I still feel forgotten – 12 years on from Rudd’s apology to Forgotten Australians

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 2004 Forgotten Australians report by the Senate Committee validated the horrors Samilya, and many other Forgotten Australians had described and noted their lifelong consequences:      

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.    

It took a long time to apologise

No one wanted to rush to an apology, and five long years after the Forgotten Australians report was tabled, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologised to the “Forgotten Australians” and to former child migrants. On behalf of the Australian people the Prime Minister stated that we, the Australian people, were sorry:

 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.

There has been no easy pathway for Forgotten Australians to access welfare and health care services, including Centrelink, without having to repeatedly tell their story. Although there is assistance and support through organisations such as Lotus Place, Open Place, Relationships Australia and Care Leavers Australasia Network (CLAN).

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:

Petition · A Health Card for Medical & Dental Care for all Forgotten Australians. · Change.org

Samilya states:

Forgotten Australians have lost out on so much, no learning, no choices and no justice. Not enough funding for health needs.

 

Book Launch!! Not Forgotten: They called me Number 10 at Neerkol Orphanage

Thanks for making me a better writer

I had no idea how to write!

Basket of the book Not Forgotten: they called me Number 10 at Neerkol Orphanage 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

Anne Moorhouse providing reader, who made Anne a better writer, with copy of Not Forgotten: They called me number 10 at Neerkol OrphanageI 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.

 And then I engaged a professional editor.

This weekend we celebrated

Samilya Bjelic and Anne Moorhouse at celebration of readers who made Anne a better writerWith great joy this weekend Samilya and I presented our reviewers with a signed copy of our book Not Forgotten: They called me Number 10 at Neerkol Orphanage. It was wonderful to fill the room with friends who had read a draft version of the book and who understood how important Samilya’s story, and that of all Forgotten Australians, is.

 

Finding joy at a book launch

Somewhere to be and something to do

With both trepidation and excitement, Samilya and I launched our book Not Forgotten: They called me number 10 at Neerkol orphanage at Logan East Community Neighbourhood Centre (LECNA).

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.

Samilya signing bookThe 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.

People taking photos

Finding joy at a book launch

Book chat

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.

Samilya and three friends

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.

Thank you LECNA.

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Buy Ebook – Amazon Australia – Click here

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Book Launch!! Not Forgotten: They called me Number 10 at Neerkol Orphanage

Just released

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.

Buy Paperback – Click here 

Buy Ebook – Amazon Australia – Click here

Buy Ebook – Amazon US – Click here

Introducing Samilya Bjelic – the mysterious Ms Forgotten Australian

Eight long, long years ago we started writing Not Forgotten: They called me Number 10 at Neerkol orphanage.   Now I can reveal that Not Forgotten is the biography of  Samilya Bjelic, who is referred to in past posts as Ms Forgotten Australian. We had to do this as there were current legal matters which meant we could not disclose her identity. We were silenced for two years. I swore and ranted against this suppression, yet the legal team assured me it was in Samilya’s best interest.  For the first time, I felt my voice silenced by the Catholic church, for Samilya it was a repeat experience. Endured multiple times throughout her life.

Yet now here we are, free from legal constraints and tantalisingly close to having the book in our hands. This week, Covid-19 lockdowns permitting, Samilya and I will pick up our first copies.

So let me introduce you to Samilya Bjelic. She is an extraordinary woman who has endured more than most in her lifetime. She is a Forgotten Australian, volunteer, activist, mother, grandmother, friend.  You will only really know and understand why she is my hero after you read Not Forgotten: They called me Number 10 at Neerkol Orphanage.

You can read more about Samilya on our page Samilya Bjelic – Forgotten Australian.

Book Release

Stay posted, Not Forgotten: They called me Number 10 at Neerkol orphanage will soon be released!

Samilya and I are so excited to finally be able to share this with you. It’s been a long and difficult journey but we’ve shared some tea and laughs along the way.

Samilya Bjelic and Anne Moorhouse sharing tea on couch

 

 

Stepping into the arena

The end is tantalisingly near. I can almost feel the weight of the book in my hand and smell the print on the page. This eight-year journey of narrating Ms Forgotten Australian’s biography has been much longer than I expected. We’re not quite there yet and I feel so impatient!  I’ve sat with frustration and a sense of injustice as we were delayed by legal matters. I’ve struggled to harness my patience while those who matter needed time to reflect on the impact the book would have on them. I’ve been exhausted and bored by the seemingly endless hours of work. Now, as we get much closer to having a book, alongside excitement I feel the bubbling cesspit of anxiety and fear.

Self-doubt makes an appearance

My mind wanders to thoughts like “What if people tell me the book is terrible?” “What if no one reads it” “Who am I to think I can write a book?” “What if my peers, or clients, think I’m an awful psychologist?” “What if there are mistakes I haven’t found?” “What if I’ve misrepresented Ms Forgotten Australian?”  “Self-publishing is not the same as being a real author!”

We all experience self-doubt but I refuse to allow self-doubt to ruin this time for me. I was musing over how to manage these thoughts and feelings when a client mentioned the Man in the Arena quote by Theodore Rosevelt and a talk on the topic by Brene Brown.

The woman in the arena

It is not the critic who counts; not the woman who points out how the strong woman stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the woman who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends herself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if she fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that her place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Theodore Roosevelt (of course he wrote it about a man… but I like it better about a woman)

Invite your critics into the arena

 

The quote resonated with me.  I am about to step into the arena. I will be vulnerable and exposed as I present the best of me to the world in the form of a book. Why wouldn’t I feel some fear?  There will always be critics in the audience, both real and imagined. Brene urges us to reserve a seat for the four critics who will undoubtedly turn up.

