documents, Forgotten Australians

Schwarten Inquiry into Westbrook

‘The Superintendent said, “Don’t look at me in that tone of voice”  and banged boy 90’s head several times against the tin wall’. Read the full 1961 report of the Inquiry into Westbrook Farm Home for Boys by Stipendiary Magistrate, Mr AE Schwarten.

The report was conducted after an ‘incident which occurred on Sunday, 14th May, 1961, at the Farm Home for Boys, Westbrook, in which approximately 36 inmates of the said Home were involved and number of whom escaped’.

The report was provided to the National Museum of Australia by Al Fletcher, author of Brutal: Surviving Westbrook Boys Home by Al Fletcher as told to Cheryl Jorgensen. The report has since been published online by the Queensland Government.

Download a copy of the 79-page Westbrook Farm Home for Boys Inquiry Report (PDF 6.92MB)

Two boys seen through bars across a window at Westboork Boys Home
Child Migrants, documents, memories

Welcome walls

by Oliver Cosgrove (guest author) on 8 August, 2011

The names of Child Migrants from Britain and Malta are included on commemorative panels erected in Fremantle by the Western Australian Museum.

More than one third of Western Australia’s population was born overseas. The Welcome Walls project pays tribute to those migrants who arrived by sea, landing at Fremantle or Albany, and to the many benefits they gave to their new home, enriching the lives of all Western Australians.

In Fremantle, over 400 panels commemorating the names of migrants who arrived through this area have been erected at the Western Australian Museum at Victoria Quay. These panels include information about Australia’s Child Migrants from Britain and Malta.

You can read details for each of the Child Migrants on the Western Australian Welcome Walls website.

Child Migrants, photos

Ann’s story

by Ann McVeigh (guest author) on 2 August, 2011

‘My identity was stolen from me’. Child Migrant Ann McVeigh shares her personal history and photographs of St Joseph’s Orphanage, Subiaco (now Wembley), WA.

As a child migrant my identity was stolen from me the moment I left my home land, without my mother’s consent. The name that I was born with was changed when I was put into Nazareth House in Belfast. I came to Australia on the [SS] Asturias when I was 5 years old in 1950.

On arrival in Western Australia I was sent to St Vincent’s Foundling Home in Wembley till I turned ‘a big girl’ 6 years of age. When one turns 6 one is sent to St. Joseph’s Orphanage which was next to St Vincent’s. Once placed there I still had my name changed and the date of my birth was changed also. Right away we were given numbers to answer to, put onto our clothes and lockers, my number being number one. Straight away you were expected to work always rising at 6 am every day for prayers and Mass. Duties being – sweeping yards, cleaning toilets, washing and polishing floors in the dormitories, classrooms and long corridors on hands and knees. Children were put in charge of children to be cared for in nurseries, kindergarten and foundling home. Laundry had to be done for private boarding schools and hospitals as well. Huge big washing machines, dryers and mangles which were like oversized irons for sheets and the like. The work was relentless and very tiring.

A lot of the child migrants were, I feel, abused both physically and mentally simply because we didn’t get visitors and had no-one to report the abuses to. Girls were constantly being told that ‘from the gutters of Belfast you came and to the gutters of Belfast you’d return’. Schooling was always under duress, beltings if exam results weren’t good enough or if you couldn’t understand what was being taught. To my mind it was likened to a modern day Oliver Twist, with all the cruelty that went on.

When I was in grade 2 I was informed that I was a very lucky girl because I received a letter from my mother. I was called up to the front of the class whilst the letter was read out to me. I never ever forgot that letter and always wondered when I would get a visit from my mother who said she’d try and come to get me to take me back to Ireland. Every time the door bell would go you’d stop and wait with hope, expecting your name to be called. In the end it would be a joke – yeah she’s walking across water to get me – not ever realising my letters that you wrote were never passed on. My education ended in second year high when I was 15 ½ years. I was sent 300 miles up north to look after 5 children and help around the house. One day I was with 200 kids, the next day 5 children and 2 adults. The quietness was frightening as I missed my school pals terribly. That job lasted six months and the second job for only one month, another country job doing housework for a very nasty and cold family. I was never ever greeted the time of day – just given orders on what had to be done for the day. No payment ever received. The third country job was as a shop assistant which I really enjoyed, but after 11 months I was very upset when told I would have to go back to St. Joseph’s. When her son came to pick me up I locked myself in the bathroom until I was given an assurance that I wasn’t going back. I was sent to a juvenile detention centre which scared me somewhat when I woke up the first morning as there were bars on all the windows and I thought that I had been sent to jail.

