Forgotten Australians, memories, photos

Our day to clean the dining room floor

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.

Heather says:

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

Melita and Heather (right) with rags on their feet ready to polish the floor.
Melita and Heather (right) with rags on their feet ready to polish the floor.
Photo courtesy of CLAN
Forgotten Australians, memories, photos

Nazareth House photos

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.

St Joseph’s Boys’ Dormitory, early 1960s
St Joseph’s Boys’ Dormitory, early 1960s

events, Forgotten Australians

Winlaton reunion

by Gabrielle Short (guest author) on 27 May, 2011

Gabrielle Short has organised a reunion of former inmates from the Winlaton Youth Training Centre. The reunion will take place at Open Place in Melbourne on 29 October 2011.

Gabbi has announced:

We are holding a reunion for all those who spent time in Winlaton Youth Training Centre October 29th 2011. I think this will be a great opportunity to catch up with old friends and take a trip down memory lane. I’m sure there will be plenty of interesting stories to tell good & bad. Most of us were put there for no fault of our own, most of us were only running away from the system itself that failed to care for us in other homes, some because of being exposed to moral danger, some as a result of rape, pregnancy, poverty, the list goes on. We were not the bad girls that we were lead to believe and portrayed to the public. I know a lot of girls who still to this day will talk of other homes they were in but not Winlaton because of the shame and stigma that was once attached with being in Winlaton well it’s time to hold our heads up high and be proud of who we are and the fact that we have survived and are still here to tell our stories.

Forgotten Australians, memories, photos

Institutionalising the innocent

by James McMurchy (guest author) on 27 May, 2011

James McMurchy grew up in St Cuthbert’s Home for Boys, Colac, Victoria where his single  mother was employed as a house parent.

James shares his history:

I arrived at St Cuthbert’s Boys Home Colac courtesy of my mother; she was employed in the first instance as the House Cook and then, because of her ability to engage with the children, the House Parent.  Imagine it, if you will the single parent of forty-plus boys under the age of sixteen (plus me).

My mother became a single parent (I write this from a 21st century perspective, as parent is gender neutral language) after being thrown out onto the streets by her husband – the other person responsible for my, and my sister’s, conception – and with the assistance of the Australian legal system.

There were many women like my mother who found themselves in a similar position at the time forced, by circumstance, to place their children into ‘care.’  My mother avoided this but in reality did, as I was to live as ‘one of the boys.’  I slept in the same dormitories; we ate together; showered communally; faced the same social discrimination and went to Chapel (and one Holy Communion) five mornings a week, prior to breakfast and heading off to school. We were also required to attend another Holy Communion on the Sunday. We were the tangible symbol of ‘God’s love’ to the pious citizens of the Anglican Church’s community of Colac.

It was the institutionalising of the innocent. It was child abuse. My mother was visibly angry (in subsequent ‘family kitchen table’ conversations) at having to be a participant in the process, in part because her son was subjected to it too.  But what was she to do, as some love is better than no love?  There is forgiveness also for the Principal of the home at the time, Mrs Houghton and her husband, for the children looked up to her as a saint.  She replaced a sadistic paedophile and had an enlightened (for the time) approach to institutional child care.  I do not want to hear the sermons of today’s privileged.

I am in contact, and have been for some time, with another person from St. Cuthbert’s who is very interested in the history of the home, and has expressed an indebtedness to my mother (the salvation of at least one soul from God).  I fear however he may soon be about to die.  That person is a testament to human resilience.  He has succeeded in life, where many from more fortunate beginnings have not.  His story deserves telling too.

James McMurchy (left) with two others from St Cuthbert’s
Forgotten Australians, memories

He was living in a horse stable

by Wayne Chamley and Tony Danis (guest author) on 23 May, 2011

Dr Wayne Chamley, an advocate from Broken Rites, shares the history of Tony Danis. Tony was held in the Mont Park Asylum after escaping from a home run by the brothers of St. John of God. Wayne did a lot of advocacy work for Tony and he now lives comfortably.

Wayne writes:

When I first found Tony, he was living in a horse stable, working 6 days a week, as a stable hand and being paid $300 for the week’s work! Tony has poor literacy skills because he has never received any education. He is actually quite smart and because of his life-journey, he is now very street wise.