 

  • Shame – the universal feeling that we all experience.  As a critic, it tells you you are not good enough.
  • Scarcity – This critic tells you that what you are doing is not original, that there are better educated, trained and articulate people than you. That what you are doing does not matter.
  • Comparison – it’s the death of joy.  My comparison critic will undoubtedly tell me I should not even mention the name, Brene Brown alongside my own.
  • Yourself – the critical internal voice with its familiar messages, known only to you.

So come on in critics and take a seat up the front. You will not tell me anything I haven’t already thought of. You are so familiar. I will see you and I will hear you but I will continue.  I am ready.  I will dare greatly. I will step into the arena and if I falter, as I may…I can always watch Brene Brown again, pick myself up and continue.

When did you step into the arena?


 

Waiting outside the psychiatrist’s office

Getting there

My friend is terrified of lifts so we climbed up the dingy stairwell to the third floor, only to find our exit door locked. After pointlessly pulling at the securely locked door a few times, we turned and scurried back down the stairs, to find the door we’d entered through also locked. Anxiety slowly rose in my throat. What if we’re stuck in the stairwell for eternity?

Empty office corridoor

Frantically, we descended further flinging open the lower ground floor door to the street, bursting out into the bright sunshine. We re-entered the building, now no option remained but to brave the lift. My friend scooted into the back corner, her body firmly pressed against the walls, arms folded against her chest. Her eyes startled with fear and yet also relieved that we were the only ones locked in the confined, windowless space that she hates so much.

The long hallway to the inner city psychiatrist’s office was bland and soulless, terracotta tiled floor, cream walls and mission brown fixtures – a flashback to the ’70s.

Waiting outside the psychiatrist’s office

The psychiatrist, unknown to my friend or me, greeted her warmly, even though we were 10 minutes early.  The psychiatrist had received a myriad of documents and clearly knew that this appointment was going to be distressing for my friend. Despite the kindliness of the psychiatrist, my friend looked pleadingly at me as she slowly followed her to the psychiatrist’s office.  She Continue reading

Lucky Cardinal Pell – now not so lucky

Lucky Cardinal PellCardinal Pell Sentenced!

Today, 13/3/2018, Cardinal Pell received a maximum sentence of six years for the sexual abuse of two teenage boys, after Sunday mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral in 1966.  He will be eligible for parole in three years and eight months.

While handing down the sentence Chief Judge Peter Kidd said Pell been “breathtakingly arrogant” and “brazen and callous” in his offending.

That Australia’s most senior Catholic leader has been found guilty of child sexual assault astounds me.  No longer is the Catholic church successful at covering up its heinous deeds.

Pell will, of course, make an appeal.

Take care of Yourself and others

Australia media is inundated with this news of this case and undoubtedly survivors of child sexual abuse will be triggered. Some ideas for caring for yourself and others can be found here: Taking care of yourself (or a loved one) in the wake of George Pell’s conviction

Survivors and Solicitors 

Pell is now guilty and imprisoned. It’s likely that others who have been sexually abused as children, and who have remained silent, may now be considering legal action against their perpetrators.  Before you embark on a marathon legal journey, read Survivors and Solicitors, and make sure you have a strong team with you.

Original Post 8 May 2018.

Cardinal George Pell, Australia’s most senior Catholic leader, was committed to stand trial for Continue reading

Survivors and Solicitors

Survivors of child sexual abuse, who courageously gave evidence to The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, are now torn between applying for compensation through the Redress Scheme and/or launching legal proceedings against the perpetrating organisations. Neither pathway is easy and neither has a guaranteed outcome. Historical child sexual abuse cases are notoriously difficult to win given the passage of time, lack of witnesses and the legal requirement for detailed information.  Survivors and solicitors embarking on the marathon journey into the world of trauma and legal processes need to be well prepared.

Acknowledge the legal process will trigger trauma symptoms

Female survivor alone

Applying to the Redress Scheme or undertaking legal action is likely to be distressing. Revisiting the abuse, providing statements, and arguing your case may trigger flashbacks, nightmares and other trauma symptoms.  During this time be proactive in care for yourself.

Gather a support team

  • Invite someone, other than the solicitor, to join you on the journey and be your support person.  Ask them to accompany you to appointments, read information, discuss the case with you and retain the focus in appointments when you are distressed.  Give consideration to who you would ask. Another trauma survivor may also be triggered by the process.  Perhaps there could be more than one person to assist you.
  • Inform your family and friends that the legal process is likely to be stressful and lengthy. Try and be clear about what you need e.g. “After appointments, I may be distressed, can you spend some time with me?”  “Can you come for a walk sometimes to help me manage the stress?”  “I may just need a hug or my handheld, will you be able to do that for me?”
  • Access support through a psychologist, counsellor, social worker,  or caseworker and schedule regular appointments in advance.

Commit to a rigorous self-care plan

Legal cases may go on for years and are stressful. They are indeed a marathon and not a sprint. Continue reading

Redress: the setting right of that which is morally wrong

Woman, hands to face, in despair
Photo by Kat Jayne from Pexels

Through the Redress Scheme, those who have been sexually abused in Australian institutions now have the opportunity to obtain financial compensation, counselling and a personal apology for the horror they endured. But don’t for one minute think it will be an easy process.

On 14 September 2015 the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse released its Redress and Civil Litigation Report. After receiving submissions from more than 250 individuals and institutions, the 589-page report made 99 recommendations. There was an enormous financial cost to the Australian public for the Royal Commission so we should listen to what the Royal Commission had to say.

Here are some of the most significant recommendations regarding the Redress Scheme and what’s happened so far: Continue reading