events, Forgotten Australians

Join the Forgotten Australians

by Wilma Robb (guest author) on 2 November, 2011

Join the Forgotten Australians’ rally in Canberra on the second anniversary of the  National Apology to Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants.

When: Wednesday 16th of November 2011 at 8.30am

Where: Meet in Civic Square outside the ACT Legislative Assembly, off London Circuit, Civic

Who are Forgotten Australians? They are approximately 500,000 Indigenous, non-Indigenous and former Child Migrant adults who were incarcerated as children in church, charity and state run orphanages, reformatories, training schools, psychiatric hospitals, children’s homes and in foster care during the 20th century from the 1930s – 1990s.

  • Commemorate the apology: On the 16th of November 2009, the Australian Parliament formally acknowledged and apologised for the ongoing trauma the Forgotten Australians still suffer today as a result of the abuse – sometimes criminal – and neglect of duty of care they experienced as children.
  • Meet with Federal and ACT politicians to discuss the issues affecting Forgotten Australians and children in care today (past and present). These include better access to social and health services and better protection of children who are currently in state care today.
  • Speakers: Forgotten Australian John Murray and Senator Gary Humphries.
  •  Visit and celebrate the opening day of the Forgotten Australians exhibition ‘INSIDE: Life in Children’s Homes’ at the National Museum of Australia after the gathering at the Legislative Assembly, for Music to Remember by Forgotten Australians.

Please RSVP by Friday 11 November to admin@wchm.org.au or 6290 2166.

This event is supported by the Women’s Centre for Health Matters Inc. (WCHM), Woden Community Services Inc., and Women and Prisons (WAP). For more information please contact WCHM on  (02) 6290 2166.

A green circular badge. Centre text reads 'National Apology. Forgotten Australians. 16th November 2011. 2nd Anniversary 2011. Text in outer circle reads 'Justice, Quality of Life. Compensation. Dignity. Join in Canberra.'
documents, events, Forgotten Australians, memories

Apology for forced adoptions?

by Wilma Robb (guest author) on 26 July, 2011

Catholic Health Australia chief executive officer Martin Laverty says that he is prepared to apologise to the victims of forced adoptions, according to a recent report.

You can read the 25 July 2011 article on The Daily Telegraph website.

Another report on the ABC News website discusses responses to Archbishop Barry Hickey’s comments regarding adoption.

articles/lectures, Child Migrants, Forgotten Australians

Forgotten Australians demand more than apologies

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.

art, Child Migrants, events, Forgotten Australians, memories, objects, Responding to the National Apology, Stolen Generations

No more silent tears #2

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:
Adele Chynoweth
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.

articles/lectures, documents, events, Forgotten Australians, memories

‘Journey of Hope’

by Adele Chynoweth on 14 July, 2011

Listen to an interview with Dr Michael Davey, former ward of the state and author of ‘Journey of Hope’, on ABC Radio National.

Dr Davey recalled his experiences in foster care and at Royleston Boys Home in Sydney during an interview on the ‘Life Matters’ program on 14 July 2011.

Download the ‘Journey of Hope’ interview on the ABC website.

Journey of Hope is published by Arkhouse Books.

 

Journey of Hope
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).

More

‘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.

Forgotten Australians, memories

Eulogy of Christiana Imelda Ramsey

by Leicester Ramsey (guest author) on 24 June, 2011

‘Christiana, in our eyes you were a success’, said Leicester about his mother at her funeral. Leicester’s eulogy is an account of his history and a tribute to Christiana. It also offers insights into how children were institutionalised in Australia.

Eulogy of Christiana Imelda Ramsey

Christiana Imelda Ramsey was born on 26th December, 1925 in St. Murdock’s Terrace, Ballina, County Mayo, Eire. She grew up in Limerick. Her parents were, Tom Daly and Mary Daly nee Hayes. Christiana’s parents eloped when her mother Mary was only 16 years old and they were married in England in 1920. Her grandfather, Pat Hayes, never forgave his favourite daughter, Mary and never spoke to Mary or her children for the rest of his life. He never forgave them for eloping, even when Christina’s mother Mary was ill in bed for nine years dying at the age of only 43.

Christiana always loved her mother and missed her for the rest of her life. She would often recall many fond memories of her time with her mother.

Christiana would recall visiting her grandfather’s farm at Palace Green for holidays between the ages of 4 to 8. She had been told she was not to talk to her grandfather, or even wave to him when he was watching from the window.

Christiana was one of 10 children: 6 girls 4 boys. Her father, Tom Daly, a mechanic by trade, was one of the founders of the original IRA. He was a TD, which is a member of the Republic of Ireland Parliament. He was also involved in the 1930-31 riots in Ireland. He drove the first bus in Dublin and also raced cars.

