by Gabbi Rose (guest author) on 10 November, 2011
Gabrielle Rose shares photographs from the reunion of former inmates of the Winlaton Youth Training Centre, held at Open Place, Melbourne, on 29 October, 2011. Continue reading “Reunited”
Life in Children’s Homes and Institutions
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by Gabbi Rose (guest author) on 10 November, 2011
Gabrielle Rose shares photographs from the reunion of former inmates of the Winlaton Youth Training Centre, held at Open Place, Melbourne, on 29 October, 2011. Continue reading “Reunited”
by Graham Evans (guest author) on 23 September, 2011
Graham Evans shares a photograph of the St Vincent’s choir in 1962. Graham is standing at the far left of the front row. Graham’s role in the choir was lead singer (ensuring that all the boys stayed in tune) and drummer.
by karolina on 23 September, 2011
‘Where the little inmates are permitted to grow up natural and normal human beings.’ Inside assistant curator Karolina Kilian came across this 1933 Australian Women’s Weekly article about the Church of England Homes for Children.
We’ve transcribed the article so that it’s easier to read:
Gone are the days when institutions for children were like dull morgues, when discipline amounted to tyranny, and all suggestion of love or affection was killed at birth.
The children’s homes of today are pleasant, cheerful places, where the little inmates are permitted to grow up natural and normal human beings.
The Church of England Homes for Children are typical of the changed order. Visit any of the institutions controlled by this committee and you will find conditions that many children under parental roofs might envy.
Hundreds of girls and boys who have passed through these homes are now occupying good positions throughout the Commonwealth.
It is a delight to attend one of the gatherings at the home and meet young men and women who are so proud of their early association with the homes as are men and women who boast of their association with noted schools of learning.
There is a group of these homes at Carlingford (for boys and for girls), a girls’ home at Leura, and the Havilah Home, Wahroonga, for young children.
The homes all have the advantage of being set in beautiful grounds, of having fresh milk and home-grown vegetables.
Built on the crest of a rise at Wahroonga, in a setting of spacious lawns, orange groves, and shrubbery, Havilah Home cares for 80 children between the ages of two and seven years.
Girls on reaching the age of seven are transferred to Carlingford, which takes girls from the age of seven to twelve, to remain there, of course, until the time when they are able to earn their own living or suitable care is guaranteed for them. This home has accommodation for 150 girls, and this is not sufficient. Applications are refused every day, and there is a long waiting list. An even larger demand is made on the boys’ homes.
The other girls’ home is at ‘Quipolli’, Leura, where there is accommodation for 28, from the age of seven to the time when they are fitted to face the world alone.
Domestic science, cookery, dressmaking, laundry, hospital training, and lace-making are among the crafts taught the girls. Lace-making is a special feature, and overseas visitors have compared it with advantage to that done by the women of France and Belgium. Quite a number of girls have their own gardens, for which prizes are awarded.
The Boys’ Home at Carlingford stands in 45 acres of grazing property. The boys receive tuition in carpentring, boot-repairing, house and farm work. In every way they are taught to develop a spirit of self-reliance, wholesome living, and usefulness. They attend the public school at Carlingford, belong to the Boy Scouts, and have a fine choir. On June 3 of this year a large workshop was presented by Mr F.E. Penfold.
History of the homes commences in 1863, at Woolloomooloo, when initial efforts were made to help destitute women and children by the late Canon T.B. Tress and the Rev. J.N. Manning, two Anglican gentleman whose names are commemorated in the Tress-Manning Home at Glebe Point, Mrs J.N. Manning, who is now 83 years of age, as a senior member of the executive committee, still attends the meetings.
From Woolloomooloo a move was made to Paddington, and further expansion necessitated a transfer to Darlinghurst, and in 1894 a group of girls’ homes at Glebe Point was established. The first homes were established at Carlingford in 1929.
No mention of the Church of England Homes for Children would be complete without reference to the late Matron McGarvey, whose love, understanding, and wisdom were of such great influence in the condust of the institution.
Miss McGarvey was matron of the homes for 35 years. It was largely owing to her efforts that the Carlingord Home for Girls was established. As Glebe Point developed more and more into an industrial area, she longed for a country environment for the children. She saw her ambition realised, and was at the Carlingford Home for a while before her retirement in February, 1930.
Miss McGarvey died in December of the same year.
Where children receive their natural heritage – The Australian Women’s Weekly, 2 September 1933 (PDF 241.9kb)
You can also access the article and The Australian Women’s Weekly through the National Library of Australia’s TROVE search service for digitised newspapers, magazines, photographs and more.
