Forgotten Australians, memories, poetry

When a child’s home is an asylum

by Rhonda Trivett (guest author) on 10 May, 2010

In 1967, at the age of eight, Rhonda was placed in Sandgate Home, Brisbane, while her mother tried to cope with the death of Rhonda’s father. Because Rhonda was dyslexic and became frustrated with her inability to read, she ran away from school. As a result, she was admitted to a locked ward in the Winston Noble Unit, a mental health facility attached to the Prince Charles Hospital at Chermside, Brisbane. She was later admitted to Lowson House, a mental health ward at the Royal Brisbane Hospital and then transferred to Wilston Youth Hostel. At the age of 13 she was admitted to a maximum security ward for adult female psychiatric patients (Osler House) at Wolston Park Hospital where she remained until she was 21 years of age.

Here is her poem, describing how her mother’s love helped her.

Rhonda’s bed in Wolston Park
Forgotten Australians, memories, poetry

Reflections – what I know

by Pamella Vernon (guest author) on 29 April, 2010

I know of childhood !
I know about children
lost and vulnerable,
of anger and confusion,
torn from all, good and bad,
that represented for them
home, love and security.
I know about loneliness.
Children thrust
into an alien environment,
seeking solace for grief,
hungry for kind words,
an embrace for sobs of need.
Children desperate for some
semblance of normality in the
‘human condition’.

I know of childhood
need for memories,
a link to a past,
with which to relate,
in an overwhelming sea of
or ignorant complacency.

I know of childhood emptiness.
A parent’s death,
the pain of unresolved grief,
separation and loss,
kept secret, unshared,
of abandonment.
Young minds and hearts in trauma,
seeking sense in their

I know of childhood perceptions.
Emotionally sterile environment as
punishment, for perceived self-
loss of love as unworthiness.

What did I do wrong?
I’m sorry….
Come and take me home,
I’ll be good,  I promise,
Please!  Please!

I know of childhood acceptance.
Submersion of needs for love,
affection, human warmth,
along with cherished memories
buried deep in the psyche,
in order to survive
in an emotional void.
I know about subterfuge!
Powerless, defenseless confusion.
A child branded and maligned,
Liar!  Bad Seed!  Scum!
because of  truth
argued on deaf ears.
Physical & emotional separation
from siblings. Punishment!
because Secrets had to be kept.
I know about insincerity,
enforced gratitude,
for the ‘right to be’
for the necessities to sustain life,
a compulsory component of
being needy’.

I know about Doctrine!
The ethos of
“The sins of the father
visited upon the child”.
The ripping apart of belief
in treasured memories,
in the name of
“Saving” the child.
A ‘decent God fearing upbringing’
at any cost!
I know about Religion!
of God presented as a
“God of anger” vengeful,  jealous,
the punisher of sin.
The ‘Love’ of God….
an afterthought.

I know about “Good People”!
Who could never stay……
I know about lies,
even where truth was irrefutable,
about smothered individualism,
initiative and spirit,
under the guise of ‘benevolence’.
I know about the few good people
who could never stay,
they managed the fine balance of
‘job’ with personal humility,
They made a difference in our
bereft childhoods,
however slight they may think,
in a system that enshrined a
religious and caring ethos,
but functioned
in a separatist ideology.
The “needy” poor,
seen as the agents
of their own destiny,
socially and morally bankrupt.

I know about adulthood!
I understand emotional survival
adopted by children under threat,
to survive pain, trauma,
abandonment and displacement.
I know about ‘Growing up’!
The pain of being invisible,
unwanted & used
the constraints of life fulfillment,
of self-responsibility for life choices,
the futility of emotional baggage,
as an excuse or crutch.
I am the product of Nature
I am the product of lack of Nurture.
I take responsibility for me,
my actions, my thoughts,
my space.
I know pain of failure,
elation in triumph,
regret for lost opportunities.
I accept the myriad facets
of my character.

I know about Reflections!
Contemplation of childhood
can be a painful, funny journey
and illuminates
the dichotomy for all
Forgotten Australian’s childhoods.
Our sharing of stories
and memories,
the sadness, the pain,
the suffering,
the isolation, the abuse
I know about the fun, gaiety,
merriment and pleasures,
we the Forgotten Children,
We the Forgotten Australians
derived from each other
and shared in the reconstructed
families We created
amongst ourselves.
That ensures the balance
is not lost in the dross.

I know about indebtedness! we all
bring to each other today,
not only our personal experiences
of childhood,
but also our adult acceptance,
maturity and diversity.
We share the need for roots
firmly anchored in a sense
of family ties and traditions,
that we the unwanted,
the unloved
and the forgotten
can only truly understand.

Thank you my fellow
Forgotten Australians
for being the catalyst for
“The spirit of the extended

we never had”

© 2000 Yvonne Vernon – all rights reserved

Yvonne Vernon was a resident of Dalmar Children’s Home, New South Wales, from 1950 to 1958. This poem, posted by her sister, was read by Jim Luthy and Pamella Vernon at the New South Wales Government’s Healing Service and Memorial Unveiling, for those who grew up in institutions, orphanages, children’s homes and foster homes, in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney, on 19 September 2009.

Forgotten Australians, memories, poetry

When a boy cried

by Wayne Miller (guest author) on 23 April, 2010


When a boy cried, no one listened,
When a boy cried, no one gave him succor,
When a boy cried, no one gave him peace,
When a boy cried, no one saw the pain,
When a boy cried, there was no saviour
When a boy cried, there was no God.

