In celebration of International Women’s Day there is an information stall on Tuesday 8 March 10-2pm in the Church St/St John’s Mall, Parramatta.
The stall is part of the campaign to seek the dedication of the Parramatta Female Factory Precinct as a national heritage destination and in also promoting other women’s organisations and International Women’s Day events.
Bonney Djuric hopes that it prove to be another step forward in achieving the goal of having the site recognised and established as a Women’s Place of history and heritage:
Exploring the Past – Remembering Convict Women Back in 1827 women broke out of the Female Factory and made their way into the township of Parramatta to fight for their rights in demanding better food and conditions. Essentially this was the first industrial action to take place in Australia. The women were also responsible for producing Australia’s first manufactured export – ‘Parramatta cloth’. It’s 164 years since the last convict woman was relegated to the Female Factory—its remnant buildings are now part of the Cumberland Hospital complex in Fleet St Parramatta. In the early years of the 20th century when the women’s suffrage movement began to emerge few remembered the contribution that these women made. It’s time that they were acknowledged.
Illuminating the Present Today we live in a society where women have attained equality—however this equality has yet to extend to places significant to women’s history. In 1992 House of Representatives Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs ‘Half Way to Equal’ report recommended that ‘A Woman’s Place’ be established in recognition of women’s history and heritage. The Parramatta Female Factory Precinct is ideally suited for this purpose
Below you can view the film Taking Freedom: Celebrating Women at the Cascades Female Factory Historic Site, Hobart (1828 – 1901) and the Parramatta Female Factory Precinct, Sydney (1821 – present).
On 17 February, 2011, author and Forgotten Australian, Maree Giles spoke to staff at the National Museum of Australia. Maree summarises the history of the Parramatta Female Factory Precinct and her experiences at Parramatta Girls Home when she was aged 16.
Click on the link below in order to listen to the recording of Maree’s presentation:
Growing up in Parramatta Girls Home.
You can read more about Maree’s work at her website.
Victim compensation schemes are important to those Forgotten Australians who suffered harm in Children’s Homes. The dedicated website Cuts to victims compensation details current changes to the NSW victim’s compensation scheme and associated campaign events for responsible victims compensation provisions.
by Alick Robertson (guest author) on 2 February, 2011
ABC Open has published a video of former Child Migrant Alick Robertson recalling his experiences at Mowbray Park, a Dr Barnardo’s Farm Training School near Picton, New South Wales. The ‘now and then’ images are by Doreen Lyon, president of the Oaks Historical Society.
An article from Pix, 31 May 1958, is based on the Church of England Boys and Girls Homes, Carlingford, New South Wales. Below is the half of the article that has been away from home’, subtitled ‘Love, companionship, for children who have lost them’, and reads:
Australia’s happiest – and biggest – family boasts 229 girls and boys. The family lives at the Church of England Homes, Carlingford, Sydney in an atmosphere that is really HOME. There is no air of the institution, only smiling faces and happy, healthy yells as the children romp and play in the spacious grounds.
Situated on the commanding heights near Parramatta, the environment is ideal. But much more impressive and significant than the view is the emotional atmosphere.
To anyone with experience of conditions often found in institutions, the difference is astounding.
This work began in 1884, when Canon Tress and a Dr Manning began caring for neglected girls at Woolloomooloo. About the turn of the century, the first of the four homes was purchased at The Glebe and in 1914 Minden, later called Strathmore, was bought at Carlingford. Minden eventually became the first Boys’ Home.
The present Boys’ Home was established in 1928 and the girls moved from The Glebe to Minden. Since then, many cottages have been added and Havilah, a home for little children, has been established.
This step-by-step building on a limited budget, coupled with the farsighted understanding of the various committees since the cottage idea was proposed in the 1920s, is responsible for the unique- [remaining text is missing]
It’s Bill’s turn to polish his ‘brothers” best shoes – 31 ready for inspection, Sir!
by Rhonda Wardman (guest author) on 1 February, 2011
Rhonda Wardman remembers her experiences at St Michael’s Girls Anglican Home in Bathurst:
I went to St Michael’s Girls Anglican Home in Bathurst when it was very new. I went from a loving Nanna in a homely old terrace full of love, food, photos, furniture and family to nothing but bare emptiness, starvation, bullying from a Nun.
