As Samilya shared her horrific story of being raised in an orphanage in Far North Queensland I learned of the setbacks and frustrations that Samilya had battled all her life. She had fought through limited education, institutional abuse and neglect, the mental health system, and the challenges of engaging with the legal system when seeking justice. Writing the book mirrored many of these challenges and injustices, extending the project beyond the planned two years to eight years.
In 1988 I moved to Nowra, Frank’s hometown when I married his nephew, Steven Moorhouse, and joined the Moorhouse clan. Arthur Moorhouse, Frank’s brother is Steven’s father.
I was a young woman entering the Moorhouse family, not yet a mother nor a psychologist but I was busy becoming both. Birthdays and Christmas included Frank and Arthur’s parents, Purthanry and Frank senior who warmly welcomed me into the family. I did not pay much attention to the fact that Frank and the oldest brother Owen were not at family events. Indeed I did not meet Steven’s cousins, Owen’s children, until much later in my life.
Slowly Frank became this mysterious person to me. He was part of the family but rarely spoken about or seen. I knew that he was a renowned author and as an avid reader, it was not long before I was drawn to his books, starting with the Electrical Experience. My mind exploded because surely I was reading about our family! T. George McDowell, the central character in the Electrical Experience had to be based on Frank senior, who was also an electrician, business owner, pillar of the community, avid Rotarian, and living on the South Coast. Was the conflict T George McDowell experienced with his daughter reflective of his relationship with Frank?
How were these weird, wonderful, sexually explicit, utterly compelling stories born of this conservative and traditional family in this small country town? I never heard Frank’s parents speak about his books, and I do not know if they read any of his work. Oh, how I wished I’d asked them.
Arthur tells me Frank senior would describe the books as “earthy” and that Purthanry never spoke of them however she kept a stash of newspaper clippings from whenever Frank was featured.
Steven recalls his parents had a copy of the American’s Baby, bound in brown paper in his home. It seems like shame and pride lived side by side in the family’s relationship with Frank, a difficult space for all to navigate.
We moved far from Nowra and we saw very little of Frank, though we have a signed copy of Loose Living from 1995 which I vaguely recollect him giving to us when we were visiting one Christmas.
Steven gifted me The Inspector General of Misconception when I obtained my Australian Citizenship in 2002 – writing “what better way to start your Aussie life”. There was Frank again, of my life, but not in my life.
Connecting with Frank Moorhouse
Our connection to Frank strengthened when I wrote Not Forgotten: They called me Number 10 at Neerkol Orphanage. Arthur insisted that I send Frank the manuscript for review. I was reluctant to impose on this literary great and elusive uncle, and also fearful of the feedback I would receive. Arthur rang Frank in my presence and told Frank that the manuscript was on its way. I couldn’t back out. I doubt that I would have sent it without this push, and am so grateful to Arthur.
Frank’s generosity both humbled and emboldened me. He read the manuscript quickly, taking time to point out errors and discrepancies. Frank rightly questioned my futile need to create a rosy ending. He supported and encouraged me and then he referred me to his agent!
Dear Jo, as you know I am very careful about who I recommend to the Agency.
I rarely read manuscripts that are sent to me or when I am asked to read them — even by friends, especially friends.
But my niece-in-law Anne Moorhouse who is a therapist psychologist asked me to read this rather unusual non-fiction book Number 10 from Neerkol and I agreed to do so.
I have now read it and think that this could be a very important book.
It tells the story of Samilya, an orphaned and abused child, and her attempts throughout her life to find stability and peace with herself, to raise a family, and to gain compensations for her abuse. It is told partly by Anne and partly by documents, diaries, blogs, letters, and the words of Samilya herself and those around her.
I feel that it is powerful, well-constructed, affecting, but at times, gruelling, and, it is, of course, timely.
Would you be prepared to read it and consider it for publication? If so would you like the entire ms or the usual three chapters?
Very best, Frank
Frank warned me that his name would both open and close doors for me. Sadly, despite being recommended by the great Frank Moorhouse, and some initial interest I did not find a traditional publisher. I self-published, entering a literary world unknown to Frank. Frank’s recommendation kept me going and I repeatedly read his email, and others he sent when I lost hope. I told myself if Frank thought it was worth publishing, then I should do it. In 2021 I proudly sent Frank a copy of my book.