Christiana met many famous people in her life, including de Valera at the age of 5 and Michael Collins.

Christiana was proud to tell all those who would listen, how she sang in the St Johns Cathedral choir, Limerick at the ordination of a bishop.

At the age of 15 Christiana left home to start work doing cleaning jobs and errands for well to do families. After several years, she decided it was time to look for husband. She advertised in the paper and received many offers. These included a jockey.  She decided to meet a Mr Harold Franklin Ramsey, a wealthy self made man who was looking for a house keeper, not a wife. On meeting him she accepted a job with him and over time they fell in love, a love that was to last the rest of her life. Even though there was a 33 year age difference between them. Sadly, he died when Christiana was in the prime of her life. She never remarried nor had a partner, because of her love for Mr Ramsey.

They were married twice, once in 1946 Royal Court England and in 1951 on Jersey in the Channel Islands.

Christiana and Mr  Ramsey, as she often called him, travelled the world. They lived in Ireland, France, Switzerland, Ceylon, Jamaica and Jersey. They had 6 children and were internationalists before it was common. Their children were born in various countries, Anthony in Switzerland, Alan on Jersey, Michael and Chester back in Ireland and finally, Leicester and Malcolm in Australia.

After living and running a business on Jersey for 5 years, Mr Ramsey, who had been told stories about Australia by his friend the BBC war time correspondent Chester Wilmot decided to emigrate. Mr Wilmot was the author of the book ‘Struggle for Europe’. They decided Australia was the place of the future. So they set of from Jersey in 1949 motoring through France, Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia, Turkey, Syria, Israel, the Holy Land, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and India. In India they visited, amongst other sites, the Taj Mahal. Christiana always said that it was one of the most beautiful sites she had ever seen. From India they went to Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, where they waited for 6 weeks to catch a boat to Fremantle, Australia. On arriving in Australia, they were greeted by a reporter from the Western Australian newspaper. They were front page news for having been the first to travel by car from England to Australia, arriving in 1954.

They arrived with 4 children, Anthony, Alan, Michael and Chester. Leicester and Malcolm were born later in Australia.

After arriving in Fremantle, they then set off across the Nullabor Plain, which was then just a dirt track, to Victoria. Then they travelled up the east coast to NSW passing through Kiama, to Sydney. Not finding what they wanted, they returned to Kiama to settle. Kiama reminded Christiana of Ireland, with the green hills.

They set about finding land to build a garage and motel which they called the Shamrock Motel. The land was purchased at Ocean View.

Later, Christiana was contacted by her sister Mary.  Mary asked if Mr Ramsey would pay the travel fares to Australia, for Mary, her husband Bill and their children so they could emigrate to Australia. Mr Ramsey and Christiana needed an assistant to run the hotel. So, they agreed, on the condition that Bill would work for Mr Ramsey until the money was paid back. Bill Wilson worked for a few months and never repaid the money owed. In fact, he not only refused to pay the money back, but 6 weeks before Mr Ramsey died, Bill Wilson, then 33 years old, attacked and punched Mr Ramsey, leading to his death soon after.

Christiana at 33 years of age was left widowed to raise 6 boys, the eldest 12 and the youngest 3 months. With no family or friends to provided support and help she was struggling to manage the running of a motel and garage. She was also struggling emotionally from her loss. Eventually, she suffered a mental break down and neglected to get all the children to school.

The authorities, concerned with the lack of attendance at school, called the police. The family property was raided, the front door was kicked in and the family dog was shot. The children were forcefully removed from Christiana. The children were then placed in the Bernardo homes at Kiama. Mary was not happy to have the children brought up in the Protestant faith of their father. Also, Mary was concerned about the environment of hate that existed between the Catholics and the Protestants in 1960s. She contacted Father Phibbs, then head of the Catholic child welfare bureau. Fr Phibbs made an application through the courts to become the guardian of the children until each one turned 16 years of age. He also had power of attorney over an estate worth in excess of 100,000 pounds. In today’s terms that would have amounted to millions of dollars. To this day, this money has never to be accounted for.

The children were then placed in St Joseph’s, St Michael’s and St Vincent’s Westmead. These unlawful acts were recently recognised when the Federal and State Governments apologised to the FORGOTTEN Generation and these children were invited to the ceremony.

Christiana in the meantime was placed in mental institutions and given shock therapy. After receiving treatment, she found work at the Australia Hotel making beds and  cleaning rooms. Later she got a job with the Catholic nuns at Rose Bay, where she was allowed to have Malcolm, her youngest son, live with her.

In 1966 she managed to rent a property in Jersey Road, Woollahra, for 6 months. This allowed Anthony, Alan, Leicester and Malcolm to live with her again … [she was] … again institutionalised.