There was a large playroom with a red laminex table and six chairs and an empty bookcase – nothing, nothing but emptiness (and my tears).
In my time there I saw no toys – no books – heard no radio, emptiness everywhere, quiet – pain and crying.
In the dining room there were six red laminex tables and chairs, that’s all. Empty – no sound. In the dormitories there were chrome beds with pink chenille bedspreads and some bedside tables that were empty – emptiness everywhere.
53 years later I can remember each stick of furniture and the pain of emptiness.
Sister B told me constantly, ‘You are the spawn of the devil, Rhonda Wardman, put here by God to be punished, born bad, never wanted. You are the spawn of the devil!’
Building 105 within the Parramatta Female Factory Precinct is currently the subject of an application for conversion into an information technology facility. Parramatta Girls Home was also located within the Precinct. The Female Factory Action Group wants the Precinct to be declared a National Heritage Site. Information about the Group’s campaign can be found here.
by Garry Shooks (guest author) on 10 January, 2011
Garry Shooks writes about visiting day at Royalstone Boys’ Home in Glebe, Sydney.
I’ll be your mate
Its Sunday the bell rings, we all take our positions on our lines.
They are numbered the lines,
It is the same lines you stand on for lunch or when ever the bell tolls,
But its visitors as you know that today at 10am hey give it a blast so they can read out the visitors list,
Every Sunday I’d line up for months that ran into years, but only ever once did my name get on that list.
See I say to the others I do have a mum or I do have a dad and they are coming to see me.
All the other Sundays your name never got read out so you were dismissed to go back to what ever you were doing but all the while hoping that the ones or one name that was read out was your mate, course he would come back into the yard from up the top house with his lollies or a toy he was aloud to have.
All the kids would gather round hoping and reminding them that there your mate and can ya have a lolie or play with em so maybe you get a lolie.
Yeah well after forever my name was read out and I ran up to be showered and put on the suit that we all had to wear from that huge cupboard of suits, the long wait out the front sitting on the bench out side the superintendence office, me feet could not reach the floor so I’d swing em back and forward just looking out the closed 6 foot gate,
A long time I sat there like that till the super came out and said I’m sorry Garry your visitor is not coming today,
The shame, they were ya lolies, you have not got a mother or father have ya or they would have come, true, I’d say to myself but out a loud I’d yell I have but they got lost and they be here next week you see,
In all my years I think I got one visitor from me dad but he was turned back at the gate because he was drunk,
Ha who wants a visitor I know I got a mum and dad and one day they come get me,
The weeks turned into months and then years, I never got a visitor, but I did have me a couple of mates, they were true blue, gave me lolie or two and we were the best of mates all those years.
by Janene Carey (guest author) on 15 December, 2010
Janene Carey is a journalist with The Armidale Express in northern New South Wales. Here is her interview with Nicola Woolmington about the significance of her documentary The Forgotten Australians, the long haul of bringing it to completion, the feedback she’s received since it aired, and her background as an ex-Armidale resident who became a filmmaker.
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.
by Fred Wingrave (guest author) on 6 December, 2010
In this excerpt from Burnside from the Inside 1916 – 1926, Fred Wingrave describes his experience in working in the laundry at Burnside Children’s Home and his affection for Mrs Bunker, one of the women who worked in the laundry.
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’m Don Aziz and I was taken from Broken Hill and put into Mittagong Boys Home at the age of 12 and then I grew up there, and then I was returned back to my mother who was a Second World War widow. And then from there I was taken back down to the institutions again, and had to put up with what was dished out to us. And then virtually went from there to Mount Panang, which is another institution of the welfare system, and from there I went back to Broken Hill and I worked on the mines up there and got on with my life.
The apology today means a great thing to not only myself but thousands of Australians that had suffered all these years without no recognition of any apology. We were lost, confused and left out there. A lot of people didn’t believe what actually went on in these places.
Today is a great day for a better future for Australia. Life itself in those homes was a lot of physical, mental and sexual abuse and a lot of misunderstanding, a lot of alcoholism by the welfare people that were in care, and a lot of abuse by the boys to one another. But it gave a sort of direction where I came from because I was living in those times of the year – it was racism against the Indigenous.