Sally Pryor, from The Canberra Times, reported on last week’s talk by Alfred Fletcher, author of Brutal: Surviving Westbrook Boys Home by Al Fletcher as told to Cheryl Jorgensen, at the National Museum of Australia.
[2020 note] You could previously access this article on The Canberra Times website.
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
by Coral Miller (guest author) on 21 June, 2011
Coral Miller shares photographs of St Brigid’s Girls Home, Ryde, NSW. Coral and her sister were sent to St Brigid’s for five years after their mother had a breakdown when their father was killed in Malaya at the Parit Sulong Massacre.
by Adele Chynoweth on 3 June, 2011
Alan Bowles, who grew up in a Salvation Army Home, shares ‘Forgotten’, the song he wrote and performed at the unveiling of the Victorian memorial to Forgotten Australians, in Melbourne on 25 October 2010.
[2020 note: audio file no longer available]
Hear more of Alan’s music on the Australian Johnny Cash & June Carter Show MySpace website
by Diane Tronc (guest author) on 1 June, 2011
Silky Oaks Children’s Home was founded by the Open Brethren and first opened in Toowong, Brisbane, Queensland in 1940. In 1946 the Home was relocated to Manly. Former Silky Oaks resident Diane Tronc shares historical photos of the Home, her foster family and the Silky Oaks Reunion in May 2011.
by Heather Templeman (guest author) on 31 May, 2011
Heather Templeman shares of photo of herself, aged 13, at Catherine Booth Salvation Army Girls Home.
It was our day to wash and polish the dining room floor. It was really quite big. We had already been on our hands and knees from washing the floor. After the floor had dried, we had to get down on our hands and knees again and rub the polish on. So our knees were sore so we thought well, we’ll go and get some rags and put them on our feet and run up and down and polish the floor that way and have some fun. We got a hiding for it but we had fun.
The photo was taken before we cleaned the dining room and it was taken by the Gardener. Can’t remember his name but have another photo he took of me and another girl. He liked the other girl a lot so he only got half of me in it. Pity as it would have been a nice photo. It was Captain C. who caught us but Matron who gave us the hiding, but it wasn’t as bad as what her other ones were.
Photo courtesy of CLAN
by Rupert Hewison (guest author) on 30 May, 2011
Rupert Hewison a former Child Migrant from Britain shares the photographs he took as an eight-year-old at Fairbridge House, Tresca, Exeter, Tasmania.
I was in Tresca from October 1964 to October 1965.
As a farewell gift when leaving England in 1964 my second cousin Alan Hewison gave me a small camera. My mother paid for the film and developing and encouraged me to take photos. I was eight in November 1964 so these are an eight year old’s idea of what would make a good photo at the time. As a child I was known by my middle name, John. These days I use my first name, Rupert. My mother died peacefully in Canberra late last year aged 82. Thank you Jean for having the courage to leave behind all your family and friends to give us a better life in the Promised Land.
by Gabrielle Short (guest author) on 27 May, 2011
On 15 April 2011 Dennis Fogarty posted a request on our Message Board, asking if anyone had photos taken during 1955-56, of Nazareth House in Sebastopol, Victoria. Gabrielle Short has kindly forwarded the following photos.
by Bob McGuire (guest author) on 9 May, 2011
Bob McGuire shares his recent photographs of Parkerville Children’s Home, WA.
Some cottages are gone, sadly, as a lot of us go back for a look at the place. The dining room is one of the main photos as everyone remembers the beltings we would get in that place with the cane, just prior to having to sit down for a meal….sobbing uncontrollaby from the pain…….it has been renamed Worthington Hall, but that doesn’t hide the shame.
If the Anglican Church done the right thing, then they would build a nursing home and aged housing, with first preference to those that were there, and show that they now care.
by Godfrey Gilmour (guest author) on 13 April, 2011
“I may not have been an orphan in the real sense of the word, and my experience at Clontarf as a state ward, however, was full of orphaning experiences”. Godfrey Gilmour, a retired Anglican priest, noticed himself as a child in a photograph, published on this website, taken by Mick O’Donoghue at Clontarf Boys Town in the 1950s. Here, he shares his experiences as a child migrant from a loving family in Malta to the harsh conditions at Clontarf:
I was born in Malta in 1944 in wartime. My mother was Mary Tonna and my father Geoffrey was an English soldier recently transferred to Malta from the North Africa campaign. My parents met sometime in late 1942 or early 1944. It was a wartime love affair and did not come to light til my mother became pregnant and her parents became involved. It was then discovered that Geoffrey was married and that despite my grandfather’s attempt to sort something out, it came to no avail. The army then intervened and sent Geoffrey away to the Italian campaign. My mother never heard from him again and her registered letters to him containing photographs of me went unanswered.