Frank’s life was remembered and celebrated by his family and friends at the State Library of New South Wales on 13/7/2022. I wonder what Frank would have thought of this coming together in his death of the many people who had loved him. In his life, he had kept family and friends separated.
As I listened to his friends speak I realised how little I knew of this complex man, and wished I had enjoyed more time with him. His friends spoke of his generosity to writers which I had experienced. They spoke of his boldness, curiosity, humour, and dedication to his craft which is evident in his work. They highlighted his advocacy for copyright laws to ensure that Australian creators receive royalties for the copying and sharing of their work.
Family and friends spoke of Frank’s love for the bush and his habit of taking himself off, often alone, for extended periods of time. I remember Arthur worrying about Frank during the sojourns to the bush. He was always relieved to know Frank had returned. Frank’s ashes will be scattered in his beloved Budawang Range.
The memorial speeches were bookended by two great men. Firstly Arthur Moorhouse, grieving and loving older brother, reflected on the lives of three boys together in Nowra and the early days of Frank’s career. Tom Keneally, Australian novelist, playwright, essayist and actor paid homage to Frank’s literary legacy and noted that Frank’s courage had changed not just the literary landscape of Australia but that he had also been a trailblazer for LBGTIQ+ understanding and acceptance in Australia.
All spoke of Frank’s love of long lunches and martinis. A few years ago we’d joined Frank for a long lunch at his beloved Automobile Club.
The Moorhouse Martini
So I’ll finish now and let you wander off to make a Moorhouse Martini. The recipe was sent to me by Frank’s niece, Karin Moorhouse. Karin also experienced Frank’s generosity to writers when she wrote No One Can Stop the Rain.
Here it is! …the recipe for Frank’s famed “Moorhouse Martini 🍸 “.
It once appeared on the bar menu at Bayswater Brasserie in Kings Cross, once a favourite lunch venue of Frank’s.
The Moorhouse Martini:
2 parts gin (London Dry Gin, or Bombay Sapphire)
0.5 parts dry vermouth (Noilly Prat)
Green olive on a toothpick
The trick is to make sure the glasses are kept in the freezer until the moment of pouring. Use ice in the cocktail shaker. As cold as possible.
Sometimes he liked a “dirty martini.” Just add one or two teaspoons of olive juice to the glass after pouring.
I have no post-retirement plans. I am delightfully diary free, and thankful that the relentless ring of alarm clocks and scheduling of appointments is no longer part of my life. There is now space to respond to whatever turns up. What I didn’t expect to turn up was a frantic desire to engage in a frenzy of cleaning and purging.
During the last month, I have cleaned under every bed, emptied every wardrobe, and decluttered the house. It took me endless hours, and our home was basically clean and tidy before I started. The hardest part of retirement has been letting my weekly cleaner go!
Housework does not excite me, It’s boring and tedious but I became obsessed with having the purge completed. It’s like I needed to create a transition between working and not working. So I plugged myself into audiobooks and four wise women authors kept me company as I culled and scrubbed. Thirty hours later the purging was done and my mind is richer for the listening.
30 Hours of Audiobooks
How great are libraries! I downloaded all the books from the Brisbane Library for free via the Libby app. No adding more books to my clutter-free home!
I didn’t even know this was a “younger readers” book. I fell in love with Fred as she explored what makes a family. Her insight empathy, and capacity to love left me hopeful for the world.
Sorrento, Victoria, 1999. Fred’s family is a mess. Her mother died when she was six and she’s been raised by her Pop and adoptive father, Luca, ever since. But now Pop’s had to go away, and Luca’s girlfriend Anika and her son have moved in. More and more it feels like a land grab for family and Fred is the one being left off the map.
Even as things feel like they’re spinning out of control for Fred, a crisis from the other side of the world comes crashing in. When a group of Kosovar-Albanian refugees are brought to a government ‘safe haven’ not far from Sorrento, their fate becomes intertwined with the lives of Fred and her family in ways that no one could have expected.
I was thrilled to discover there was a sequel to The Bookwoman of Troublesome Creek. I love libraries and stories about the power of books and The Bookwoman of Troublesome Creek combines both. Imagine a woman delivering library books by packhorse through the rugged, remote, and dangerous Kentucky hills in 1953. I loved the Book Woman’s Daughters and its exploration of racism (did you know there was a blue race?), feminism, power, injustice, friendship, family, and courage. The Bookwoman of Troublesome Creek and The Book Woman’s Daughter are must-reads.
