Vulnerable Forgotten Australians need your care and assistance. If you work at Centrelink, the police, for an employment services provider, deliver health care, work in a hospital or an aged care facility it’s essential you understand that some Forgotten Australians have a history of abuse and neglect, which continues to impact on their lives and current needs.
Who are the Forgotten Australians?
The term Forgotten Australians was first used by the Australian Senate in its 2003–2004 report, Inquiry into Children in Institutional Care. This dismal label described a group of 500,000 children who were institutionalised between 1920 and 1970. These children grew up in State, church and charity run orphanages and homes where many of them were neglected, exploited and brutalised. The term now also refers to those who were in out-of-home care until the end of 1989. As many of these people have had families, it is highly likely that every Australian either was, or is related to, works with or knows someone who is a Forgotten Australian.
The Forgotten Australians are not a homogenous group and not all Forgotten Australians require the same level of assistance. Some were placed in care arrangements where they were nurtured and well looked after, others, however, experienced horrendous events where they were abused repeatedly throughout their childhood. Many Forgotten Australians have raised families, completed education, had successful careers, volunteered in the community, and own homes. However, others remain some of our most vulnerable citizens, struggling with physical and mental health conditions and challenged to maintain accommodation, relationships and employment.
It is the vulnerable and traumatised group of Forgotten Australians that require compassionate care and support when accessing services.
Clients often experience a wave of relief after their first counselling session. Their burden is shared and they feel joined on their journey. That old saying, a worry shared is a worry halved rings true.
Sometimes, you don’t recognise how burdened you’re feeling until the load eases, as I experienced recently. I’d been working on Ms Forgotten Australian’s biography for over four years and had come to the end of my skills, capability, and motivation. I knew I had to do more but had no idea Continue reading →
Writing the biography of Ms Forgotten Australian led me into a foreign world, one of abusive Catholic clergy and the ominous power of the Catholic Church. Ms Forgotten Australian spent her childhood in the now infamous St Joseph’s Orphanage, Neerkol. Sadly her time there included child sexual abuse by priests and systemic cover-up by the Church.
In May 2018 Archbishop Phillip Wilson was convicted of the cover-up of sexual abuse of altar boys. Priest Jim Fletcher abused the boys in the Hunter Region of New South Wales during the 1970’s. Last month Magistrate Robert Stone found Wilson guilty of concealing a serious indictable offence of another person. This is a landmark Australian case due to the precedent it set. The conviction Continue reading →
A parent abuses a child, yet that same parent is also responsible for feeding and sheltering the child. Fear of retribution deftly silences the child. No adults are seen as safe.
Condemnation and punishment await an unruly and antisocial boy, who has no words to describe his chaotic emotional world or the abuse he is experiencing. Opportunities for disclosure are lost.
A teenage girl internalises her shame, silenced by the myth of the perfect family. No one would believe what happens in her family. The self-inflicted slashes on her thighs scream her pain, but no one hears. Continue reading →
I’m writing my dear friend’s biography, which has the working title of Not Forgotten. It’s been a labour of love, but often, more like hard dull labour than passionate love. I have felt like a pregnant elephant, holding this huge story deep inside me for the longest time. But elephants only gestate for two years, and this book has been in production for over four years. I now know that four years is not unusual for a book. The process seems endless – interview, research, write, get feedback from readers, edit, interview more people, write, get more feedback from readers, edit. Repeat multiple times. Then become overwhelmed by the enormity of the task, drown in self-doubt, pick yourself up and get going again.
I blogged in 2015 for a year. The purpose was to hone my writing skills while my husband Steven and I enjoyed six restorative months away from our busy lives, travelling the world. Those posts are still here, now mostly irrelevant, but I can’t bear to delete them. Since then I have continued to work on Not Forgotten. Now I’m firing up the blog again to motivate me through the final stages of labour – getting it from a manuscript to publication.
During the gestation period Not Forgotten has led me to thought-provoking places; the magnificent State Library of Victoria, an orphanage for critically ill children in China, a psychiatrist’s room, a rock climbing expedition and decaying buildings in Far North Queensland. I have become the keeper of my friend’s family history, with cupboards overflowing with documents, diaries and photos of people I do not know. My life has been enriched by the growth of a cherished friendship.
Recently we went to the launch of Be Enterprise, an innovative social enterprise program of Logan Women’s Health and Wellbeing Centre. The evening combined the launch of the program with a healthy amount of fund raising. The invitation to attend had been extended to me by Liz Irvine, Chair of the Board, and since I’d had a role in her being on the board in the first place it was an offer I really couldn’t refuse.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a women focused event and it was great to step outside my normal routine. I felt recharged after the night as I listened to women with conviction and passion speak about the work they do to make a difference to women’s lives.
Shannon Fentiman MP – Minister for Communities, Women and Youth, Minister for Child Safety, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Member for Waterford reminded us that the gender pay gap is still alive and well, with woman being paid, on average, 17% less than men. I thought of a recent conversation Continue reading →
In Beijing we are staying with Wei and Karin. Wei, a pediatric surgeon, planned to visit an orphanage and I was keen to accompany him. The book I am writing, currently called Not Forgotten, is the life story of a woman who was in an orphanage in Australia from 2-10 years old, so I have developed an interest in orphanages and how they operate.
Even though Wei told me that the children we would meet were the most severely handicapped, I still had a naive view that we would be seeing some cute, chubby faced adorable Chinese babies who would be smiling and gurgling at me, but that was not to be.
We take many journeys through life and they are not all connected with travel. Major life journeys I have enjoyed include studying at university, getting married, building a house and of course having children. I love the way you start at some place with no clear view of where you will end up, and the journey unfolds as you go along. I have long believed that life is about the journey not the destination. Writing the book of my friends life has been another journey that has led me to delightfully unexpected places.
I am enjoying the wonderful absence of urgency and stress. We have had two weeks at home after the trip to New Zealand and there is plenty of time to do anything that needs to be done, but nothing seems particularly important. I love lazy mornings with slow starts, problem is my lazy mornings can easily run into the afternoon.
Make new friends but keep the old
One is silver and the other gold
This old refrain keeps echoing through my mind. These eight weeks have been full of precious new and old friends and family. The intensity of the delight in reconnecting with people has surprised me.
We have had many conversations with friends about how much you need to work at our stage of life. Could work look differently than it does now? Longer leave periods? Part time? Less stressful jobs? Can you retire too young? How much money do you really need to retire? How do you have Continue reading →
I left New Zealand when I was 19 years old, my first experience of running away. Since then I have tried to come back every two or three years to see my family. Each time I feel compelled to reach out and touch the ghost of my childhood and wonder whether others have similar experiences. I devour chocolate fish and pineapple lumps, (New Zealand confectionary delights), candy floss, mixed lollies sold in paper bags, hokey pokey ice creams, spearmint milkshakes which must be served in an icy cold aluminium container and for a savoury dish, bacon and egg pie with sliced tomato on top. I could buy these in Australia but somehow it would be traitorous to eat them there.
Then there is the drive past the family home, sold when my mother died 15 years ago, Continue reading →