After the war, I lived with my mother and grandparents. It was a comfortable and culturally enriching life. I was close to my grandparents and extended family and I still have very happy memories of that period of time.
At the age of seven I was placed in St Patrick’s School in Sliema which was a boarding school where I experienced abuse for the first time, my family was unaware of this, and I felt unable to tell them about the events at St Patrick’s for I was fearful of the repercussions that might ensue. I was eager to leave the place and always longed to see my father. Some time in 1952 Father Cyril Stinson came to the school in Malta from Western Australia to recruit boys to migrate to Australia. I always remember that he had a florid face and smelt of whiskey. Along with other boys I was told how wonderful Australia was, and the wonderful school we would be going to. My mother along with other parents was also told similar things and also thought this would be a good thing especially as she was also advised that she could also follow me to Australia. In my child’s mind, I thought that somehow, I would be closer to England and that I might see my father. I had no idea Australia was on the other side of the world.
In July 12th 1953 I migrated to Australia. When I arrived at Clontarf, I immediately felt that this was a dark place. And it proved to be so almost from day one. It felt as though I had landed like on the dark side of the moon. I didn’t fit in at Clontarf; I had come from a cultured family in Malta. My mother had a wonderful singing voice. I always had plenty of reading matter, at night, in Malta; she would sing me to sleep with operatic arias that she had learnt. But at Clontarf, I experienced a great deal of deprivation especially in the early years. I was to experience emotional, physical and sexual abuse almost the very first days. There was a predatory culture at work at Clontarf and at Castledare; young boys were preyed upon by particular staff and also older boys. My first nights in one of those large cold dormitories were miserable and I recall crying myself to sleep wondering when my mother was going to arrive and take me away.
From the first days I witnessed and then personally experienced the harsh discipline and the use of the infamous straps made of several layers of leather and reinforced with metal to make them weightier and more painful. The staff carried these up the sleeves of their cassocks and used them with terrible efficiency. In the absence of their straps staff resorted to sticks, canes and fists even on very young boys and those who were maimed through accidents. The attitude of some staff was sadistic.
There was also this process of depersonalisation at work at Clontarf and a loss of identity. I soon became a number. My Christian name was never used, only my number and surname. My personal belongings were soon taken away from me, my books were burnt, and my mail home was censored. We were forbidden to speak Maltese. Being bi-lingual I was at times told to translate letters from Malta to Maltese boys for the principal in case information about Clontarf was getting back to Malta. There was a lack of respect for the individual, the well-being of the institution mattered more.
The food was so awful after the Mediterranean diet I was used to; hunger was a constant reality, and boys resorted to raiding the pig bins for food. The enforced nudity, the lack of privacy [even the toilets lacked doors], the constant hard work that we had to engage in, often in dangerous conditions, made inroads into our health and well-being also affected of academic performance. Many boys failed academically and were put to work at an early age and were functionally illiterate on leaving Clontarf.
My mother came out to Australia in October 1954. Catholic welfare found her work at a Catholic presbytery in Fremantle. In early 1955 my mother found employment at Castledare, the junior orphanage that fed into Clontarf. She became uncomfortable with the violence that she saw. On raising this with one of the brothers, he said, “I didn’t want to be here. My parents forced me to become a Christian Brother”.
My mother was asked to leave Castledare and moved to Perth and worked there. In 1957 my mother married Jack Gilmour. He immediately wanted to adopt me legally and immediately ran into obfuscation both by the authorities and also the staff at Clontarf. People did not readily question authority in those days. Unbeknown to them, I was legally a state ward. My step father then took steps to change my name by deed poll. This was done much to the chagrin of Brother Doyle, the principal, who in an interview with my parents at which I was also present raised objections. My parents insisted that I should now be known as Godfrey Gilmour. Already out of favour with Brother Doyle this latest issue made life difficult, ever more difficult for me.
My final year at Clontarf was spent in Br Doyle’s class. It was a devastating year for me. I was brutalised and humiliated by this man all year. I was at times hit over the head by this man and had my spectacles broken after being hit across the face. He took a dislike to my accent and constantly drew attention to what he described as my ‘plummy accent’ and humiliated me in front of my peers. I became an anxious boy, I developed a speech impediment, had sleep problems and even experienced bouts of enuresis, [bed wetting] something I had never experienced in my life. At the end of the school year I was simply told to leave and not come back. I virtually left in the clothes I was standing in. I was still a ward of the state and yet my parents received no support whatever for my transition to life outside the orphanage. After several years my mother received a letter from the Child Welfare Department in Perth, advising my mother that she could now adopt me.