Honey Mary Angeline Lovett, the daughter of the beloved Troublesome book woman, fights for her own independence with the help of the women who guide her and the books that set her free.
In the ruggedness of the beautiful Kentucky mountains, Honey Lovett has always known that the old ways can make a hard life harder. As the daughter of the famed blue-skinned, Troublesome Creek packhorse librarian, Honey and her family have been hiding from the law all her life. But when her mother and father are imprisoned, Honey realizes she must fight to stay free, or risk being sent away for good.
Picking up her mother’s old packhorse library route, Honey begins to deliver books to the remote hollers of Appalachia. Honey is looking to prove that she doesn’t need anyone telling her how to survive. But the route can be treacherous, and some folks aren’t as keen to let a woman pave her own way.
If Honey wants to bring the freedom books provide to the families who need it most, she’s going to have to fight for her place, and along the way, learn that the extraordinary women who run the hills and hollers can make all the difference in the world.
I was drawn to this book because it’s about a 70-year-old Australian woman, presumably retired. It’s a tender, slow book tapping into the vulnerability, conflict, secrets and love of families. The build-up of tension was captivating and the twist unexpected.
Grace has not had twelve people at her table for a long time. Hers isn’t the kind of family who share regular Sunday meals. But it isn’t every day you turn seventy.
As Grace prepares the feast, she reflects on her life, her marriage and her friendships. When the three generations come together, simmering tensions from the past threaten to boil over. The one thing that no one can talk about is the one thing that no one can forget.
Grace’s Table is a moving and often funny novel about the power of memory and the family rituals that define us.
I wanted something funny and light. I had no idea who Anna Kendrick was until I googled her part way through listening to the book. The book is more wry than laugh-out-loud funny. Anna invites you into her world as child actor, awkward teenager ambitious young woman. Interesting enough but not compelling.
A collection of humorous autobiographical essays by actress and star of Up in the Air and Pitch Perfect.
Even before she made a name for herself on the silver screen starring in films like Pitch Perfect, Up in the Air, Twilight, and Into the Woods, Anna Kendrick was unusually small, weird, and “10 percent defiant.”
At the ripe age of thirteen, she had already resolved to “keep the crazy inside my head where it belonged. Forever. But here’s the thing about crazy: It. Wants. Out.” In Scrappy Little Nobody, she invites readers inside her brain, sharing extraordinary and charmingly ordinary stories with candor and winningly wry observations.
With her razor-sharp wit, Anna recounts the absurdities she’s experienced on her way to and from the heart of pop culture as only she can—from her unusual path to the performing arts (Vanilla Ice and baggy neon pants may have played a role) to her double life as a middle-school student who also starred on Broadway to her initial “dating experiments” (including only liking boys who didn’t like her back) to reviewing a binder full of butt doubles to her struggle to live like an adult woman instead of a perpetual “man-child.”
Enter Anna’s world and follow her rise from “scrappy little nobody” to somebody who dazzles on the stage, the screen, and now the page—with an electric, singular voice, at once familiar and surprising, sharp and sweet, funny and serious (well, not that serious).
An op-shop trip is planned for this week to ensure the clutter leaves the house.
It was quiet in the practice on Wednesday evening, some of my colleagues were away, and others were working behind closed doors. I finished my last session at 7 pm, closed my trusty laptop, picked up my raggedy pad with scrawled notes, untangled the cords to my old-fashioned earphones, and packed my bag. Took my favourite green teacup to the kitchen, said goodnight to Millie who was managing the reception desk and slid out the backdoor.
I left behind the psychologist’s chair, its contours will be warmed by someone else, but no longer by me.
Tears slid down my face as I drove the 10 minutes to my home. That was it, I’d retired. I’d finished my career as a psychologist. Who was I now?
I was only working two days a week but those last 20 sessions in the final fortnight were gruelling. Every session was a heartfelt goodbye. It was like putting unfinished books back on the shelf, but therapy is often like that. This time though I knew that the clients could not return. I would not witness chapters yet to be told or future chapters of their lives. I’d worked intensely with these wonderful people, some for many years and knew their hopes and dreams. I knew what held them back and I had to let them all go.
The tears that escaped only hinted at the turmoil within me. Grief, joy, fear, hope, regret, and relief whirled within me but were mostly contained during those last sessions. I hugged clients, shook hands, patted backs and, accepted gifts, letters and cards. “Goodbye, go well, take care” I whispered. I hoped I would bump into them in the street some time, but I have rarely seen clients outside the therapy room. Floundering for the final words, nothing I said felt enough.
