 7 November, 2011
The blog will be closed on November 16, 2011 the day that the exhibition Inside: Life in Children’s Homes and Institutions is open at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra. Last day for sending posts for the Inside website is 9 November.
Comments and responses can be made up close of business November 16, 2011.
by Rupert Hewison (guest author) on 25 October, 2011
Former Child Migrant Rupert Hewison writes about a birthday phonecall from his mother, received while he was at St Faith’s Home, Surrey, England, in the 1960s.
Rupert was at St Faith’s from 1961 to 1964, before being sent to Tresca in Tasmania.
Childhood Memories of St Faiths, Fredley Park.
It was with mixed feelings I learned recently that St Faiths is no longer a children’s home. On the one hand I am glad to realise our way of caring for single parents and their children is no longer one of forced separation. On the other, a part of me is sad that the wonderful house and grounds of St Faiths no longer echo to the sounds of children playing in the old ballroom, building castles in the sandpit in the conservatory or exploring in the woods around the southern boundary of the estate.
I arrived at St Faiths in the Summer of 1961, aged 4 ½ – Harold Macmillan was Prime Minister, John F Kennedy was the new, charismatic, President across the Atlantic, pop music was beginning to shock mums and dads, and the mimosa tree in the conservatory of St Faiths smelt of something marvellous, strange and mysterious.
I slept in the boy’s room with Jamie, John, Ian and Raymond – upstairs at the front of the house over the kitchen. It was very exciting to have a television downstairs in the room between the ballroom and the conservatory. This was where (in 1963) we watched the very first episode of Dr Who, frequently hiding behind the settee at the scary bits.
A favourite pastime was playing in the woods. In the 1960’s there was still a perfectly conical bomb crater left over from the Second World War. We were forbidden to play in it but that didn’t stop us. I have lots of very fond memories of St Faiths but I would like to recall one in particular – the phone call on 20 November 1961.
It will be hard for today’s permanently connected ‘Gen Y’ with their mobile internet to realise just how primitive the telephone system was back then – in 1961 a blackberry was a scrumptious little wild fruit and a mobile was something that hanged from a ceiling.
Parental visiting was one day a fortnight and in between visits letters were permitted but not phone calls. So it was a great surprise one evening when the matron, Miss Cracknel, a large and very jolly ex-missionary back from India, came and got me out of bed. She took me to the ‘telephone room’ – the telephone was so important that it even had its own room – just inside the front door between the hallway and the loggia. The handset was big and, for a little boy’s hand, very heavy. I picked up the phone and said ‘Hello’. To my great delight I heard my mother’s voice say ‘Happy Birthday!’
I can’t remember what we talked about but it was so lovely to be speaking with my mother on my birthday. I was five and missed her so much and so wanted to be with her and have a big warm hug. In 1961 a telephone call like this at St Faiths was a very special treat. As we came to the end of the call my mother asked me ‘Can you see the moon?’ I looked out the little window. I had to stretch a long way and then I just got a glimpse of the moon so I said ‘Yes, I can see it.’ My mother’s reply lives with me to this day, she said, ‘I can see it too.’
After 45 very happy years in Australia my mother died peacefully just before Christmas in 2009 aged 82. At her graveside funeral service on a hot Australian summer’s morning, as if specially arranged, there was a very beautiful moon setting in the western sky. This Christmas Season I hope you are able to make many connections with your loved ones, if not in person then perhaps you can ring and ask them, ‘Can you see the moon?’
by Adele Chynoweth on 24 October, 2011
‘Living is easy with eyes closed’, so wrote John Lennon in the song ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’, of his childhood experiences playing in the grounds of the Strawberry Field Salvation Army Children’s Home, Liverpool.
As a result of his parents’ break-up, Lennon was cared for by his Aunt Mimi and Uncle George. The Strawberry Field Salvation Army Children’s Home backed onto Mimi and George’s home.
