articles/lectures, documents, Forgotten Australians

Senators vote against child abuse inquiry

by Wilma Robb (guest author) on 7 July, 2011

The Australian Senate recently voted against Senator Nick Xenophon’s motion that the Heiner Affair be referred to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee for inquiry and report. Listen to Bravehearts‘ founder Hetty Johnston’s response.

Download the Hetty Johnston interview with Michael Smith on the 2UE website.

Download the Hansard excerpt (PDF 263kb)  to read the report of the Legal and Constitutional References Committee discussion and to see how senators voted on 23 June 2011.

Child Migrants, documents, Forgotten Australians


by Rupert Hewison (guest author) on 10 June, 2011

A letter from the mother of former Child Migrant Rupert Hewison outlines her ‘terrible shock’ at moving to Tasmania to be closer to her son, only to find her visits limited to once a month. The Senate Report on Forgotten Australians (2004) noted that visits from family members were ‘keenly anticipated’ but ‘highly regulated in many institutions’.

The letter from Rupert’s mother to Tresca principal Mr Richmond reads:

C/o Police Department,
Cameron Street,

7th January, 1965.

Dear Mr. Richmond,

I have today received your letter of 5th January, contents of which are noted.

I am afraid the news of my only seeing John once a month came as a terrible shock to me.  When I spoke to Miss Hall (Secretary of Fairbridge in London) last year she thought I would be able to see John once a week.

When I told her I saw him once a fortnight she said “I shouldn’t think it would be less than that” in a very definite manner.  However, this of course, was only verbal.  In all sincerity I would say, however, that I would definitely not have come to Tasmania if I had thought I would only see John once a month.  My whole idea of coming here was to be with him more often.  Perhaps the decision could be reconsidered?

I have John’s school books with me as I was going to give them back to him next time I saw him, which I anticipated would be Saturday week (16th).

Yours sincerely,

Typed letter
Typed letter

documents, events, Forgotten Australians

New deadline for forced adoption inquiry submissions

by Adele Chynoweth on 6 June, 2011

The Senate Community Affairs committee has announced an extension of the deadline for receipt of submissions to its inquiry into former forced adoption practices.

The commitee’s media relase of 12 May 2011 reads:

Inquiry into former forced adoption practices

The Senate today extended the Senate Community Affairs committee inquiry into the Commonwealth contribution to former forced adoption policies because of the extent and nature of the evidence received and complexity of the issues involved.

‘The committee has already received over 300 submissions, but we know there are others who still want to contribute to the inquiry’, said committee chair Senator Rachel Siewert.

‘This inquiry is very complex, involving many legal, historical and policy issues, and the committee  wants to get it right. The committee simply didn’t have enough time with the June deadline to collect and  horoughly review the evidence’.

The committee has received over 300 submissions. Many of these are very detailed, including a large number of accounts that suggest babies were taken for adoption against their mothers’ will.

The accounts include reports that women were pressured, deceived or threatened in order to secure signatures on adoption consent forms, actions that may have been in breach of the policies and laws of the time. The accounts received by the committee date from the 1950s to as recently as 1987.

The committee wants to ensure that everyone who believes they have been affected by past adoption policies and who wants to make a submission to the inquiry will have time to do so.

If you have not previously submitted, but would like to, the committee continues to welcome evidence from new submitters. Due to the extremely sensitive nature of the submissions and potential privacy issues there may be delays in processing and uploading those submissions to the website.

The committee also wants to obtain evidence from institutions and agencies involved in adoption, particularly during the 1960s and 1970s.

The committee will also be seeking detailed evidence from Commonwealth agencies.

The committee is now due to report on 21 November 2011.

Contact details and inquiry terms of reference follow:

For comment: Senator Rachel Siewert, Chair
Ph 02 6277 3587

For inquiry information: Senate Community Affairs Committee secretariat
Ph 02 6277 3515

Terms of Reference of the inquiry

That the following matters be referred to the Community Affairs References Committee for inquiry and report by 21 November 201 1:

(a) the role, if any, of the Commonwealth Government, its policies and practices in contributing to forced adoptions; and

b) the potential role of the Commonwealth in developing a national framework to assist states and territories to address the consequences for the mothers, their families and children who were subject to forced adoption policies.

Download the media release (PDF 70KB) from the Senate website

documents, Forgotten Australians, memories

Graham John Davis 1946 – 1974

by Warren Porter (guest author) on 5 April, 2011

Following on from his autobiography, A Tormented Life, Warren Porter writes the story of his deceased brother, Graham Davis. Warren writes about their abusive stepfather, how Graham was sent to Westbrook Farm Home in 1961 and police violence. Warren argues the case for a Royal Commission into the treatment of children in Australian institutions.

Warren mentions several locations in the south side of Brisbane including “the Gabber (the Five Ways)” which refers to the then layout of the railway yards in the suburb of Woolloongabba.

Download Warren’s account of his brother’s history: Graham John Davis 12.3.1946 – 23.10.1974 (PDF 7mb)

Forgotten Australians, memories

Forgotten because you’re not seen

by T. (guest author) on 28 March, 2011

T. shares her personal history ngrowing up in Children’s Homes in Victoria. The National Museum respects T.’s wish not to have her full first name or family name published.