I will miss the laughter
A friend asked what would I miss most when I stopped being a psychologist, and I surprised myself when I said “the laughter”. The laughter of therapy is like no other. We expect tears in therapy but not laughter and yet they come from the same deep well of emotions. I will miss those moments when a client suddenly laughs at what they are saying or thinking. It’s not a dismissive or condescending laugh, Nor is it an avoidant laugh. Rather it seems like a ray of sunshine, giggling with the delight of new knowledge. The joyful newness of discovering a new way of being.
How I will miss those clever, ironic and humorous comments made by clients when they suddenly understand a part of themself. I rarely laugh as deeply and with such compassion in my “real” life.
You’ll find me drinking Bloody Marys in my PJs
My son, daughter, and daughter-in-law celebrated my retirement by gifting me a bottle of vodka, Bloody Mary mix, lemon juice, a glass, and PJs. The Bloody Mary tradition was born while living in Papua New Guinea for eight years. I would board the plane to leave and order a Bloody Mary. It’s become our family marker of travel and transitions. Is this what they think I’ll be doing with the rest of my life?
Therapy is an act of love
While part of me still longs to do the therapeutic work I no longer want to sit inside a closed room for many hours of the day. I want to be free to create (perhaps to write another book), to enjoy the sun on my face. and perhaps to do nothing much at all.
I want to re-connect with the people I love but have not seen enough of.
For me, therapy has been an act of love. A love full of respect, safety, caring, boundaries, vulnerability, growth and hope. Therapy has often included raging against the injustices of the world. I will find ways to maintain both love and rage.
I have such gratitude for the wonderful, inspiring and insightful clients and colleagues with whom I have shared my therapeutic journey. Thank you.
I met June Stevens 35 years ago at the beginning of my journey to become a psychologist, and now I have four weeks until I retire. I was 30 years old, newly married, and had just moved from Sydney to Nowra on the South Coast of New South Wales. Nowra was the smallest community I had lived in and I felt uncomfortable with my newly discovered public visibility. People I met immediately placed me on the correct branch of the Moorhouse family tree – “Oh you’re Rhonda and Arthur’s youngest son’s wife! “Are you Owen or Arthurs’s new daughter-in-law?” “We heard Jenell had a new sister-in-law”.
I felt both welcomed and alienated by strangers deftly placing me in the family system. It was as if they knew something I wasn’t privy to. For the first time I understood why people dressed up to go to the supermarket as I would undoubtedly run into some matriarch of the community there. For a while, I felt unable to pop down to the shops in my favourite daggy t-shirt and shorts. I mourned my anonymity.
The move to Nowra was part of our plan to start a family. After we made the decision, I discovered that I was eligible to go to university – for free! As a teenager in New Zealand, I failed the equivalent of grade 12 and university was wiped as an option for me. In Sydney, I had just completed a Diploma in Personnel Management – 2 nights a week for 3 years through the TAFE system, while working full time. I was bursting with pride at this achievement.
Completing the course unexpectedly provided me with entry into university and 6 months off my degree. Even though I was a New Zealander I was still eligible for the free study, and I was even eligible for a student payment as I’d only gotten married that year. I would lose it the next year as a “wife”! The girl who failed school could go to university. So after we moved to Nowra I made the 160 km round train trip to Wollongong university, 3 times a week and began studying psychology. Thank you, Gough Whitlam
June, and the Lifeline Telephone Counselling course
I only knew my husband’s family in this small town and had limited time and opportunity to make friends. I was definitely lonely. I discovered the Lifeline Telephone Counselling course was offered in Nowra. The course lured me with the hope of real-world experience to accompany my academic studies and access to a community of like-minded people. I’m sure the confidentiality and secrecy surrounding being a Lifeline telephone counsellor was also part of the attraction.
June Stevens was the course facilitator. Even though she knew all the Moorhouses, I felt seen by June. It was June who taught me how to listen. It was June who introduced me to the unconditional positive regard of Carl Rogers. It was June who facilitated my unexpected self growth through the course. It was June who infused my heart with empathy and respect for others which I carried forward. My clients and I benefited from June’s work.