In bliss he was borne, in hell he was delivered,
In innocence he came, in damnation he left,
His protectors were revered, his tormentors were spared,
His world was his hatred, his reality his fantasy,
His torture his brother, his rape his sister,
In dreams he sought comfort, but only found horror,

He read with fear, of catholic inquisition,
He lived with dread, its inception,
This boy, this survivor, of Christian Brother fervor.
When this man cried, in agony of his memories,
Still nobody listened to his tale of horror,
Who could hear his muted brain, screaming,
Save me from this living hell, you evil men in black!

When the boy in the man cried, they looked the other way!?



The sands my feet touch, as I stroll
Along the lonely beach of life
Have been finely ground, over countless centuries
The echoing corridors of my mind, were created over
It is an endless walk, this stroll through time
And as you hear the echoes, and feel the fear
Even as you suffer the loneliness, the pain, the sadness
You keep searching,
for you.

Is there a chance there is a you in everyone
Can you touch your very soul as you shake hands
With life
Does your soul cringe, at the very thought of strolling through
Life’s corridors,
As you turn each corner, enter each room of your experiences
are you scared of your own
Confrontations, the reality, that yes,
That is really you.

If so, be not afraid,
for it is you who makes the difference
between the knowledge that you are an individual
the knowledge that who you are will never change
and it is this very essence that makes life so interesting
so abundantly clear to all who perceive you.
So as you stroll through those corridors, let the pain be eased
By the memories of the good times,
Those precious moments in time when you could laugh and cry
With happiness.
For it is in these memories that you will find you.

Wayne Miller

art, Forgotten Australians, poetry

Coming together

by Leigh Westin (guest author) on 2 March, 2010

We are “The Forgotten Australians”,
Whose childhood was taken from us.
Put in homes and orphanages
for doing “NO” wrong.
Some of us became state wards,
The welfare and the government
treated us like scum.
A lot were abused in all shapes &
forms & could tell no-one.

We are worthy we are strong
coming together, we are “ONE”.

We were called “liars and thieves”.
government authorities we could never
Our minds & bodies were broken,
by people who didn’t care.
No play! No love! To us it wasn’t fair.
We had NO voice, we had NO choice!
& nothing to rejoice.
No birthdays! No christmas! No toys!
we were lost little girls and boys.
Who were our families?
We were left with horrendous memories.
We prayed to god to help us,
but his followers let us down.
On our own, abandoned and put down.

We are worthy, we are strong
coming together, we are “ONE”.

We are troubled & tormented
our lives forever changed.
We are proud & free to agree.
Childhood memories are forever
tattooed in our hearts.
With our strength & friendship the
tattoos will hopefully fade from our

We are worthy, we are strong
coming together we are “ONE”.

We are “The Forgotten Australians”
& together we will sing out loud.
Now we hold our heads up high
& together we are proud.
People will remember “us” & all that we
have been through.
We could be your neighbours or even
your best friend.
So remember us until we reach the end.

We are worthy, we are strong
coming together we are “ONE”.

Forgotten Australians, memories, poetry


by Beth Pinkerton (guest author) on 22 February, 2010

I didn’t really have any memories until I saw the ad in the paper for the Parragirls Reunion and Hay trip.
I wasn’t in Hay, but I went.
Sitting in that bus with all the women, was the first time I have ever felt I fit in.
I remember the girls coming back from Hay.
The way they came to attention and the way they looked at the floor.

The Hay girls were the best bit of advertising Parramatta ever did.
Their behaviour terrified me.
What had happened to them to make them like that?

I kept that in mind when I was sent out to work from Bethal.
I had seen the superintendent so many times ‘visiting’ a girl in Bethal.
So when I refused to go back out to work, because the man I worked for was assaulting me. Our superintendent made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.
Either go back out to work and let that man have sex with me, or, go to Hay.
I took the first option.

I came out of that place broken.
I stayed that way until I gave up using when I was 48.
I am now 58.
My life only really started when I turned 50.
All those years wasted in violent relationships and addiction.

I went to the apology on the bus with the Parragirls.
I cried because I saw so many men and women like me, broken and ill.
I cried because finally we had been acknowledged.
But for me sorry isn’t enough.

But it’s a start.

art, Forgotten Australians, poetry

A neglected child

by Bob McGuire (guest author) on 21 December, 2009

At age ten Bob was taken from his mother as a neglected child and placed in Parkerville Children’s Home. Below is his poem.

‘Wearne Centre’ at Parkerville Children’s Home
Dining room at Parkerville Children’s Home

to be taken as a neglected child
to be told you were going to be put some where safe
to always remember the evil man with the cane and all ways wild
this is the darkness in my dreams, the horror in my life
this place was not safe but a place of horror for this waif

art, Forgotten Australians, poetry


by Nicole Troccoli-Dennis (guest author) on 14 December, 2009

Nicole Troccoli-Dennis wrote the following poem in 1988, at Winlaton Detention Centre, Victoria.


The petals of my roses are merely wiltering away,

Dreams forever becoming destroyed right here in my face.

Freedom flew away without a thought for me,

My confidence now my enemy.

Love is too much of a burden,

Happiness merely a verb.

Psychotic thoughts come as freely as taking a breath “Aaahhh!!!”

I thought it was all around me,

Surprise, Surprise, I found it.

Way down inside of me,

Within the deepest realms of my soul.

Yep! Rage, Hatred, Mania and compulsive anxiety,

Let me out of this cold wet cage-like existence.

Disease and scars my proof,

Rejected from day one.

Some call this survival,

I say it’s a battle never won.

Agony, fright and all things nice,

That’s what I ended up made of.

Nicole Troccoli-Dennis at the National Apology to Forgotten Australians
Nicole Troccoli-Dennis at the National Apology to Forgotten Australians
Nicole Troccoli-Dennis at the National Apology to Forgotten Australians