events, Forgotten Australians

Join the Forgotten Australians

by Wilma Robb (guest author) on 2 November, 2011

Join the Forgotten Australians’ rally in Canberra on the second anniversary of the  National Apology to Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants.

When: Wednesday 16th of November 2011 at 8.30am

Where: Meet in Civic Square outside the ACT Legislative Assembly, off London Circuit, Civic

Who are Forgotten Australians? They are approximately 500,000 Indigenous, non-Indigenous and former Child Migrant adults who were incarcerated as children in church, charity and state run orphanages, reformatories, training schools, psychiatric hospitals, children’s homes and in foster care during the 20th century from the 1930s – 1990s.

  • Commemorate the apology: On the 16th of November 2009, the Australian Parliament formally acknowledged and apologised for the ongoing trauma the Forgotten Australians still suffer today as a result of the abuse – sometimes criminal – and neglect of duty of care they experienced as children.
  • Meet with Federal and ACT politicians to discuss the issues affecting Forgotten Australians and children in care today (past and present). These include better access to social and health services and better protection of children who are currently in state care today.
  • Speakers: Forgotten Australian John Murray and Senator Gary Humphries.
  •  Visit and celebrate the opening day of the Forgotten Australians exhibition ‘INSIDE: Life in Children’s Homes’ at the National Museum of Australia after the gathering at the Legislative Assembly, for Music to Remember by Forgotten Australians.

Please RSVP by Friday 11 November to admin@wchm.org.au or 6290 2166.

This event is supported by the Women’s Centre for Health Matters Inc. (WCHM), Woden Community Services Inc., and Women and Prisons (WAP). For more information please contact WCHM on  (02) 6290 2166.

A green circular badge. Centre text reads 'National Apology. Forgotten Australians. 16th November 2011. 2nd Anniversary 2011. Text in outer circle reads 'Justice, Quality of Life. Compensation. Dignity. Join in Canberra.'
Forgotten Australians, memories, petition

Save the Ballarat Orphanage site

by Wings for Survivors (guest author) on 26 October, 2011

Wings for Survivors provided the National Museum with information concerning the petition to the Heritage Victoria Council to save the Ballarat Orphanage site.

The buildings that were once Children’s Homes are now being used for other purposes, or have been left derelict or demolished. Often there is nothing to mark a place where hundreds of children spent their childhood. For so many people it’s a history that remains unacknowledged.

If you would like to support the campaign to have the Ballart Orphanage listed as a heritage site, then you can sign the online petition here.

articles/lectures, Child Migrants, documents, events, Forgotten Australians, Stolen Generations

Rally for children’s safety

by The Benevolent Society (guest author) on 21 April, 2011

Carolin Wenzel from The Benevolent Society lets us know about two current ways to support children’s safety. Members of the public are invited to suubmit their view to the Senate Inquiry into Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2011 [Provisions]. There is also a Rally for Children’s Safety at Parliament House, Canberra, on Wednesday 25 May 2011.

Carolin Wenzel from The Benevolent Society writes:

I’m writing to let you know about two opportunities to support improving the Family Law Act to make it safer for children and parents who are victims of  domestic violence.

You have probably heard about the Senate Inquiry into the Government’s Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill, which was introduced into the House of Representatives by Attorney-General Robert McClelland on March 24th.  Whilst this amendment is a positive step in the right direction,  The Senate Inquiry is an opportunity to present a case for further changes to protect children and their carers under threat of ongoing violence from an ex-partner.

It’s very important, once again to get as many strong submissions to this Inquiry as possible.  They won’t have any access to the submissions that were sent to the Attorney General in January. Submissions close on Friday April 29th – so please act now.

The other exciting development is that several groups are working together to hold a

Rally for Children’s Safety  at Parliament House Canberra on Wednesday May 25

Speakers lined up so far are:

  • Helen Cummings, author of “Blood Vows”
  • Dr Lesley Laing, author of the No Way to Live Report
  • Women’s Refuge Movement Executive Officer, Cat Gander
  • Benevolent Society CEO Richard Spencer
  • Bikers United Against Child Abuse

and we are working on several more, including parents who have harrowing experiences of poor parenting arrangement outcomes under the current Family Law Act.

We also feel it’s very important that the experiences and voices of children are a focus of this Rally.

We invite anyone who’s children have experienced trauma or feel unsafe about court imposed parenting arrangements to create a drawing or artwork respresenting how they feel, and to write a few words on another sheet of paper expressing their thoughts and feelings. They can just write their age (not their name so they are not identifiable)

If possible it would be great to laminate these and either bring them with you to the Rally or send them to me (address in signature below)

We would love you to come to the Rally, and The Benevolent Society is booking a bus to take up to 50 people from Sydney to leave early and be back in Sydney by 6pm that day.

We are working on an e-flyer and a place to link to info about the Rally online – so stay tuned for further updates.

Please pass on this message to anyone you think would be interested, and invite them to send me their email address so that I can include them in further updates.

I will ensure that individual emails are not revealed in any mail out.

Warm Regards,
Carolin Wenzel

Child Migrants, Forgotten Australians, Stolen Generations

Cuts to victims compensation NSW

by Adele Chynoweth on 22 February, 2011

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.

art, Forgotten Australians, memories, painting, Stolen Generations

Escape and Blood Sisters

by Rachael Romero (guest author) on 16 February, 2011

Rachael Romero shares two of her paintings which depict experiences at the Convent of the Good Shepherd, ‘The Pines’, Plympton, South Australia.

Frederica’s Escape Attempt
mixed media on rag paper (ink, watercolour) 22 x 30″, copy right Rachael Romero, 1984

Freddie tried to rush up the wall over the barbed wire one night. The dogs were barking on the other side. We were all wishing her up and over and out, but of course she got dragged back.

She would keep trying.

Blood Sisters
mixed media on rag paper (ink, watercolor) 22 x 30″, copyright Rachael Romero, 1984

Me and Lilly did this because we felt we had become sisters in horror. Lilly had been taken from her mother to a mission then The Pines. She didn’t remember where she was from. I didn’t want to be from where I remembered.

Child Migrants, documents, Forgotten Australians, photos, Stolen Generations

The day the Mullighan Report was tabled

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.

Four women standing in front of a large building holding signs and banners about Forgotten Australians
Photo by CLAN

Both the 2008 Mulligan (South Australia) and the 2004 (federal Senate) reports recommended that Forgotten Australians receive an apology.

Priscilla recalls:

Rightfully so others had received their apology.

We were the last, we needed our apology , we were waiting for this trauma to stop.

Child Migrants, Forgotten Australians, memories, photos, Responding to the National Apology, Stolen Generations

The first anniversary 2

by Cath on 14 December, 2010

On Tuesday 16 November, to mark the first anniversary of the National Apology to Forgotten Australians and former Child Migrants, ACT Forgotten Australians and Women and Prisons (WAP) marched across Commonwealth Avenue Bridge in Canberra. Here are the photographs of the event taken by George Serras, the senior photographer at the National Museum of Australia.

Click on photos to enlarge.

Forgotten Australians, objects

Protest napkin

by Adele on 18 November, 2010

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.

A white napkin in-scripted with "What about children's prisons"

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.