A bookend to my career as a psychologist
I left Nowra 30 years ago and have not seen June on my visits back. My parents-in-law see her regularly and I know I have been a topic of conversation. Last week, a month out from my retirement, my book Not Forgotten: they called me number 10 at Neerkol orphanagewas given to June, who is now 90 years old. The book is the culmination of my career as a psychologist and provides a wonderful bookend to my career. It gives me great pleasure to see the finale of my life as a psychologist held by June, who was present way back in the beginning. I hope she sees the ripple of her work through the pages.
I’d finished the manuscript, but we still didn’t have a book cover that we loved. I needed to hold the cover lovingly in my hands. I wanted to feel the warmth of it when I hugged it to my chest but most of all I wanted Samilya and I to experience a burst of pride when we said, “this is our book”. How could we get one photo to represent the trauma and complexity of Samilya’s life?
We weren’t without ideas and had two photoshoots where beautiful photos were taken. In my head I had this ethereal image of Samilya walking into the distance, holding the hand of her younger self. Both photographers captured the image as I’d described it. I loved the photos, and one of them appears in the book… but they didn’t call to Samilya or myself in the way that we needed for a cover.
We had a couple of old photos of Samilya as a child, but they were poor quality and not compelling. We also had some photos of St Joseph’s Orphanage, Neerkol, but I didn’t want that ugly, horrible place on our cover.
I hate this book cover!
Then the publisher came up with a concept, which quite frankly I hated. They had another go, kept the concept but tweaked it, I hated it more. Friends I showed it to also disliked it. How do you diplomatically tell someone you hate their work? Aagh…. it wasn’t meant to be like this. They were meant to come up with a wonderful concept, I didn’t even see myself as a writer and I certainly wasn’t a cover designer. I was exhausted and burdened by the book, I so wanted to hand this part of the process over. The publisher had finished with the manuscript, the pressure was on, only the cover was stopping publication.
Peyton Blake to the rescue!
In despair, I sat on the couch late on a Saturday night scrolling through stock photos “I’ll just buy something” I thought. Disappointed that although Samilya and I had both put our hearts into the book, the cover would be impersonal, disconnected from us. That Saturday night I found a picture of a sad girl sitting on a step, “maybe this will do”.
Then I turned to my friend who was staying with me, Peyton Blake. “You take photos of fashion models: do you think you could recreate this photo for me if I get a model tomorrow”. “I can do better than that photo” she responded.
First thing in the morning, I called the young model’s mum with inspiration brewing… “Can I borrow your daughter for a couple of hours, now?” I begged. Thankfully our model was available, and I could see Peyton eyes dancing with creativity and relishing the challenge of bringing our inspiration to life.
Then Peyton realised she was missing the specific memory card she needed to store images on her camera. That tiny memory card was held up in storage due to Covid, as Peyton was only passing through on her travels north. Peyton rang camera stores trying to locate a card but none were available close by. My heart plummeted, more lost time, more delays, did this mean no cover?
Peyton had seen billboard images advertised as being shot by a phone, so she convinced me that she could take the photos on her phone and get the quality we needed for the cover. We arrived at our location, a professional photographer and an apprehensive author, ready to ‘shoot’ using a mobile phone.
A professional photographer, an apprehensive author and a mobile phone on a shoot.
Peyton used her skills and experience to style the model, keeping my concept in mind, and we ventured around the neighbourhood, searching out steps and spaces to capture photos of a sad girl destined for a book cover.
As Peyton captured multiple images, she showed me the photos. She knew I wanted a specific look, but she also knew that it was about an elusive feeling, something that would convey the trauma, isolation and despair of Samilya’s life. The images were beautiful, but nothing quite captivated me…..yet. The model’s mum suggested another location, by this point I was disheartened. I’d almost had enough but reluctantly agreed to one last stop.
The perfect photo for our book cover
This time Peyton took the model a short distance away, and mum and I stood back chatting distractedly in the distance. Peyton believed the model would relax with fewer eyes on her. I believe it was in this quiet, intimate moment that Peyton and the model formed a bond and created the storyline. Then there it was, the perfect photo, of a sad, lonely, traumatised little girl captured empathetically and brilliantly by Peyton. There was no doubt in my mind that Peyton had captured exactly the photo I needed. Thankfully, Samilya wholeheartedly agreed.
Peyton later told me she felt great pride and satisfaction in being able to bring my image to life, knowing Samilya and I could now hold our book in our arms with the burst of pride I had hoped for.