This is the statement that he dictated to me and which he sent as a submission to the Forgotten Australians Senate inquiry. It is a very sad and disturbing recounting of his appalling treatment. You will see that he identifies a Br. F. as one of his abusers and then this same person has counter-signed his committal certificate, as was required under the Lunacy Act.

Tony Danis’  experience at a Home, in Victoria, run by the brothers of St. John of God:

I was born in 1946. I live alone. Since about the age of 16 years I have been able to work sometimes, in either full time or part-time work to support myself. I have worked in a range of manual jobs. At other times I have had to live on social security while experiencing serious depression. For most of my life I have suffered seriously from asthma and this has been getting progressively worse in recent over the last six years or so. At the beginning of this year I had to finish working because of this illness and ongoing depression.

Records that I have obtained about my childhood indicate that I was first placed into care in St Anthony’s and St Joseph Boys Home at the same time. We were later moved to a Home for Boys … that was operated by the St John of God Brothers. At times I was taken for holidays to the St John of God farm … and also to a house that the Brothers had …

Placement in [VIC] Institutions

  1. St. Anthony’s Home: 1950 to 1951
  2. St Joseph’s Home: 1951 & 1952
  3. St John of God Home: 1952 to 1960

Domestic Routine

As I recall, the domestic routine … as fairly constant. I was in an upstairs dormitory and as I recall all of the boys who slept upstairs were the ones who either never, or rarely, had adults visit on weekends. The boys who got visitors were on the ground floor.

Every day boys were woken early, they then dressed and went to the dining room for breakfast. After meals some boys were rostered to clear the tables, sweep the floors and help with dishwashing. Boys not rostered were allowed to go outside and play. Later a bell went and boys went into classes.

While many of the boys went to classes for most of the day, I only went to short classes in the morning. After this I was put onto other duties. These varied and included gardening, maintenance jobs, working in the kitchen after lunch and helping to prepare vegetables for the evening meal, cleaning the dormitories and making beds.

After school classes had finished we were allowed to play outside and then we would come in for tea. All boys had showers either before or immediately after tea and showers were supervised by the brothers.

After dinner, boys were allowed to watch TV until about 8.30 pm at which time they had to go to bed. Before going to bed, many boys upstairs were given a red medicine every night. This made me feel very groggy.

On weekends, boys were allowed to play various games and sometimes we were taken by brothers to a football match. Sometimes the brothers would get very drunk while we were at the football.

Experience of Abuse

I experienced severe and sustained abuse which was carried out by several of the brothers when I was in the Home … and at the … Farm and in the house …

I experienced the following abuses

  • Sexual abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • Starvation
  • False imprisonment
  • Incarceration in a psychiatric institution sat the instigation of the brothers
  • Deprived of an education and subjected to unpaid child labour

Sexual abuse

During my nine years (approximately) in the Home … I was sexually abused many times and by several of the brothers. I also experienced instances of harsh physical abuse. The sexual abuse varied from fondling by one and sometimes more brothers and it took place when I was in the toilets and during the night when I was in the dormitory. Over a period of 3-4 years I was abused frequently by five brothers.

On another occasion I was raped … by Brother F. in a toilet. All the time I was crying and in a lot of pain.

On another occasion when I was about 10 years old, I was held down by three brothers in the corridor of the dormitory and, while one continued to hold me on the floor, the others manually pulled out some emerging pubic hair and chest hair. As they did this, they joked and referred to my having “bum fluff” which had to be removed.

The sexual activities of the religious brothers were not confined to within the precincts of…[the Home]. On occasions boys were taken from Cheltenham for holidays. In my own case I was taken for holidays to the farm and to a holiday house.

The two brothers at the holiday house were Bro. H and Bro M. Both these brothers abused me and I was also abused by a Bro. B while I was at the farm.

Physical abuse

From the time I was placed into ‘care’ … I experienced physical abuse at the hands of various brothers and I lived in fear. I was not the only boy who was treated like this although I did seem to be singled out, on several occasions, for particular punishments. The abuse took the form being punched in the body and/or hit on the side or the back of the head. On other occasions I was beaten by an individual brother using a piece of cane and at times I was whipped by a brother using a leather strap.

