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”

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: Continue reading “Donna’s story”

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

‘Forgotten Australians’ want to be in history course

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)