Because I rebelled I was given a welfare officer to help me out with jobs and accommodation. It was she who got my mother’s address and encouraged me to put pen to paper. Because I was eighteen I had to correspond by mail till I was allowed to go overseas and visit the family when I turned 21. When I first started to write, my mother told my siblings (2 brothers and 4 sisters) that I was their cousin from Australia. As they were still very young and still at school, not much explanation was needed. In 1967 I met my family for the first time. Being shy, I was very nervous, wondering if I was going to be accepted, but I needn’t have worried as everything turned out well.

When my mother passed away, I took my one year old son with me to the funeral. Sadly, she was buried on my birthday. When my son was eleven, I took him over again so he could meet all his cousins. It was wonderful to see them all together, it was like he belonged and was wonderful to see.

In 1988 I bumped into a school pal and she was telling me that when she received her personal papers from the welfare department, she had a breakdown. You see, because of her Afghan heritage she was dark skinned and in her papers said, although she was a very pretty little girl, she was unsuitable for adoption. We got talking and wondered how the other girls had faired when they got files. She told the doctors that …. the treatment the girls got at the home would come out – so he went to the Wish Foundation and formed an organisation called ICAS (Institutional Child Abuse Society). We went to print and on air and received a lot of support, especially after the radio interview. We got a lot of calls from the boys who were in Clontarf, Bindoon, Tardun and Castledare, telling us about the abuse that took place. We only heard from one or two other girls that they weren’t interested and just wanted to forget. After all this happened the boys formed their own organisations and the world got to hear of the terrible treatment the migrants and Aussie kids received in the institutions of the day.

I was on the committee that erected the child migrant statue in Fremantle, outside the Maritime Museum. My partner is a child migrant also and both our names are on the Welcome Wall, very close to the migrant statue. While on the committee, submissions were invited for the Child Migrant Memorial Statue, although my poem wasn’t accepted, these are my thoughts on the very sad history of child migration.

They did not know what lay in store

holidays abroad to far distant shores.

Yet in their memories as often recalled,

brothers – sisters

and friends what’s more.

Where are the families

that they once had

Back in their homelands,

How very very sad

Thousands of children crossing the line

Holidays and memories lasting a lifetime

Ann McVeigh 29 January 2011

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.

articles/lectures, documents, film, Forgotten Australians, memories, photos

‘Sins of a Child’

by Rosie Klohs (guest author) on 18 July, 2011

‘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.

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
documents, Forgotten Australians, memories

A child’s letters to the welfare department

by Priscilla Taylor (guest author) on 11 July, 2011

A child’s letters to the South Australian Children’s Welfare chairman help to tell the story of a young woman who spent 16 years in care, and later discovered her mother had written many returned letters to her daughter.

Priscilla Taylor (then Phyllis McMorran) wrote the letters to Mr Cook, Chairman of the Children’s Welfare and Public Relief Department of South Australia in 1961 while she was living in a Foster Home.

Priscilla explains:

While growing up I would cry for my Mother, I would then be told, don’t worry about her, she doesn’t want you. Nobody wrote to me, so during letter writing night I would write to Mr Cook. While it was good of him to reply, I would have preferred letters from my Mother. Yes Mum did visit when I was in Seaforth, a Government-run Home, but during my 16 years under the Welfare, I only spent months, numerous times living there.

During the Mullighan Enquiry, Ted Mullighan asked for a support service to be set up for us. This was the beginning of Post Care Services SA, for Forgotten Australians. While attending Post Care, I spent time coming to know a Brother and Sister. One day the Brother mentioned this lovely lady who had looked after them and given him the happiest of his growing up years, until she died at 50 years of age. Under this ladies bed she kept a box of returned letters, she had written to her two daughters. Yes these letters belonged to me, this beautiful lady was my Mother, Phyllis Dawn Pring. After receiving my files, I also learnt that Mum had also be lied to, and had applied to the Courts of SA, to gain custody back on several occassions.

So as you see, some things are not as they appear.

Read Priscilla’s letters (PDF 180kb) and a response from Mr Cook.