Forgotten Australians, memories

For Violet

by Janice Konstantinidis (guest author) on 16 November, 2011

Janice Konstantinidis was an inmate in Mount Saint Canice, Sandy Bay, Tasmania, where she worked as an unpaid child labourer in the Good Shepherd Sisters’ commercial laundry. Janice now lives in California in USA. Here she shares her writing about her paternal grandmother. Continue reading “For Violet”

articles/lectures, memories, poetry

My Life Inside a Children’s Home

by Rupert Hewison (guest author) on 16 November, 2011

Former Child Migrant Rupert Hewison shares his personal history, from his time at St. Faith’s Home in Surry, UK to his being sent to Fairbridge House ‘Tresca’ in Tasmania. Continue reading “My Life Inside a Children’s Home”

articles/lectures, Child Migrants, Forgotten Australians, Stolen Generations

The Enduring Legacy

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”

Forgotten Australians, memories, photography, photos

Silence, Suffering, Strength

by Helen Harms (guest author) on 8 November, 2011

Helen Harms writes about her experiences and shares photographs from her childhood in Nazareth House, Wynumm, Queensland. Continue reading “Silence, Suffering, Strength”

events, Forgotten Australians, memories, poetry

Three Generations of Suffering

by Diane Mancuso (guest author) on 28 October, 2011

Forgotten Australian Diane Mancuso, who recently re-connected with her UK-based sister, shares a poem about her family’s history, written by her nephew, Simon Houlders.

Diane introduces Simon’s poem:

Through out our childhood my Father managed to get most of the kids back in his care but not me. Unbeknown to me he sexually, physically abused all the kids. Where was the welfare then? And, as you would be aware from my poems he abused my daughter then killed himself I so wanted him to be around so that he could be charged & him doing that left me with no where to put the rage inside of me.

My nephew told me the other day that my sister when she was a kid dropped a vegemite jar but put it back in the fridge. My father then make a sandwich but it had glass in it. My brother Billy took the blame & was bashed senseless.

I can only imagine what my poor sister went through.  I do know that he took my elder sister’s viginity. What an evil man not a man a monster. Breaks my heart when I think of what they went through. Anyway, my main reason for the email is there has to be something we can do RE: our plight to bring it more into the public arena. It frustrates me so much when I hear how much money is being spent on people that have come here illegaly & we as children are still waiting in the wings for recognition. Saying sorry is not enough they need to really show action to provide us with real answers. As I wrote this I could hear the Prime Minister on TV saying we need to make our voices be heard I agree … for the ones who still suffer in silence to this day due to the State’s incompetence.

Anything that I write please feel free to put on your site. I would be interested in others opinion on this topic. Maybe even if the people that govern this country took a $5.00 cut in pay & put it towards our plight it would make a diferance but no way would they do this. They would see this as a travesty. They all say they care about the people of Australia.

Three Generations Of Suffering

Like the ripples of a lake
When a stone is cast
Affecting three generations
From present and past

Resonating within us
Passed from one to the other
Via nature or nurture
The pain inflicted by one sick man

Still impacting our lives
The molestations, the cover ups and the lies
If we allow it to be so
Fracture, break and destroy our lives

 My mothers brothers and sisters
Beaten and abused daily
Fear as a state of mind
No help, anywhere, to find

A care system, devoid of care
Lives devoid of hope
A family shattered, as a pane of glass
On to the next generation the devastation did pass

 Daughters abused, the cycle goes on
Abusive relationships, confused with what it is to love
A new generation conceived
To be born to a world where innocence is preyed upon
Vultures circling , as they do over carrion

As if something about you says ‘Victim’
Scum are attracted like flies to sh**
The cycle revolves and continues
And so a third generation are affected by it

Babies born to a world so harsh
My heart breaks for their pain
We hope to protect them from our pasts
But pass it on, just the same

 Knowledge, they say, is power
So we must never let him win
Reaching out from beyond the grave
To never give you peace

How happy am I, that you lost the chance
To bring his life to an end
Consequently we may not have met
Sister, Mother, Aunt, Friend

 We must never let him win
No forgiveness is required
To save a fourth generation
And give them the life that we desired

I am stronger than I believe
My mother, hard as stone
We carry on in hope of a better day
In hope of a happy home!

By Simon Houlders


Child Migrants, memories

Can you see the moon?

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?’

Rupert Hewison

Child Migrants, Forgotten Australians, memories, music, Stolen Generations

Strawberry Fields Forever

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’.