Lennon, as a child, frequently jumped the fence and played in the grounds of Strawberry Field. Apparently, Lennon knew, due to Aunt Mimi’s kindness, that he narrowly missed being sent to the Home, hence Lennon’s affinity with the children from the Home.
It is believed that Mimi didn’t approve of Lennon playing in Strawberry Field and threatened that she would ‘hang him’ if she caught him playing there. In the song, Strawberry Fields Forever Lennon answers back with the line that the Home and the children are ‘nothing to get hung about’.
by Adele Chynoweth on 4 October, 2011
Listen to Alliance for Forgotten Australians’ Chair, Caroline Carroll, talk, on SBS Radio, about the ‘dark secret’ of Australia’s history that she argues should be included in Australia’s national curriculum.
[2020 note]: This interview was previously available on the SBS website.
Download the National Museum of Australia’s Forgotten Australians education kit (PDF 4.39MB)
by Hugh McGowan (guest author) on 30 September, 2011
Read the letter from the Superintendent of Quarrier’s Homes, Scotland to Former Child Migrant, Hugh McGowan’s mother, asking for her permission to send her son to Australia.
The envelope in the top of the image below is clearly marked “Retun to Sender”. Miss McGowan never read the letter and therefore her son was sent away without her knowledge.
by Adele Chynoweth on 22 September, 2011
NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge will move to amend the Roman Catholic Church Trust Property Act so that victims have access to just compensation.
Mr Shoebridge’s aim is to attempt to overturn the 2007 Court of Appeal decision of a previous legal case. This ‘John Ellis’ case essentially says there is no organisation called the Catholic Church at law and that the property trust that holds all the church’s assets is not liable to be sued for damages by victims of abuse.
You can read the transcript of Mr Shoebridge’s speech on the NSW Parliament website.
Read Imre Salusinszky’s 21 Sepember 2011 report ‘Greens push for sexual abuse victims’ right to sue parishes’ on The Australian website.
by Adele Chynoweth on 20 September, 2011
I have edited some contributions recently on the basis that they were not in keeping with the guidelines for this website.
The National Museum of Australia understands and appreciates that it takes great courage for those who were institutionalised, as children, to discuss publicy, their personal history. In keeping with this understanding, we will ensure that this website is safe for all those former inmates and residents.
The aim of this website is to provide a voice for those who, as children, were denied the right to speak. Whilst we welcome participation from all, publication is dependent on associated comments demonstrating respect for the range of testimonies from those who were placed in ‘care’.
The guidelines can be read on the ‘Note to contributors’ page.
Should every day be an R U OK? Day? R U OK? is a non-profit Australian organisation which aims to provide a national focus and leadership on suicide prevention.
R U OK? Day is Thursday 15 September 2011. You can read more at the R U OK? website
The National Museum of Australia has produced a resource about Forgotten Australians for teachers of History and Studies of Society. This unit has been sent to every seconday school in Australia.
Michelle Greaves shares ‘A Call for Justice’, a song recorded by her twin brother, Mark Torr. It’s dedicated to all those who spent time in Children’s Homes and Institutions. Michelle and Mark were sent to Darling Babies Home, Victoria, at the age of two and then, three years later, to Nunawading Cottage, St John’s Home for Boys and Girls.
Mark talks about ‘A Call for Justice’:
This song is a dedication to all that have endured loneliness and hardship throughout their journey from the innocence of childhood to becoming an adult.
It is a call for justice for those that suffered abuse at the hands of the very people that were charged to protect them.
This song represents a collective call for justice for one and all.
It is a recognition that many came from all walks of life, Orphanages, Foster Care, Child Migrants, and from within Church and Government institutions.
It is also dedicated to all those that have fallen along the way and no longer walk amongst us.
Stand Proud Stand Tall
Your brother your friend Mark …
by Oliver Cosgrove (guest author) on 8 August, 2011
The names of Child Migrants from Britain and Malta are included on commemorative panels erected in Fremantle by the Western Australian Museum.