Many times I received a beating when I arrived late at the breakfast room along with another boy, L. who had red hair. The circumstance that led to my often being late for breakfast is linked to the fact the L. and shared the same dormitory. Each morning L. had to put calipers on his legs on order to be able to walk and if L. was slow in getting ready, I would stay in the dormitory and help him to put on his calipers. Thus I was often punished for helping my friend L. while L. himself was punished for being late because of his having a physical disability. Another boy who was often punished for being late was L. W.

Starvation

Hunger was a constant companion while I was in the ‘care’ of the brothers. This reflected the fact that the amount of food made available to boys was insufficient and often the meals lacked any variety. Consequently, sometimes boys did not eat a meal then our hunger got worse.

When boys are staying at Lilydale we were allowed to help with some of the farm work including milking cows and feeding chicken and pigs. The pig’s feed included leftovers from the kitchens and this was transported to the piggery on a truck or a trailer. I can recall occasions when I and other boys would ride on the same vehicle going to the piggery and we would eat the best of the scraps before they were fed to the pigs.

False imprisonment

On one occasion when I was about 11 years old, I was whipped very heavily by a brother using a leather strap. Because the assault upon me and the pain that I was experiencing, I could not stop crying and so I was then locked in a dark room and left there for three days. Every now and again I was checked by a brother and during those days I received only bread and water.

When I was let out of the dark room I was crying and very upset. I learned that while I had been locked up, all of the boys had been given new leather scout belts. Later that evening, Bro. T. came to see me in the dormitory. He had brought me a new scout belt and the buckle had my own name on it. Bro. T. was a very kind person. Although he knew about the abuse that was going on, because boys told him, he did nothing about it.

This experience of being locked in a small dark room has had a profound effect upon me and to this day I experience uncomfortable anxiety if I am in a dark room and the door is closed.

Incarceration in the psychiatric institution at Mont Park

At the instigation of the Brothers of St. John of God, I was incarcerated in the Mont Park Asylum for more than two years.

The circumstances that led to my being incarcerated need to be explained. When I was 12 years of age I ran away from the Home on three separate occasions. My motivation each time was to try to escape from the abuse, the terrifying experiences, the persecution and regular beatings that I was getting at the Home. The sequel to each escape was for me to be returned to [the Home] and then I was punished for my action. Usually this took the form of further beatings by various brothers.

In one escape I managed to get to the Royal Botanical gardens and I entered the back of Government House. One of the gardeners met me and I was taken to a kitchen at the back of the large house. After a short time the wife of the Governor came and talked to me. She arranged for me to be washed and given food and I told her about being whipped and abused by the brothers. Her response was that I was making the story up. Soon after, a police car arrived and I was taken to a police station close by and I was questioned about my escape. After this I was driven back to [the Home] in a police car in the company of female police.

After my third escape I was sent away from [the Home] by the brothers and I was placed into a receiving house at Mount Park Asylum. This was a terrifying experience. I was first placed in unit M10 which was like a prison. During the day I was allowed to move around within large communal rooms and I could watch TV. As I was fairly small and only a young teenager (13 years old), I was sometimes physically attacked by some of the older patients with mental illnesses. I was not allowed out of the unit unless I was accompanied by a member of staff.

During the night I was locked up in a small cell that had bars on a window and a solid door with a small, barred, glass window in it.

I spent about two years at Mont Park until one day a Dr R. had a long talk to me. I recall this doctor made an assessment of me and then told me that I should not be in such a place. I was 14 years of age.

After my meeting with this doctor, arrangements were made for me to live in a private house in Preston where one of the nurses lived. After a short time I got a job in a local clothing factory and I continued to board at the house for a few years.

Deprived of getting a basic education and subjection to unpaid child labour

As I have outlined in the section that describes the domestic routine at [the Home], I was given little opportunity to get a formal education. This was not the case for other boys who spent several hours each day in school classes. The chance to learn to read and write was denied me by the brothers and instead I was kept in a situation of unpaid child labour. For most of the time at [the Home], I was required to do domestic work for the brothers.

In his Submission to the Senate Inquiry from Broken Rites, Wayne wrote:

We are aware of at least two statements made by different, former inmates who allege that two different boys sustained injuries, as a consequence of beatings, that probably resulted in death. One of these boys was thrown down a staircase (according to the witness) soon after he arrived at the [farm]. We are also aware of at least two boys who both experienced serial, sexual abuse and who were (as juveniles) certified under the Victorian Lunacy Act (1915) and then incarcerated within the Royal Park Asylum. This was the Order’s final response to each boy’s continuing efforts to abscond from the Home; his chosen strategy for escaping from his paedophile attackers. In one of these cases the brother who filled out and signed the committal report was the ‘alpha’ paedophile!

