by Christine Harms (guest author) on 3 November, 2011
Christine Harms is performing at the National Museum of Australia as part of Music to Remember, 16 November, 2011. This concert starts at 11am and has been scheduled to acknowledge the second anniversary of the National Apology to Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants.
Hear her latest recording of her original song Give it Up, dedicated to Al ‘Crow’ Fletcher, the author of Brutal: Surviving Westbrook Boys Home by Al Fletcher as told to Cheryl Jorgensen.
‘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’.
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 …
Singer/songwriter Christine Harms was admitted to Nazareth House, Wynnum, Queensland at the age of three and left when she was 13. Her original song On Eagle’s Wings, recorded in Nashville, Tennessee, USA, is a reflection on her experiences in the Home.
[2020 note: audio file no longer available]
See another of Christine’s tracks, Street Angel, on YouTube
Alan Bowles, who grew up in a Salvation Army Home, shares ‘Forgotten’, the song he wrote and performed at the unveiling of the Victorian memorial to Forgotten Australians, in Melbourne on 25 October 2010.
Sinead O’Connor’s This is to Mother You was played at the Healing Service and Memorial Dedication to the Forgotten Australians of NSW, 19 September 2009. Sinead at the age of 15 was placed in Grianán Training Centre run by the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity.
You can access a live clip of the song at YouTube.
Australian country singer, Harold “Buddy” Williams (1918 – 1986) was born in Sydney and was placed in Glebe Point Orphanage. He tried to escape many times and was eventually fostered out to a farming family in Dorrigo, NSW. It soon became apparent to him that the foster care arrangement was a means for the family to secure his unpaid labour. At the age of 15, Buddy ran away from his foster family and took up a series of jobs including busking along the north coast of NSW. When he later arrived in Sydney, he successfully auditioned for EMI and secured a recording contract.
Bonney discusses the historical background to her film and the notion of “asylum”:
The Female Factory was built in 1818 adjacent to the Colonial Government domain on land bounded to the south by a curve in the Parramatta River. It was a large site over a number of hectares and had been previously owned by Bligh and Marsden. The Factory was the brainchild of Governor Macquarie who in his concerns for the safety of the women and children of the colony recommended that a place be built to provide safe refuge for them. It was not long until the idealised safe refuge of Macquarie’s vision changed into a place of detention, incarceration and punishment.
Macquarie’s Female Factory building was partly demolished in 1885, some of its structure was incorporated into the now Institute of Psychiatry building at Cumberland Hospital. The main area where it once stood is now called the Deadyard an area of land bounded by the high stone walls of the Factory. By 1848 the Factory had been declared a place for paupers and lunatics.
In 1841 an orphanage was built on the drying grounds adjacent to the Factory, in an attempt to provide safe accommodation for the factory women’s children. It became known as the Roman Catholic Orphan School (RCOS).The premises of the Roman Catholic Orphan School were resumed by the NSW Government in 1886 and it ceased to function as an orphanage. Theories emerging from the Industrial Revolution shaped attitudes of the day which lead to the establishment of a Training and Industrial School on the site.
Between 1886 and 1983 it would go through many name changes each reflecting the social policy and attitudes of the day. What did not change over this ninety seven year period was the day to day life experienced by the inmates of the institution. In 1980 management of a section of the site was transferred to the Department of Corrective Services and it continues to operate as the Norma Parker Correctional Centre for Women.
Born as a disciplinary society, Australia was colonized during the period of the Industrial Revolution. It was a place of banishment for the displaced population of an English revolution that was fought not by using the gun or guillotine, but the more insidious instrument of control, reason and its progeny, science, in the interests of economy, made animate through morality and exercised by the judiciary.
It was within this climate that Governor Macquarie commissioned Francis Greenway to build Australia’s first institution of confinement the Female Factory at Parramatta in1821. In Macquarie’s correspondence1 we can read of his genuine concern for the welfare of the women and children of the settlement and of his ambition to create a place of safety where women would not have to prostitute themselves in order to get food and a roof over their head.
The Female Factory was Australia’s first social experiment to create a self contained, self supporting institution where the values of hard work would be rewarded with liberation from penal servitude to that of social respectability. As the stone walls surrounding the site grew in height so did the attitudes to its occupants, now inmates, change. They became woman who no longer needed protection but the depraved that the emerging free settler society had to protect themselves from. It became a place where idleness would not be tolerated. Its purpose had been endowed by the history of the institution of confinement to house the poor, unemployed, idle, criminal and mad women of the colony – a place that would shape Australian attitudes towards women as either damned whores or God’s police.
It was upon this site that the system of rewards and punishment of the institutions of confinement of the early 19th century would remain un-challenged until the early 1980’s and from where, in the Australian thought-system, cultural images and conceptions of ‘rottenness and taint’ would be associated with particular groups.
Although few remnants of the original Factory building exist, its legacy lives on in the lives of people who have experienced the so called ‘care’ of the institution. The experiences of these people, the Forgotten Australians, can be traced back to 17th century Europe, to the establishment of the Hopital General in Paris and to the workhouses of Great Britain.
From 1821 to the present day every type of institution of confinement has been located on the Factory site; an orphanage, a training school, a psychiatric hospital and a prison.
Perhaps in our current political climate, where the meaning of asylum has shifted emphasis to that of the refugee, the asylum seeker, we will come to realize that their experience of the institution of confinement- the detention centres – are no different to that of those in other institutions established to provide a place of so called sanctuary in both contemporary and historical terms. Attention to their plight may present an opportunity to question where our attitudes and beliefs about those who we place in such institutions actually originated from and more importantly bring about a change in our thinking.
“Life is more important than art. That’s what makes art so important”. – John Malpede.
Leanne Hawkins’ mother was placed in a Catholic Girls Orphanage in Bathurst. Leanne was also placed in care. Her song Momma was selected in the final 20 at Tamworth’s Capital Country Music Songwriting Competition 2009.
Graham Evans dedicates his latest track, ‘Sorry is Just a Word’ to Forgotten Australians, former Child Migrants and members of the Stolen Generation. Music and lyrics by Graham Evans with Jeff Ferguson on lead guitar.
by Will Carroll (guest author) on 21 December, 2009
Will Carroll is a folk singer–song writer from Texas who wrote and recorded the following song, ‘Magpies’, to honour Forgotten Australians.
Lyrics for ‘Magpies’
Out of sight out of mind, forget about them, we don’t want you here… We are one… but we are many… and from all the states in Oz we come… I am, I am. You are the magpies that fly above it all… Fly to show us all you fly on, you fly on…
Bad motivation to solve the situation, it was manipulation to hide you away… To send you down under to save us the shame, of our failures, just shift the blame. I am, I am. You are the magpies that fly above it all… Fly to show us all you fly on, you fly on…
And now to say you’re sorry, only says you waited too long, hoping no one would remember. But from all the states in Oz we come, we share a dream, and sing with one voice… I am, I am. You are the magpies that fly above it all… Fly to show us all you fly on,you fly on… Fly to show us all you fly on, you fly on… Fly to show us all you fly on, you fly on…