Forgotten Australians, memories

Donna’s story

by Donna (guest author) on 4 October, 2011

‘I never spoke of the abuse because it seemed normal. I had been abused in the orphanage’. In 1957, Donna, aged three, was sent into institutional care with her sister and four brothers. Donna shared her personal history with the National Museum:

We were brought up on the train from NSW with my four brothers and sister. My last memory is that something that happened. I ended up in hospital with a lot of pain and I was bloody and someone gave me a pink marshmallow bunny and so I must have been exposed to abuse.

I was sent to Nazareth House, Wynumm, in Queensland.The hardest part for me was being institutionalised and being separated from my family was traumatic but being separated from my sister was heart breaking.  I still have memories of hanging on to the slatted wall searching for my sister hoping she would remember. I have nightmares of that memory that bring me to tears, searching for my sister.

We were stripped of all personal effects including my doll, Raggedy Ann, who was very precious to me.

The smell of the clothes in the orphanage was not too bad and I felt quite comforted by that smell.

The nuns used to deliver me to the house across the road to the paedophile priest. How can any person prepare a child, bathe and dress them, and then deliver them to someone who will abuse them? Had the nuns been abused themselves? Was this normal for them? I came back from the priest, broken. I wanted to die. I was just a little child. We were just babies.

My sister was released from the orphanage when she turned 14. My father came to take her home. I was only ten but I insisted on coming too. When my brothers saw me, they asked my father what I was doing home.
Dad replied, ‘I had to take her.  The nuns made me’. That reinforced to me what one of the nuns told me; that I wasn’t wanted by the nuns, my parents or by God.

Because of the abuse that my siblings had experienced in the orphanage, my siblings were dysfunctional. My father was an alcoholic and was abusing me and so at the age of 11, I ran away. I had to fend for myself. It was a terrifying period. I had been institutionalised. I had no idea how to live on the outside. I was waiting for bells to ring. I had to fend for myself.

I walked the streets looking for kids to play with, somewhere to go. I never spoke of the abuse because it seemed normal. I had been abused in the orphanage. My father put me in Mitchelton at 12 and I tried to commit suicide. I was then put in the lock up ward in Lowson House. I felt safe there.

Then I returned home – nobody bothered to ask me what was happening. I got tired of being belted up by my older brother. I got sick of sleeping with my father. So I slept in toilet blocks. I’d eat at friends’ places. Many days I didn’t eat. I became a human toilet. I allowed men to sleep with me for a shower. It was a heck of lot gentler than at home.

Then my father put me in a hostel at Indooroopilly (Brisbane, Queensland) and I was hired out to be a domestic. I ran away from the hostel and the lady who ran it put out a report that I was missing. I was 14 and living with a man and engaged to him and he got charged with carnal knowledge – but this was a man who loved me.

I was sentenced to be a ward of the state until was 21. I thought that being sentenced paid for the lack of support from my parents. My case worker organised for me to be a domestic in people’s houses.

I got pregnant at 18 and I had to find a husband so that my daughter wouldn’t go into state care. I found a husband and we married with the approval of the state. I had been trained since I was six to clean homes and care for children. The state declared that I was in the care, control and custody of my husband until I was 21 and he knew it and he saw my role as being confined to the home, caring for children and him. He used to gamble, and go to massage parlours. I never stopped him because I thought, ‘Better them, than me’.

The marriage ended when my children were teenagers and because I felt trapped. From the age of 12 to 18 I had multiple attempts at suicide.

I’ve learnt a lot. I’ve done a lot of therapy. I work as a volunteer for Lifeline. I’ve raised a healthy family. I raised five healthy children. I have 15 grandchildren aged from two months to 18 years. I’ve played an important role in the lines of my grand children.

My brother committed suicide as a result of the pressure during the redress process in Queensland after the Forde Inquiry into institutional care. There was no healing in the redress process. It was vicious. It was cruel that we had to relive our childhood by filling in the forms and sitting and waiting to see if we were worthy to be paid a pittance. It’s still raw. It was as if we were abused all over. A lot of people didn’t have their files so they couldn’t prove their past.

Nothing has changed. It was still the government way. It was a cruel blow. It was reminder that we were still worth nothing.

I fought for years against the Catholic Church. We were informed that we had a case but because the Catholic Church had so much money – they could tie us up in litigation for years but even that was better than the redress scheme. Those who had made a life for themselves were disadvantaged because they weren’t seen as being desperate victims. I lost my son in a car accident ten years ago. That was traumatic for me. It was during the case against the Church.

I am now a foster parent. I am a specialised carer. I care for children with specialist needs.

Children are now aware of their rights but not of their responsibilities but as children in the Home we had no rights and we took all the responsibility even for our parents’ neglect.

I now live without a partner and that’s my choice. I am that marred by the experience that I am incapable of a relationship and intimacy. It’s difficult to allow anyone to love me.