Tony Danis and Wayney Chamley
Child Migrants, memories

Northcote Farm School remembered – 70 years later

by Graham Budd (guest author) on 29 March, 2011

Graham Budd recalls the influential staff at Northcote Farm School during his residence from 1939: Colonel Heath as a man in the wrong place, “but a man for all that”, old Wally the bootmaker, and Mrs Odgers, with a great affection:

As far as I personally am concerned Northcote Farm School was dominated by two extraordinary people. Lt Colonel Sydney John Heath MC, DSO, OBE, MVO ex-British army, boxing heavyweight champion, joined the army as a 14 year old drummer boy, worked his way up through the ranks. A feat that would have taken some doing back in his day. Lost one arm in WWI. Six foot, two inches, a personality that dominated everyone around him. A pair of grey green eyes that would light up with uproarious laughter and at other times become as cold as ice and seemed to be looking into your very soul. Almost instinctively most people feared him. A fierce disciplinarian with a voice that could clearly be heard half a mile away. The majority of children feared him intensely, some hated him. I did neither, I think that even at that young age I recognised him for what he was – a man among men, a man that it would be most unwise to argue the point with. He was a soldier who had never known any other sort of life. Whether such a man should ever have been put in such a position is perhaps an arguable point, but the fact was he was there.

The second personality that concerned me was Mrs Patricia Violet Odgers, nee Herr. My cottage mother. Married an Australian army officer after WWI, they moved onto a bush block at Renmark SA, cleared the block and planted it down for grape vines, he was filling in his time doing odd jobs during that period of time waiting to pick his first crop. No-one knows exactly what happened but he was putting gravel on his driveway using a shovel and a horse and dray. He was found lying on the driveway – the dray had gone over his head.

The settlement commission decided that Violet could not manage the block and that since they had not paid for the block perhaps it would be best to send her back to her parents and give the block to someone else. This is as far as I know what happened. Her father Mr Warren Herr, a well known Melbourne business man, a fine example of the ultimate Victorian gentleman, didn’t want a weeping woman under his feet all day so sent her off on a world tour which lasted quite a long time. While having breakfast in a London hotel one of the quests told her of this strange children’s home in Kensington where young children were collected into groups and sent off to Canada, Australia or South Africa.  Violet found it hard to believe so set out to find the place. I remember the day she visited us. Mainly because we got very few visitors and those that did come spent their time talking to the staff and only looked at us kids in the manner of an auctioneer looking over a mob of cattle. Violet did the reverse and spent the day talking to us. She told me years afterwards that she was horrified at what the children said to her that day and decided somebody should do something about them. In the end the penny dropped and she thought, “Why not me?”, a decision that I firmly believed saved me from going barmy.

She volunteered to help supervise a gang of 28 boys and girls of whom I was one, being sent to Northcote School, Bacchus Marsh, Victoria. Upon arrival, January 6 1939, she asked Col. Heath for a job. He of course was delighted, Violet being a very different type of person usually found in such places. Well educated, old enough to have experience, in her forties, young enough to keep up with the kids. Obviously wasn’t there because she had to work somewhere and couldn’t get any other type of job, which would describe most of them. She was given No. 12 cottage, 16 boys of whom I was one. A very lonely boy of 11 years. A country boy as opposed to the city breed type, which was the average. Very homesick. Missed my Grandfather, who had opposed very strongly my being sent away. Missed by stepfather a TPI from WWI who had died in March 1938, a man I was strongly attached to. He had been a sergeant in the Coldstream Guards and I adored him. I think that is why I took a different attitude to the Colonel, there was a similarity between them. Mrs Odgers quickly recognised that I wasn’t interested in sports or skylarking as most boys are but I lived in a world of books. She did everything possible to encourage me.