I was copping both sides from the Indigenous side and also the welfare side of it. I still carry the demons. I have to live with that until the day I die. But I believe the church, the people that were responsible for all this abuse, are not here to answer for it. So the organisations they are with should be committed to this apologies. I thank the Australian government for what they have done to bring all this together, you know. I know I can die in peace now that this has all been over and done with after today. I will get on with it again.
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.
Today is Forget-me-knot Day in which Adults Surviving Child Abuse (ASCA) asks all Australians to unite in support of the more than 2 million Australian adults surviving child abuse. More information can be found on their website.
Doreen Lyon is the curator of the Oaks Historical Society’s new exhibition, With the Best of Intentions – Stories from Dr. Barnardo’s Farm Training School at Mowbray Park, near Picton 1929-1959. It opened on November 7th at the Wollondilly Heritage Centre, 43 Edward Street, The Oaks, NSW 2570.
This is a multi-platform exhibition which includes objects, images, a catalogue of stories, silent films and a DVD of ten digital stories by Sandra Pires and Javier Valledor of Why Documentaries of Bulli, NSW. Over two hundred people attended the exhibition launch by Mary Louise Williams, Director of the Australian National Maritime Museum and the Hon Phil Costa, MP for Wollondilly. They included former Child Migrants and their families, members of the community and school friends from Picton Central and Mowbray Park Public Schools.
Books and DVDs are available from The Oaks Historical Society, PO Box 16 The Oaks for $15 each. The exhibition is open every weekend and public holiday from 10am – 4 pm. It will close from Dec 21st and re-open January 26th 2011 and run until December 2012.
Below are John Murray’s photographs taken of a re-interment ceremony held on 1 May 2000. Over 100 children’s bodies were re-interred at the site of the former Randwick Asylum for Destitute Children. The bodies were discovered during the rebuild of the psychiatric ward at Sydney Children’s Hospital. An archaeological survey was able to identify 40 of the bodies.
Randwick Asylum for Destitute Children was opened in 1852. The 1873 royal commission on public charities recommended that large institutions for children be closed down and that children be boarded out. At the time of the commission, the Randwick Asylum housed between 700 and 800 children. However, the Asylum did not begin boarding out children until 1883 and did not close until 1915.
Maree Giles is a former inmate of Parramatta Girls’ Training Home is now an Australian author, editor, poet, journalist, creative writing teacher and mentor, and the mother of two grown-up children. She was a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Kingston University, London, 2009 and 2010, and is currently a dissertation supervisor on their Creative Writing MFA.
She is the author of Under the Green Moon and The Past Is A Secret Country. Maree’s debut novel Invisible Thread is based on her experiences in Parramatta Home.
Her poem under a lucky sky is also based on her time in the Home.
by Leigh Westin (guest author) on 16 September, 2010
Leigh Westin was a resident of Scarba House and Parramatta Girls’ Home, both in New South Wales. Here she shares her latest poem. The apology mentioned in the poem refers to that of the NSW Government.
No more silent tears
The years have gone past
I’m older now and remember at last
Blocked away for nearly fifty years
At long last I can cry real tears
My mum passed when I was four
Tears flowed easily and reached the floor
In the Home where I was placed
They belted me for crying
So I dried my little face
Leaving the Home and growing into my teens
I cried inside so not to be seen
The silent tears made me want to scream
Hitting out at others, I was so mean
Until I was locked in another Home
For running away the streets I would roam
Picked up by the welfare who did not care
Sentenced to Parramatta, it just wasn’t fair
I blocked everything to protect my mind
Taking on other things I thought was fine
September 19th 2009 the Government said Sorry
My memories came back but not in a hurry
Over the last ten months through depression and pain
In an essay published in 2007, convicted bank robber, prison escapee and author Bernie Matthews discusses the tragic outcomes for former child inmates of prison-run institutions – the Parramatta Training School for Girls, Hay Institution for Girls, Tamworth Institution for Boys, Hartwell House, Kiama and Westbrook Reformatory for Boys, Toowoomba.