And the model – that’s Samilya’s youngest granddaughter.
Our hearts are full of love, gratitude, delight and pride each time we pass our precious book over to a new owner.
An apology to Forgotten Australians was clearly needed
It’s been 12 years since 11 am on Monday, the 16th of November 2009, when Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologised to the “Forgotten Australians” and to former child migrants.
As a Forgotten Australian, Samilya only has this one bedraggled photo of herself from her eight horrendous years at St Joseph’s Orphanage, Neerkol. Samilya had yearned for this apology and hoped that her life would be better once it was made. Surely the little girl in the photo deserved an apology, for all the abuse and neglect she had suffered.
The long term impact of a childhood spent in institutional care is complex and varied. However, a fundamental, ongoing issue is the lack of trust and security and lack of interpersonal and life skills that are acquired through a normal family upbringing, especially social and parenting skills. A lifelong inability to initiate and maintain stable, loving relationships was described by many care leavers who have undergone multiple relationships and failed marriages. Many cannot form trust in relationships and remain loners, never marrying or living an isolated existence.
The Senate Committee’s first recommendation was that a national apology be made to the children in institutional care who were its victims.
Sorry – that as children you were taken from your families and placed in institutions where so often you were abused.
Sorry – for the physical suffering, the emotional starvation and the cold absence of love, of tenderness, of care.
Sorry – for the tragedy, the absolute tragedy, of childhoods lost – childhoods spent instead in austere and authoritarian places, where names were replaced by numbers, spontaneous play by regimented routine, the joy of learning by the repetitive drudgery of menial work.
Sorry – for all these injustices to you, as children, who were placed in our care.
I hoped this apology would make a difference
Samilya hoped that this apology, unlike the two other formal apologies she had already received, would make a significant difference to her wellbeing. Samilya was clearly moved but the apology when she blogged the following in the lead up to the national apology:
Today is 4 November 2009. I have forgotten a day but today went well. I finally got out of bed after talking to myself and doing a workout before going to work. That is a choice. But 57 years ago the choices were taken away, and from many others, who were abandoned and put into orphanages. November 16 is sorry day for all of us. It was not about sorry or the money. It was and still is about the truth behind the disadvantaged kids, who are now adults and still misplaced.
A few days after the national apology Samilya wrote again:
Pain is cruel to live by. I lived with pain as a little girl from my abandoned past. Now I would like to die as it is lonely and I am in pain. No wonder the elderly don’t want to live, I have finally come to this point, body pain is horrible how does anyone want to live in a world without love and not knowing love from parents, or family. That was the hardest pain of all.
16th November 2009 was a great day it was the sorry day. It meant a lot as it all finally came out that we were telling the truth. Can anyone describe love and how to be loved by one self? How can you love yourself when you weren’t loved as a child?
I am still forgotten and misplaced
Not long after Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made the apology, Samilya’s view of it changed.
I am now living in the past since going to the third apology night at the state library and I couldn’t go to Kevin Rudd’s one yesterday, I watched it on youtube. It was very painful as I still can’t seem to understand, I have written and emailed before and have gotten no reply and this to me is very confusing, I have gone backward not forward, I missed my psychiatrist appointment due to this, not good. I have to wait now till I see my doctor. Having some kind of faith in any system is very hard for me and for my family to trust. It has affected my daughters in many ways and my sons, I also emailed the Sisters of Mercy about the Royal Commission and all they can say is that they hope this makes families understand, but what about making us understand and why wasn’t this done years ago? Unless you lived in the shoes of us you will never understand or be able to. I would like to add my name to the list for the Royal Commission as I wasn’t heard the last time. So much more needs to be said. I am the one who is still left in limbo and believes in hell and heaven and I will be struck by the devil if I am bad. I have emailed others in the government and no reply so I am still forgotten and misplaced.
Did “sorry” make 2021 better?
Many Forgotten Australians are still awaiting payments through the National Redress Scheme which was established after the Royal Commission into Institutional Sexual Abuse concluded in 2013. The Redress Scheme offers payments of up to $150,000 but the average payment is only $80,000 and the process is slow, arduous and for many who apply, re-triggering of their trauma. There has been no similar scheme for F0rgotten Australians who were not sexually abused, but who were violently abused and neglected.