T. writes:

I was placed in a home in 1974, due to my mother becoming ill. This prevented her from caring for us properly and there were marriage problems at the time. The first home my sister and I were placed in was St. Catherine’s for two to four weeks. No record exists of my sister and I having been there although on my sister’s file (other homes) the name St. Catherine’s is wrote and a line crossed through it. I can remember being there and my sister and I didn’t go to school while there. Our brother was in a different home. The second home was Allambie and I slept on a mattress on the floor because there were not enough beds. My sister and I could not see our brother as he was in a different area. I would try to go into the playground (pretending I was younger) so I could see him as I missed him. I would get told off for doing so (I was 6) and I felt angry and upset that I couldn’t see him.

The third home we remained in until 1975. There were rules such as eating all of your meal or you didn’t get dessert, line up to go in the dining room, walk to the left on the staircase, go to Sunday school and pray before going to sleep at night and there were set times for doing things (meals, watching the news, brushing teeth etc). We went to a local primary school on a bus from the orphanage and we all wore the same uniform at a time when government primary schools didn’t have a school uniform. We didn’t go to school friend’s birthday parties etc, not that we got invited, we knew we couldn’t go anyway, in this way I felt like an outsider. We had a Christmas party in the home and we could choose from a small list, one present that we hoped for. They were presents such as a small jewellery box or a stuffed doll.

One day I was given a small transistor (radio) by a family I stayed with one weekend. I was so happy I could not even thank them, I couldn’t get the words out and I felt guilty that I didn’t thank them. It disappeared, I can’t remember if I took it back to the home but from my memory nothing could be kept at the home.

We called our staff member by Christian name and we slept in rooms of 6 to 8 girls a room. We were grouped by age and although my sister and I were a year difference we were in separate rooms. We were called by our Christian name and once a girl came into the home who had the same name as my sister so her name was changed to a different one.

Discipline didn’t always seem fair. There was a girl there who said she was going to run away and the staff member told her to do so. She did and she was brought back. I don’t know if she did anything wrong but I was sad because I thought they didn’t understand how much she missed her family. There was also a time my sister and I were squabbling over something and the staff member came up and hit her in the face, causing her nose to bleed. This seemed more wrong to me than what we were fighting over. I always felt that there was no-one to talk to about things like that then because you lived there and it was a time when the adult was believed.

I did have good times in the home because I had friends in the home and we could go outside and play in the trees when I was there. We also had a movie night at one home and went in a swimming pool a couple of times. I remember a carnival at the last home, it was open to the public, it was fun but also made me sad to see all the children who could be with and go home with their family.

When I was in the homes one very true family friend used to visit us. My maternal grandmother always did and although it is not recorded on my files I see my late mother in one of those visits. There is one record of my maternal grandmother listed, and listed incorrectly as a name not hers or ever had by her. There are relatives who you never see again as they don’t visit. I think you become forgotten about because you’re not seen. You lose that connection and bond to relatives and grow up having to do things very much for yourself. There is that support system that you don’t have.

I will not add anything about my time after I was released from the home. I can’t say it has been a good outcome for all of us (my sister and my brother) but I don’t wish to write about that. We haven’t grown up as some people do and I know my experiences are different again to that of others who grew up or lived in institutions.

This is my experience, from T.

Child Migrants, documents, Forgotten Australians

Report fails Christian Brothers

by Oliver Cosgrove (guest author) on 23 March, 2011

Below is a copy of the report on the visit, in July 1948, to Castledare Junior Orphanage, WA, by the Secretary of the Child Welfare Department, State Migration Officer and two inspectors also from the Child Welfare Department.

Oliver Cosgrove kindly made this report available to the National Museum. He notes:

Castledare was the junior orphanage in the so-called ‘quadrangular scheme’ of the Christian Brothers.

It is singularly worth noting that this report was issued in July 1948, less than 10 months after the first post-war child migrants arrived on the SS Asturias.
I cannot but wonder at the perspicacity of the writer’s last sentence.

Consider the following observations in the report:

dingy sleeping cubicles
floors stained under beds by urine
salty crusts of dried urine under beds
wire mattresses rusted by urine
torn mattresses

sagging beds and mattresses
cramped dormitories
miserably thin mattresses (ex US forces) and totally inadequate
pyjamas grubby, dirty, and damp with urine

good sized wardrobe lockers – an asset to the institution – but not used

hot-water system not working in shower

overcrowded schoolrooms,
insufficient ventilation

recreation hall only place that could provide warmth

Download a copy of the Castledare Report (PDF 152kb)

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

Tangled web

by Adele Chynoweth on 16 March, 2011

This Sunday, March 20 at 2.00 pm, ABC Radio National will broadcast their first programme in a series about adoption in Australia, Tangled Web, Part 1: the silence of consent.

You can read more information about the programme here. You can also find the frequency for ABC Radio National in your state here.

documents, Forgotten Australians, memories


by Adele on 6 December, 2010

Can anyone help the National Museum with our query? Arthur Stace is well-known for writing the word Eternity on the footpaths of Sydney from 1930 to 1967. Arthur was a Forgotten Australian, having been declared a ward of the state at the age of twelve.

Does any one know if he was placed in a Children’s Home? If so, do you know which one? If you can help, please feel free to post a response to this site.