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 email@example.com 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.
‘No longer a number – my name is Rosie’. Rosie grew up as number 20280. Her experience as a state ward left her with post-traumatic stress disorder. She’s now in recovery and a Remembered Australian and made a short film about her experiences.
Rosie Klohs’ film, Sins of a Child, was published on the Moving Minds page on the Mental Illness Education ACT 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.
Carolin Wenzel from The Benevolent Society writes:
I’m writing to let you know about two opportunities to support improving the Family Law Act to make it safer for children and parents who are victims of domestic violence.
You have probably heard about the Senate Inquiry into the Government’s Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill, which was introduced into the House of Representatives by Attorney-General Robert McClelland on March 24th. Whilst this amendment is a positive step in the right direction, The Senate Inquiry is an opportunity to present a case for further changes to protect children and their carers under threat of ongoing violence from an ex-partner.
It’s very important, once again to get as many strong submissions to this Inquiry as possible. They won’t have any access to the submissions that were sent to the Attorney General in January. Submissions close on Friday April 29th – so please act now.
The other exciting development is that several groups are working together to hold a
Rally for Children’s Safety at Parliament House Canberra on Wednesday May 25
Dr Lesley Laing, author of the No Way to Live Report
Women’s Refuge Movement Executive Officer, Cat Gander
Benevolent Society CEO Richard Spencer
Bikers United Against Child Abuse
and we are working on several more, including parents who have harrowing experiences of poor parenting arrangement outcomes under the current Family Law Act.
We also feel it’s very important that the experiences and voices of children are a focus of this Rally.
We invite anyone who’s children have experienced trauma or feel unsafe about court imposed parenting arrangements to create a drawing or artwork respresenting how they feel, and to write a few words on another sheet of paper expressing their thoughts and feelings. They can just write their age (not their name so they are not identifiable)
If possible it would be great to laminate these and either bring them with you to the Rally or send them to me (address in signature below)
We would love you to come to the Rally, and The Benevolent Society is booking a bus to take up to 50 people from Sydney to leave early and be back in Sydney by 6pm that day.
We are working on an e-flyer and a place to link to info about the Rally online – so stay tuned for further updates.
Please pass on this message to anyone you think would be interested, and invite them to send me their email address so that I can include them in further updates.
I will ensure that individual emails are not revealed in any mail out.
by Rhonda Trivett (guest author) on 11 February, 2011
Forgotten Australian Rhonda Trivett helps to run the Fun Night at Havelock House, 85 Northbourne Ave, Turner, ACT, every Friday night at 7.30 pm until late. Tea, coffee, cordial and snacks are available. Come along, sings songs, watch a film, play table tennis, pool or board games. There is a free BBQ and karaoke. No drugs or alcohol. Forgotten Australians welcome.
Rhonda invites you:
I and my friend started it because there is a need out there for something to do. If you want to play pool or go to karaoke you have to go to a pub. There is nothing out there after hours. So that’s why I and my friend started this. There’s so many people hurting that need somewhere to go.
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.
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.
The Salvation Army apology for survivors of Salvation Army Girls and Boys Homes of Australia will take place on Tuesday 7 December at Old Parliament House in Canberra. An article in today’s Sydney Morning Herald discusses the significance of the apology.
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.
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.
I am Wilma Robb and I live in Canberra. I am a Forgotten Australian. I went into care when I was five years old for around about 12 months. There is no record of me leaving the orphanage in Sydney, which is Carlingford. I went home and my Mum was chronically ill, so I sort of shifted around a little bit to my grandmother, back to my mother, foster care.
I got put into an institution which was Ormond and I broke out of there because I didn’t know what was happening to me. And I got sentenced through the courts for six to nine months to the Parramatta Girls Home, and that’s where my life spiralled out of control – the systematic abuse.
The significance is that we got the apology. We are recognised – that this is still happening so I hope people – the whole system – takes notice of what did happen in the past and it’s on record. A lot of people needed this apology. Personally it means nothing to me, even though I got emotional.
My life in the orphanage, I can’t really remember it. I remember a long driveway and being alone. That was when I was five. Life in Ormond was a big wire fence around us so I was caged. When I went into Parramatta, life in there was scary and you had to survive and no, we had no real close friends. We never spoke about anything. We used to get separated if we looked like making friends. So Parramatta was really bad.
I have three children – I have four children actually. I had one baby taken off me at birth and I found him in 2006, a week after his 40th birthday, and I have three other children. They all live in Canberra. I was married and I had three children to that marriage. But all I was interested in was my three children because usually what happens is if you are abused as a child, what you will connect with is another abusive relationship. And I have just stayed away from relationships. I am stronger by myself.
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’.
By Women’s Centre for Health Matters (guest author) on 4 November, 2010
Women’s Centre for Health Matters is working with the Alliance for Forgotten Australians (AFA), the Women and Prisons Group (WAP)and others individuals from across the ACT to gather information about the current needs and circumstances of ACT women who are Care Leavers/Forgotten Australians, and their access to services in the ACT.
It is now nearly a year since the National Apology was issued on 16 November 2009, on behalf of the Australian Government, by the (then) Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. He delivered an unqualified apology to Forgotten Australians and Child Migrants who suffered abuse or neglect in care. He was supported by the (then) Opposition Leader, Malcolm Turnbull.
The Women’s Centre for Health Matters will be collecting responses from Tuesday 1st November to Tuesday 15th November. The more responses that we receive in this time, the more useful the results will be in helping WCHM to develop policy positions and advocacy strategies to address the unmet needs of these ACT women.
The survey can be accessed here or by telephoning WCHM on (02) 6290 2166 to request a hard copy of the survey by post.
Former resident of Hay, Wilma Robb, shares her photographs taken at the Hay Girls reunion in 2007.
The Hay Institution for Girls was opened in 1961 as a maximum security institution for girls, aged 13 to 18, from the Parramatta Girls Home. Girls were sent to Hay despite their having committed no crime and without a legal trial. Girls were not permitted to speak, without permission, or to establish eye contact with anyone. This rule was enforced despite the fact that the “silent system” was outlawed in NSW in the late 1800s. Girls endured a regime of hard labour without school education.
Further information and historical photographs about life at Hay can be read at the website concerning Sharyn Killens’ book An Inconvenient Child.
Wilma’s painting Black, Blue and Raw was hung in an exhibition “Forgotten Australians” at NSW Parliament house from 11 April-28 April 2005. Supported and Arranged by Forgotten Australians Jools Graeme, Melody Mandena, John Murray.
Black, Blue and Raw depicts my time in Parramatta and Hay.
At Hay, I experienced a sadistic, martial discipline the (Silent Treatment outlawed in the late 1800s) designed to break the human spirit. These days we would describe it as a form of ‘programming’. At Parramatta, I experienced psychological abuse, rape, neglect and other forms of violent torture at the hands of state employees.
My torso No-one sees what is hidden inside me. Here are the memories I have tried to suppress. Here is the sub-conscious record of life-destroying events, festering. The little girl at the centre is me. The eyes overseeing the evil are those of one of my abusers, captured by camera from a television screen.
My baby When I was 18, my baby was taken from me by Welfare, within minutes of his birth.
The colours To me, yellow and purple signalled hope. At Hay, we experienced regular solitary confinement, enforced silence and regimentation. Also, they took our eyes.
The mask At Hay, they tried to turn us into unthinking robots by brainwashing and deprivation. The Hay mask has a robotic expression and a head that has been messed with severely. My memory of Parramatta is dominated by the violence of the staff – I lost my teeth and had my face smashed. The mask has had its features flattened and is flesh softened by fists. Wilma Robb (Cassidy) 2005