The place was run on a presumption that “an idle boy is a troublesome boy” which is true, but Northcote took it to extreme lengths. The only time we got to ourselves was from 1pm to 5pm on a Sunday. A period spent wandering all that area between the Werribee Gorge and the Brisbane ranges. Sometimes even wandering as far as Bacchus Marsh, a distance of a very hilly 7-8 miles by the shortest but hardest route. It was of course a region considered “out of bounds” and beyond all the youngest of us. The rest of the week was rise,  7am cold shower, do whatever work you were rostered for after making your bed military style. The work would be half an hour of housework, then 20 minutes physical exercise down near the central dining room, run by the Colonel himself. Then community breakfast, plate of porridge with milk but no sugar, two rounds of bread and dripping, one glass of milk. Back to cottage on the double, nobody ever strolled. Finish whatever you started before the physical jerks session, collect school books, homework, etc. and off to the state school, a half mile down the road.  At 12 pm back to dining room dinner, mutton stew with rice and tapioca, alternate days except Sunday when it was dried apricots and custard. 1pm back to school. 3 pm hurry home put school books away in your personal locker, which contained just about nothing else, bags etc. were unknown. Out at the run where the Colonel stood blowing his whistle. Then all working together under his watchful eye planting trees, digging drains, digging gardens, building a tennis court, cleaning drains, etc., etc. After which, back to the cottage evening meal at 5pm. Two rounds bread and dripping, two rounds bread and jam, melon and lemon – I cannot remember anything else. One glass of milk.  At this meal we were permitted to talk at the other two, silence was the rule. But in your cottage we all listened to The Argonauts children’s session on Mrs Odgers’ wireless. I think it was actually given to us by her father. The meals never varied the three years I was there as far as I remember.

Mrs Odgers received the newspaper The Argus sent in the mail each day and she contrived to see that I had time to read it each day. I was the only one that received this luxury. The evenings were spent attending scouts, boxing lessons run by the Colonel, farm lectures from the farm manager – we had 3600 acres. Choir practice, Mrs Odgers was the organist, or anything else anyone could think up to keep us occupied. 8 pm bed. The beds were army style cots, no glass in the windows just fly wire with a canvas blind that was not allowed to be lowered unless it was actually raining. No talking in bed. That was that. We had to write home once a month. I discovered years later that they did not receive a single letter neither did I receive a single reply. What happened to our letters is anyone’s guess.

After leaving 8th grade, moved to No 8 cottage where 14 boys were  kept to provide weekly labour working in  the kitchen, the Colonel’s personal garden, the bootmakers staff dining room, laundry etc. etc. A year at that then moved down to the farm a quarter mile away in opposite direction to the state school. Then we milked 100 cows. Northcote is listed in dept agriculture records as one of only two dairies that milked over 100 cows in 1938/39 in Victoria. Worked a large piggery, several hundred pigs. , a chicken farm, grew all our own vegetables and killed six sheep a week, hence the mutton stew. The 20 biggest boys did all that sort of work, aged 14 to 16 years, all living in what was known as the Bunkhouse with a married couple in charge. These boys were paid 6d per week. The younger ones were paid 2d, 1d must be put in Sunday’s church plate. Boy-girl relationships were strictly taboo. A rule which concerned me seriously as Dorothy Barber was my best friend. Much effort was put into keeping us apart. A thing we both strongly objected to. Mrs Odgers came to the rescue after I left her cottage by occasionally invited the two of us to her cottage for Sunday night’s tea, not sure the Colonel was game to take her to task for it. I eventually married her. We had nine children, not having a family of her own, Dorothy was determined to create one. Looking back I think we overdid it a bit, but Dorothy was happy. Unfortunately she died in 1976 in a road accident and took our youngest daughter with her. I have never forgotten her.

This gives something of the skeleton of our lives. It of course, raises many questions but Northcote’s main faults if one can call it that was total lack of personal relationships with anybody. Unless you were lucky enough to have a brother or sister then the feeling of being deserted by the world was very strong. Mrs Odgers realised that. It was perhaps the thing that differentiated her from the run of the mill staff. The fierce, physical punishment dished out to some of the boys was criminal to say the least. But that was the standard old fashioned army way. But we were children, and children who had many hurdles in life to jump over at that. I never received any such treatment at the hands of the Colonel, in fact, I got along well with him, but I witnessed many of his sins which horrified me, especially as no-one ever bothered to tell us what the victim had actually done. Neither did I ever witness or knew about any sexual crimes, rumours of which surface now and again. But Dorothy did fill me in about things like that many years later. So they did happen. Twice, however, I was physically bullied by adult men on the staff and once threatened by a school teacher in the staff dining room when working as a waiter there. She demanded I serve her first as she had to get back to school.