Such was my experience in care in Western Australia, I may not have been an orphan in the real sense of the word, and my experience at Clontarf as a state ward however was full of orphaning experiences. Putting the past behind me I forged a career in education, family welfare and ministry.
PS: I was to meet my father in the UK, shortly before he died we were reconciled. I also met 9 siblings and large family. My mother did not live to see that day. She died in Malta.
by Rachael Romero (guest author) on 9 April, 2011
Award-winning film maker and visual artist, Rachael Romero, writes about the image of the knife that was used in a theatre production at the Pines (Convent of the Good Shepherd).
Imagery speaks to memory. Artifacts resonate meaning. In the Pines, (Convent of the Good Shepherd) year of 1968 we used this wooden knife in a play held as a charade for Welfare (as if we were provided for culturally). Never mind that there were hardly any books available; newspapers to read, radios to hear or any news crossing the barbed wire fences of our laundry prison. We were told to offer up our suffering for the saving of souls. I see this knife as a kind of Magdalene cross we were nailed to. After-all we were stigmatized and a regular cross would have been blasphemy. The knife was also the image of choice for home-made tattoo in the Pines; crudely drawn into cuts on the the leg in Indian ink–a form of self injury to reify the agony we felt .
I photographed the second image of my feet “on the cross” eighteen months after I got out. At sixteen–this is how I felt– crucified, but not redeemed from the extra judicial incarceration I had experienced. I had no-one to tell. Everyone looked away, pretended nothing had happened.We have only just begun to break this terrible silence in “the lucky country” so that other unwanted children will cease to be so savaged.
The knife was used as a prop for the production of HMS Pinafore (image of the programme below), performed by inmates from the Pines. Rachael recalls:
It was directed by Mother Lourdes I believe. I made the drawing and did the scenery and sang in the chorus. I don’t remember much about it except that I was always glad to make art instead of working in the laundry.
The welfare workers, priest and family members were invited. It was all a big show to look as if we were being cared for.After the performance the priest requested that my blonde curls be shaved and presented to him. I refused.
by Janice Konstantinidis (guest author) on 10 March, 2011
In January 2010, Janice Konstantinidis returned to her former “Home”, Mount Saint Canice, Sandy Bay, Tasmania to witness its redevelopment into luxury apartments.
Janice describes her feelings returning to Mount Saint Canice:
I am walking about the grounds….a first as a free person [and then] I sat here for a long time, trying to get my mind around it all. It was so weird to be free, even at fifty nine. In all seriousness I had flashbacks and wondered if I could be made stay.
by Wilma Robb (guest author) on 16 February, 2011
Girls who entered Children’s Homes were often subjected, without explanation, to harsh physical exmainations.
The above photo, shared by Wilma Robb, shows the table used for internal examinations at Parramatta Girls Home.
by Oliver Cosgrove (guest author) on 7 February, 2011
This photograph kindly forwarded to the National Museum by Oliver Cosgrove shows the interior of the chapel at the former Clontarf Boys Town, now Clontarf Aboriginal College.
The interior bricks were rendered, the exterior stuccoed, and the roof timbers constructed from jarrah and karri. The parquetry floor was made from she-oak and jarrah, all securely laid in bitumen on a concrete base. The chapel was consecrated in 1941 by the Archbishop of Perth. The chapel was built in one year by the child residents at Clontarf.
by Priscilla Taylor (guest author) on 21 January, 2011
On 1 April 2008, the South Australian Children in State Care Commission of Inquiry report was tabled in State Parliament. Commissioner Ted Mullighan QC led the associated inquiry which included 1592 allegations of sexual abuse and the investigation of the deaths of 924 children in state care.
Priscilla Taylor shares a photo of her (first on the left) on the steps of South Australia’s Parliament House, participating in protest organised by CLAN on the day that the Mullighan report was tabled.
Both the 2008 Mulligan (South Australia) and the 2004 (federal Senate) reports recommended that Forgotten Australians receive an apology.
Rightfully so others had received their apology.
We were the last, we needed our apology , we were waiting for this trauma to stop.
by Cath on 12 January, 2011
ABC Open’s Now and Then project links old and new photographs. In one example Alex Smee used an image of Broome’s Holy Child Orphanage in 1941 to link with a new photograph of Ida Kelly, a former resident of the Children’s Home.
by Adele on 24 June, 2010
The Liverpool Regional Museum, New South Wales, has an exhibit on St Ann’s Orphanage.