More than one third of Western Australia’s population was born overseas. The Welcome Walls project pays tribute to those migrants who arrived by sea, landing at Fremantle or Albany, and to the many benefits they gave to their new home, enriching the lives of all Western Australians.
In Fremantle, over 400 panels commemorating the names of migrants who arrived through this area have been erected at the Western Australian Museum at Victoria Quay. These panels include information about Australia’s Child Migrants from Britain and Malta.
You can read details for each of the Child Migrants on the Western Australian Welcome Walls website.
by Oliver Cosgrove (guest author) on 8 August, 2011
‘We noticed that the abuses happened when the Christian Brothers were at our strongest. We were thriving in terms of vocation, power and money. The government would not dare to question us.’ Read an interview with Brother Philip Pinto, head of the Congregation of Christian Brothers, who says religious life in its traditional sense is ‘dying’.
You can access the 5 January 2011 article on the Conference of Religious India Bulletin.
by Ann McVeigh (guest author) on 2 August, 2011
‘My identity was stolen from me’. Child Migrant Ann McVeigh shares her personal history and photographs of St Joseph’s Orphanage, Subiaco (now Wembley), WA.
As a child migrant my identity was stolen from me the moment I left my home land, without my mother’s consent. The name that I was born with was changed when I was put into Nazareth House in Belfast. I came to Australia on the [SS] Asturias when I was 5 years old in 1950.
On arrival in Western Australia I was sent to St Vincent’s Foundling Home in Wembley till I turned ‘a big girl’ 6 years of age. When one turns 6 one is sent to St. Joseph’s Orphanage which was next to St Vincent’s. Once placed there I still had my name changed and the date of my birth was changed also. Right away we were given numbers to answer to, put onto our clothes and lockers, my number being number one. Straight away you were expected to work always rising at 6 am every day for prayers and Mass. Duties being – sweeping yards, cleaning toilets, washing and polishing floors in the dormitories, classrooms and long corridors on hands and knees. Children were put in charge of children to be cared for in nurseries, kindergarten and foundling home. Laundry had to be done for private boarding schools and hospitals as well. Huge big washing machines, dryers and mangles which were like oversized irons for sheets and the like. The work was relentless and very tiring.
A lot of the child migrants were, I feel, abused both physically and mentally simply because we didn’t get visitors and had no-one to report the abuses to. Girls were constantly being told that ‘from the gutters of Belfast you came and to the gutters of Belfast you’d return’. Schooling was always under duress, beltings if exam results weren’t good enough or if you couldn’t understand what was being taught. To my mind it was likened to a modern day Oliver Twist, with all the cruelty that went on.
When I was in grade 2 I was informed that I was a very lucky girl because I received a letter from my mother. I was called up to the front of the class whilst the letter was read out to me. I never ever forgot that letter and always wondered when I would get a visit from my mother who said she’d try and come to get me to take me back to Ireland. Every time the door bell would go you’d stop and wait with hope, expecting your name to be called. In the end it would be a joke – yeah she’s walking across water to get me – not ever realising my letters that you wrote were never passed on. My education ended in second year high when I was 15 ½ years. I was sent 300 miles up north to look after 5 children and help around the house. One day I was with 200 kids, the next day 5 children and 2 adults. The quietness was frightening as I missed my school pals terribly. That job lasted six months and the second job for only one month, another country job doing housework for a very nasty and cold family. I was never ever greeted the time of day – just given orders on what had to be done for the day. No payment ever received. The third country job was as a shop assistant which I really enjoyed, but after 11 months I was very upset when told I would have to go back to St. Joseph’s. When her son came to pick me up I locked myself in the bathroom until I was given an assurance that I wasn’t going back. I was sent to a juvenile detention centre which scared me somewhat when I woke up the first morning as there were bars on all the windows and I thought that I had been sent to jail.