I replied, “So do several people”.

She jumped to her feet and threatened me.

Old Wally the bootmaker spun around in his seat and glared at her and said, “You touch that boy and I’ll box your ears until they fall off. If you’re in such a goddam hurry, why don’t you go get it yourself? No-one is stopping you!”, a speech that forever fixed him in my memory.

by Graham Budd, February 2011.

 

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.

art, Forgotten Australians, theatre

Sanctuary

by Wings for Survivors (guest author) on 7 March, 2011

Alchemy Theatre’s production of Sanctuary, written by Chris Dickens and directed by Deeanne Clapton is touring Victoria this month. Sanctuary creates an opportunity to continue the conversations about our institutional history and the development of our national character.

The tour is proudly supported by the CAFS Heritage Program Ballarat, the Department of Human Services Grampians Region and the Helen McPherson Smith Trust.

Alchemny Theatre – Sanctuary
Child Migrants, memories

The Argonaut

by Graham Budd (guest author) on 16 February, 2011

Graham Budd arrived in Australia from England in 1939 and was sent to Northcote Farm School in Victoria. Here he recalls winning a national competition run by ABC Radio’s The Argonauts, and how his joy was tempered by the remarks of a cruel cottage mother.

I arrived in Australia in the Jervis Bay on 6/1/39 along with 28 boys and girls bound for Northcote farm school Bacchus Marsh Victoria. I was 11 years and 5 months old and not at all happy, although excited as I looked on the venture as an exciting experience. I was bitter at leaving my grandfather, my young half brother aged 3 years and still mourned the loss of my stepfather who had died March 1938. He was a TPI [totally and permanently incapacitated] from World War I, ex-Coldstream Guards. I was very much attached to him.

The 161 children of Northcote were scattered in about 8/9 cottages each with a cottage ‘mother’. These ‘mothers’ came in various grades of intelligence and attitudes. Looking back as an adult I realise some were close to being insane, which gave rise to the following:

In December the ABC Argonauts children’s session on the wireless launched a competition for the best original Christmas card. Our cottage were all avid listeners as their session coincided with our evening meal so we had time to listen to it. Our ‘mother’ got some of us to enter the competition, she paid for the postage stamps, and in due course I was amazed to be told I had won. An Australia-wide competition, that was quite something. The home gave me the prize, a fountain pen and pencil set, but as they opened all our mail in and out, they did not give me the letter that must have come with it. All I got was the opened box. The incident caused quite a lot of comment around the place. These ‘mothers’ carried on a sort of private war among themselves, a ‘m boys are better than yours’ attitude which gave rise to the following:

A few days later I was walking past one of the cottages when the ‘mother’ who was standing on the verandah stopped me and said, “Oh Budd, I suppose that it doesn’t matter how clever you are, the Australian government isn’t going to spend any money on you. When you finish 8th grade they won’t send the likes of you to high school. You are going to have to work for a living whether you like it or not”.

Of course the statement was true, but the tone of voice and her general manner have stayed with me all my life. I have often wondered whatever possessed her to employ such a person in such a job. I was lucky that my own ‘cottage mother’ was different. Although she could not alter the general thrust of the place, her treatment of us under her care was excellent. I stayed in contact with her until she died, aged 84 – an association that lasted 36 years. She was in fact the only person apart from my grandfather and the ex-soldier stepfather who gave a damn about me as a person until I married at age 23. It was a lonely life.

The Xmas card incidentally was a hand-drawn picture of a warship with guns blazing and a submarine no 1939 obviously sinking but another no 1940 just coming to the surface. The warship was of course named The Argonaut – very appropriate for the time.

Graham Budd

You can hear segments from ABC’s radio show The Argonauts below:

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

Beyond the home gates

by Adele on 10 January, 2011

The report Beyond the Home Gates: Life after Growing Up in Catholic Institutions is based on interviews with 40 people aged in their 40s to 70s who left Catholic children’s institutions in Victoria between 1945 and 1983. The researchers are Elizabeth Branigan, Jenny Malone, John Murphy and Suellen Murray.

The research was guided by a reference group chaired by MacKillop Family Services, with membership including representation from people who grew up in institutional care and the support and advocacy groups VANISH and Broken Rites.