After recovering, she again gained employment. She visited her family by walking from Sydney to Westmead. Upon arriving she was told that she had missed visiting hours and she could not see her children. Saddened, she then had to walk all the way back to Sydney.

Over the years she asked many times to be provided with money from the family estate. She wanted the money so she could buy a house and raise her children, all to no avail.

In despair, she wrote to Sir Roden Cutler, the Governor of NSW at the time. She was seeking assistance to get a housing commission house so she could raise her children. After being on a waiting list for 8 years, in December, 1969, through Sir Roden’s help, she got one in Green Valley, bringing her 3 younger children together for Christmas.

As the years rolled on, Christiana lived to see her children and grand children, grow and become successful. Although much of her life was lived in poverty, all she ever wanted to be, was a good wife and mother.

Christiana in our eyes you were a success. You were a wonderful person. You were an inspiration to us all. You were a mother to your children and a grandmother to your grand children.

You achieved your aims beyond your expectations.

You will live on in the hearts of all that knew and loved you, down through many generations.

We love you and will miss you.

God Bless You and keep you in his love.

Forgotten Australians

Forced adoption

by Adele Chynoweth on 25 May, 2011

Australia’s history of the institutionalisation of young women includes incidents of the forced adoption of babies belonging to umarried mothers. Jennifer Byrne for Network Ten’s The 7pm Project reports on the current Senate Inquiry into these former policies and practices.

[2020 note] This video was previously available on the 7pm Project website.

Forgotten Australians, memories, photography, photos

Apology from the Salvation Army

by Adele on 19 January, 2011

On 7 December, 2010, at Old Parliament House, Canberra, the international leader of The Salvation Army, General Shaw Clifton issued a national apology to former residents of Salvation Army Homes. The National Museum of Australia photographed some of those who attended the apology.

Click on photos to enlarge.

Child Migrants, Forgotten Australians, memories, photos, Responding to the National Apology, Stolen Generations

The first anniversary 2

by Cath on 14 December, 2010

On Tuesday 16 November, to mark the first anniversary of the National Apology to Forgotten Australians and former Child Migrants, ACT Forgotten Australians and Women and Prisons (WAP) marched across Commonwealth Avenue Bridge in Canberra. Here are the photographs of the event taken by George Serras, the senior photographer at the National Museum of Australia.

Click on photos to enlarge.

Forgotten Australians, objects

Protest napkin

by Adele on 18 November, 2010

Wilma Robb nee Wilma Cassidy held up this napkin in the Great Hall of Parliament House during the National Apology to Forgotten Australians and former Child Migrants on 16 November 2009.

A white napkin in-scripted with "What about children's prisons"

Wilma Robb was first admitted to Dalmar Children’s Home, New South Wales, at the age of five when her mother became ill. During her primary school years Wilma was moved within various care settings within her family, foster care and later was committed to Ormond institution for girls as ‘Uncontrollable’ and ‘Exposed to Moral danger’. At the age of 14 she ran away from Ormond and slept in a phone box in Villawood. She was gang-raped by a group of bikies. A few days later she was picked up and admitted to Parramatta Girls Home where she was diagnosed with venereal disease. She was labeled a ‘loose girl’, without investigation of the circumstances in which she acquired the disease and never talking about her rapes till in her 50s. Her ‘unsatisfactory’ behavior there led to her being sent to two periods of detention at Hay Institution for Girls.

As a teenage girl in Parramatta, Wilma, had never been charged with a criminal offence, (only a Welfare charge) was treated she believes as a de facto criminal. She was assaulted by staff (one bashing by the Superintendent resulted in her having to receive a full set of dentures at the age of 15 after her face was smashed into washbasins. Girls were internally examined to assess the ‘status’ of their virginity on arrival to Parramatta girls home and Ormond institution for girls. –. Girls who were defiant received further punishments – solitary confinement and some put on medication with the psychotropic drug Largactil.

Because of her refusal to be broken by the system, Wilma was sent, from the Parramatta Girls Home to the Hay Institution for Girls which opened in 1961-1974 as a maximum security closed institution for girls aged 13 to 18. Girls were sent to Hay despite their having committed no crime and without a legal trial. Girls were never to speak, without permission, or to establish eye contact with anyone ever. This rule was enforced despite the fact that the ‘silent system’ was outlawed in New South Wales in the late 1800s. Girls endured a regime of hard labor without school education.

The bodies of these ‘incorrigible’ girls were controlled at all times by the system. Movement was with military precision and governed by a strict regime. Girls could only speak to each other for 10 minutes a day, while maintaining 2m distance; they were forced to sleep on their right side facing the door. Twenty minuet surveillances happened all night. Girls were surveyed 24 hours a day by male staff (who were the only ones with keys to the cells) and personal experiences such as menstruation were public and exposed humiliated and deprived of privacy . Wilma said on a visit back to Hay:

It was very Cruel, inhuman and sadistic. You can still smell, feel and hear the pain in that place still today.