Because I rebelled I was given a welfare officer to help me out with jobs and accommodation. It was she who got my mother’s address and encouraged me to put pen to paper. Because I was eighteen I had to correspond by mail till I was allowed to go overseas and visit the family when I turned 21. When I first started to write, my mother told my siblings (2 brothers and 4 sisters) that I was their cousin from Australia. As they were still very young and still at school, not much explanation was needed. In 1967 I met my family for the first time. Being shy, I was very nervous, wondering if I was going to be accepted, but I needn’t have worried as everything turned out well.
When my mother passed away, I took my one year old son with me to the funeral. Sadly, she was buried on my birthday. When my son was eleven, I took him over again so he could meet all his cousins. It was wonderful to see them all together, it was like he belonged and was wonderful to see.
In 1988 I bumped into a school pal and she was telling me that when she received her personal papers from the welfare department, she had a breakdown. You see, because of her Afghan heritage she was dark skinned and in her papers said, although she was a very pretty little girl, she was unsuitable for adoption. We got talking and wondered how the other girls had faired when they got files. She told the doctors that …. the treatment the girls got at the home would come out – so he went to the Wish Foundation and formed an organisation called ICAS (Institutional Child Abuse Society). We went to print and on air and received a lot of support, especially after the radio interview. We got a lot of calls from the boys who were in Clontarf, Bindoon, Tardun and Castledare, telling us about the abuse that took place. We only heard from one or two other girls that they weren’t interested and just wanted to forget. After all this happened the boys formed their own organisations and the world got to hear of the terrible treatment the migrants and Aussie kids received in the institutions of the day.
I was on the committee that erected the child migrant statue in Fremantle, outside the Maritime Museum. My partner is a child migrant also and both our names are on the Welcome Wall, very close to the migrant statue. While on the committee, submissions were invited for the Child Migrant Memorial Statue, although my poem wasn’t accepted, these are my thoughts on the very sad history of child migration.
They did not know what lay in store
holidays abroad to far distant shores.
Yet in their memories as often recalled,
brothers – sisters
and friends what’s more.
Where are the families
that they once had
Back in their homelands,
How very very sad
Thousands of children crossing the line
Holidays and memories lasting a lifetime
Ann McVeigh 29 January 2011
by Adele Chynoweth on 20 July, 2011
Journalist Neena Bhandari discusses the needs of Forgotten Australians and former Child Migrants in her article ‘Forgotten Australians demand more than apologies’.
Published on 20 July 2011 the article covers the compensation needs of Forgotten Australians and former Child Migrants, as well as their need to find family members.
[2020 note] You could previously access this article on the Rogers Digital International website.
by Leigh Westin (guest author) on 14 July, 2011
Leigh Westin, who grew up in Scarba House and Parramatta Girls Home, is creating a memorial entitled No More Silent Tears for Forgotten Australians. The memorial is comprised of a large panel of handkerchiefs sewn together, each decorated by those who spent time in a Children’s Home or institution.
If you experienced institutional or out-of-home ‘care’ and would like to contribute to this memorial, then on a lady’s-sized handkerchief embroider and/or write in ink, your name, the name of the institutions(s) and the year(s) that you lived there. Please feel free to decorate it however you wish, so that it will be suitable for people of all ages to view. The important thing is that you only use a lady’s handkerchief so that Leigh can easily sew them together. You may, of course, make a handkerchief in order to remember a Forgotten Australian or former Child Migrant who has passed away.
You can then post it to:
National Museum of Australia
GPO Box 1901
Canberra ACT 2601
Adele will then pass the handkerchiefs onto Leigh. Please make sure that your contribution reaches Adele by close of business Friday 12 August, 2011.
Below are some of the handkerchiefs that have already been made.
by Oliver Cosgrove (guest author) on 12 July, 2011
Read the Catholic ‘Record’ newspaper’s report of the arrival of young Oliver Cosgrove, one of 65 children on board the SS ‘New Australia’ in 1953.
Oliver, aged four, and pictured on the right in the image below, was recruited from Nazareth House, London for the voyage. The ‘New Australia’ arrived on 22nd February 1953.