Forgotten Australians have petitioned for a Health Care Card for medical and dental care for all Forgotten Australians. The card would provide ease of access to health care and government services similar to the Gold Card for Veterans. The petition seems to have lost impetus despite having almost 7,000 signatures and can be found here:
When I started talking with Samilya and playing with the idea of writing her story I envisaged a historical novel. My fantasy included crafting turbulently romantic scenes and bold acts of heroism. I soon realised that this was not the pathway for recounting the abuse and neglect that had been foisted on Samilya. I needed to place Samilya’s story in a historical context and provide a psychological overview of the impact of trauma on her life. The reality became hours of library and internet research and ploughing my way through tombs of government documents.
I had no idea how to write a novel and even less idea of how to write a biography. Yet still, I persisted. I needed to become a better writer.
I asked for feedback on my writing
I am blessed to be surrounded by a group of intelligent, educated, thoughtful readers in my life and so I reached out for help – I asked for feedback on my writing. Handing over my draft manuscript was terrifying. Here was my best – what if it wasn’t enough? I was tentatively stepping into the arena and asking for criticism. I could no longer see what needed work in the manuscript, I was drowning in it.
And so started a process where I would edit the manuscript, hand it to a carefully selected reviewer, listen to their feedback and make more changes – or not. Then I would repeat the process with the next reviewer. It was often hard to hear what my readers had to say. Sometimes it was excruciatingly painful. Always it was useful and they made me a better writer. The manuscript is far richer for their input.
I asked for a lot of feedback. By the time I finished 15 people had read and provided feedback on my writing – psychologists, social workers, academics, a well-known author, those with legal backgrounds, some who saw the bigger picture, some who were detail-focused, a few who loved me and one who didn’t know me.
During the feedback process, I became better at asking for what I needed my reviewers to look for. I learnt to listen without becoming defensive. I became adept at choosing which feedback was useful and which wasn’t. I was full of gratitude for the time and consideration they took to share their thoughts with me. I have since given feedback on another writers manuscript and it’s a tough job.
Samilya has volunteered at LECNA for over 10 years. LECNA is a special place for Samilya, inspiring a chapter in the book – Somewhere to be and Something to do. As Samilya writes:
The Centre has been a lifesaver for me, they’ve helped me more than any Royal Commission or Forde Foundation. I did the Knowledge, Networking, Intervention and Training Program with them, they call it the KNIT program, it’s a positive behaviour management program. That was good. For a while, I went to the Centre just about every day. They gave me somewhere to be and something to do.
They clamoured for signed copies
While we always envisaged launching the book at LECNA, nothing prepared us for the love and support shown to Samilya on the day, and the days following.
The launch took place after the volunteers monthly lunch. Before we even had the books ready for sale we were besieged by Samilya’s colleagues and friends wanting a copy. Everyone clamoured for Samilya to sign their copy.
For a moment we felt like movie stars as we lined up for photos, with our own paparazzi.
Finding joy at a book launch
Gillian Marshall, Executive Community Manager interviewed us and we did our first ever book chat to a wonderfully supportive audience. We finished with the painful, and seemingly endless silence that happens when you ask “Any questions from the audience?” Then the real magic happened – one by one audience members stood up.
They did not ask questions but instead, they made heartfelt addresses to Samilya. Recognising the importance of her story, the courage she has taken to ensure all Forgotten Australians are remembered, the contribution she has made to the centre and the work she had done in the community. There were promises to promote the book. There were tears of sorrow and joy.
We never expected to find such joy at a book launch.
In 1954, two-year-old Samilya was abandoned by her migrant parents and placed in St Joseph’s Home, known as Neerkol Orphanage, outside of Rockhampton. After suffering years of insidious abuse at the hands of the Catholic nuns and priests, at age 10, Samilya is returned to her mother’s care where the trauma continued.
Not Forgotten: They called me Number 10 at Neerkol Orphanage, as told to Samilya’s friend, psychologist Anne Moorhouse, lays bare the lifelong effects of horrific childhood abuse and neglect. A psychological overview places Samilya’s trauma in developmental context, and explains Samilya’s mental health diagnosis, dissociative identity disorder.
Samilya is one of 500,000 so-called “Forgotten Australians” who were placed into childhood institutions from 1920–1970. Not Forgotten follows her marathon fight for elusive justice from the 1999 Forde Inquiry through to the 2013 Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Each day Samilya fights to survive, to work, to have a home, to be a good partner and a loving mother. All Samilya has ever hoped for is an ordinary life.