In later life she took up an occupation as a housekeeper to the family of Manning and Dymphna Clark. Manning Clark was the author of the general history of Australia, his six-volume A History of Australia. Manning Clark is described in The Oxford Companion to Australian History as ‘Australia’s most famous historian’. Dymphna Clark was an eminent linguist and campaigned for the rights of Aboriginal people. Wilma Robb still works as caretaker of Manning Clark House.

The napkin itself is a significant object which holds other stories. It was part of Dymphna Clark’s household items originally brought to Australia from Norway by Dymphna’s mother Anna Sophia Lodewycz circa 1910. However, enough is known of the life of the Clarks to know that visitors, significant in cultural, political and academic worlds, both national and international, were part of their social life.

At the National Apology to Forgotten Australians and former Child Migrants, Parliament House, Canberra, November 16, 2009.

Prior to the National Apology, Minister Jenny Macklin contacted Wilma asking her to submit her personal history so that it may be considered as part of Kevin Rudd’s speech. In her letter to Kevin Rudd, she explained that the Hay Institution for Girls was the equivalent of a colonial jail in its use of silent treatment. Robb was concerned that Rudd’s use of the word ‘institution’ would not cover her prison experience. Robb realized that she may not have a chance to say this on the day, so she grabbed one of Dymphna Clark’s linen table napkins, and wrote ‘WHAT ABOUT CHILDREN’S PRISONS’ in thick ink marker on each side of the napkin. When the moment came, she was nervous about holding it up.

‘I felt sick in the stomach,’ she told the National Museum of Australia.

To support her, Keith Kelly a former inmate of the equally notorious Tamworth Institution for Boys who was sitting behind her took the other side of the napkin and held it up with her. He would have equal reason to refer to the institution he had been held in as a prison. This impromptu protest sign was one of many items made by Forgotten Australians and brought to the Apology.

Forgotten Australians

Protect vulnerable children

 Coral Miller  11 November, 2010

It has almost been one year since former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and former opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull apologised to the Forgotten Australians and Child Migrants on behalf of the people of Australia.

On 16 November, Forgotten Australians from all over the country, supported by the ACT Women and Prisons group (WAP), will march across Commonwealth Avenue Bridge to Parliament House to mark this historic occasion.

The purpose of the march is to pay tribute to the estimated half a million Indigenous, non-Indigenous and migrant children who were put into institutions, orphanages and out-of-home care throughout the twentieth century.

‘Many Forgotten Australians, ‘state wards’ or “homies” as we often call ourselves, experienced physical, emotional, psychological and criminal abuse as children.

As a result of this harsh treatment and lack of educational opportunities, issues such as mental illness, unemployment, imprisonment and substance abuse, are common’, says Wilma Robb, ACT resident and Forgotten Australian.

The march aims to draw attention to key policy issues such as the need for better access to health care and other services, and the lack of a nationally consistent, on-going redress scheme for Forgotten Australians.

‘The Apology was hugely important for Forgotten Australians, but many still face significant legal and financial barriers to accessing redress through the courts. For example, redress schemes exist in only 3 states

The march on Tuesday is not just about the past: it is about making sure that the traumatic experiences of Forgotten Australians inform current and future policies relating to child protection and institutional care systems.

Vulnerable children in state care are still being neglected and abused within these systems today as in the past. “The mistakes of the past should not be allowed to be repeated’.

Poster advertising a Canberra march on the anniversary of the National Apology
Forgotten Australians, poetry

No more silent tears

by Leigh Westin (guest author) on 16 September, 2010

Leigh Westin was a resident of Scarba House and Parramatta Girls’ Home, both in New South Wales. Here she shares her latest poem. The apology mentioned in the poem refers to that of the NSW Government.

No more silent tears

The years have gone past

I’m older now and remember at last

Blocked away for nearly fifty years

At long last I can cry real tears

My mum passed when I was four

Tears flowed easily and reached the floor

In the Home where I was placed

They belted me for crying

So I dried my little face

Leaving the Home and growing into my teens

I cried inside so not to be seen

The silent tears made me want to scream

Hitting out at others, I was so mean

Until I was locked in another Home

For running away the streets I would roam

Picked up by the welfare who did not care

Sentenced to Parramatta, it just wasn’t fair

I blocked everything to protect my mind

Taking on other things I thought was fine

September 19th 2009 the Government said Sorry

My memories came back but not in a hurry

Over the last ten months through depression and pain

All memories have surfaced and now I feel sane

Getting my life together so my family can gain

I do cry wet tears, as I have no fears.