The report below is from the Perth Catholic newspaper, The Record, Thursday 26 February, 1953.
The photographs below were taken of the 1952 Christmas party at Nazareth House Hammersmith, London. One month later, some of these children boarded the ‘New Australia’.
A child migrant saw the photos on the noticeboard, removed them and brought them with her to Australia.
by Oliver Cosgrove (guest author) on 7 July, 2011
The passenger ship the City of Benares, carrying 90 children evacuated to Canada from Liverpool, was torpedoed by U-boat, U-48 on 13 September 1940. Only 13 children survived.
The children were temporary evacuees and not Child Migrants. Nevetheless, the incident demonstrates the danger of sea voyages during World War Two. The Wartime Memories Project would like to hear from anyone who has any connections with the City of Benares.
Read more on the Wartime Memories Project – City of Benares website.
by Patrick O’Flaherty (guest author) on 1 July, 2011
Patrick O’Flaherty arrived in Australia in 1947 thinking he was a war orphan and not knowing that his mother was alive in England. Read Patrick’s contribution to ‘Where’s the fair go? The decline of equity in Australia’, for more on his life in Australia, his shaky reunion with his mother and reconnecting with his family in Wales and Ireland.
Patrick was eight when he arrived on the SS Asturias.
Download Patrick’s ‘The orphan who unorphaned himself’ (PDF 262kb) from Where’s the Fair Go? The Decline of Equity in Australia, edited by Ian Rae and published by Delegate Productions Books in 2003.
by Adele Chynoweth on 20 June, 2011
ABC-TV’s 7.30 program reports on the court action of former students of Fairbridge Farm School, Molong, against the Fairbridge Foundation, state and Federal governments, for turning a blind eye on years of abuse.
You can access the recording of the report on the 7.30 website.
You can read more of the experiences of living at Fairbridge in David Hill’s book The Forgotten Children: Fairbridge Farm School and its Betrayal of Britain’s Child Migrants to Australia.
This is the sign of Fairbridge Farm School at its original site in Molong, NSW. This sign will be displayed at the National Museum’s exhibition Inside: Life in Children’s Homes, which opens in Canberra on 16 November 2011.
by Rupert Hewison (guest author) on 10 June, 2011
A letter from the mother of former Child Migrant Rupert Hewison outlines her ‘terrible shock’ at moving to Tasmania to be closer to her son, only to find her visits limited to once a month. The Senate Report on Forgotten Australians (2004) noted that visits from family members were ‘keenly anticipated’ but ‘highly regulated in many institutions’.
The letter from Rupert’s mother to Tresca principal Mr Richmond reads:
C/o Police Department,
7th January, 1965.
Dear Mr. Richmond,
I have today received your letter of 5th January, contents of which are noted.
I am afraid the news of my only seeing John once a month came as a terrible shock to me. When I spoke to Miss Hall (Secretary of Fairbridge in London) last year she thought I would be able to see John once a week.
When I told her I saw him once a fortnight she said “I shouldn’t think it would be less than that” in a very definite manner. However, this of course, was only verbal. In all sincerity I would say, however, that I would definitely not have come to Tasmania if I had thought I would only see John once a month. My whole idea of coming here was to be with him more often. Perhaps the decision could be reconsidered?
I have John’s school books with me as I was going to give them back to him next time I saw him, which I anticipated would be Saturday week (16th).
by Adele Chynoweth on 8 June, 2011
An X-ray scan of a leather strap made by Bill Brennan, who grew up in Clontarf Boys’ Town, WA, shows internal metal reinforcements inserted to give the strap more strength.
Bill made this strap when aged in his 50s as a copy of the the same straps he was required to make, at the age of 12, for the Christian Brothers. The X-ray image shows the metal reinforcements included to give the strap more strength when used to hit children.
by Adele Chynoweth on 3 June, 2011
The state of redress in Western Australia for Forgotten Australians and former Child Migrants was covered by SBS on 1 June 2011.
The story was previously on the SBS website but has been archived.