Care Leavers Resources

Page last updated: 15 December 2016

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The Caring for Forgotten Australians, Former Child Migrants and Stolen Generations Information Package shows how early life experiences can affect older people receiving care and help care providers respond to their needs.

The Package resources include:

  • an information booklet covering issues and aged care requirements of Forgotten Australians, Former Child Migrants, and the Stolen Generations
  • a training facilitator guide including case studies on care issues of  Forgotten Australians, Former Child Migrants, and Stolen Generations.  Carers are encouraged to use this guide to facilitate group discussions and information sessions to other carers.
  • a PowerPoint Presentation for information and training sessions
  • a video to be viewed on YouTube

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are warned that the Package’s resources may contain images and voices of deceased persons.

Video Transcript 

Narrator:

This DVD is part of an educational package for use by Aged Care Services. Please be aware that the content of the DVD may cause distress for some viewers. It contains personal stories that are confronting.

[(Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Disclaimer)]

The content of this DVD may cause distress for some viewers.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are warned that the following programme may contain images and voices of deceased persons.

[(Department of Health Copyright Disclaimer)]

© 2016 Commonwealth of Australia as represented by the Department of Health (except for historical images).

Historical images are used with the permission of the copyright owners. 

Enquiries

Requests and inquiries concerning reproduction and other rights to use this video are to be sent to the Communication Branch, Department of Health, GPO Box 9848, Canberra ACT 2601, or via e-mail to copyright@health.gov.au.

Disclaimers

While all care has been exercised in ensuring the accuracy of the information in this video, the Department of Health does not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.

The information in this video is for general use and a guide only. The Department of Health is not providing professional or medical advice on any particular matter.

(Background Music Playing)

Narrator:

In the 20th Century, more than 500,000 children were denied their childhood in institutions and out of home care around Australia.

They were often taken from their families, frequently with no one’s permission and life was hard for them.

Many of those who spent time in institutions or out of home care as children were deprived of love. Most were denied family support and contact and experienced separation, loss and abandonment. Many were denied an education, forced to work as the virtual slaves of those entrusted with their care.

They lost opportunities that their peers enjoyed. Many were denied an identity and lost their culture. They learned shame, anger and low self-esteem.

What they learned has remained in their hearts and minds throughout their lives. They are Forgotten Australians, Former Child Migrants and the Stolen Generations.

[Text on screen saying: ‘Forgotten Australians’]

Up to 500,000 Australian born children, including some of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent, were placed in care or became state wards for different reasons – illness or death of either parent, family breakdown, abuse or neglect and limited community or government support for families in need. They lived in foster homes, children’s homes, orphanages and other institutions.

These people are Forgotten Australians.

(Music Playing)

Caroline:

We were forgotten. We were put in these places out of sight, out of mind. The abuse, the lack of food, the lack of clothes, the lack of education, the separation from family they knew. No one cared.

[Text on screen saying: ‘Former Child Migrants’]

Mary:

November the 7th, 1947 they put me on a boat. I wanted to go home right or wrong. I used to ask all the sailors on the boat ‘Please could you send me home?’ I used to write little notes and put them in bottles and throw them over the side - and nobody came.

Narrator:

From 1947 to 1972, between 7,000 and 10,000 children were sent to Australia from the United Kingdom and Malta and placed in institutions.

Children from the UK were deported without their parents’ consent and told they were orphans. 25 years of counselling services have found only one child was an orphan when they were deported.

(Music Playing)

[Text on screen saying: ‘Stolen Generations’]

Netta:

I must have fallen off to sleep. When I got up, no mother around. I said ‘Where’s my mother?’ They said ‘Your mother’s dead. You’ll never, ever see your mother’. Then you took it for granted that she was dead.

(Music Playing)

Narrator:

Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were forcibly removed from their families between the late 1800s and the 1970s by the federal and state government agencies and church missions.

They were mostly placed in institutions but some were put in foster care or adopted to be brought up white.

They lost their names, language, culture and cultural identity. They were forced to assimilate. They were often taught to fear and hate their cultural heritage.

As Forgotten Australians, Former Child Migrants and Stolen Generations get older and are contemplating their aged care needs, many find childhood memories return, including experiences in which those entrusted with their care betrayed their trust in places where they were harmed.

Some find the prospect of aged care truly frightening.

(Music Playing)

[Text on screen saying: ‘Separation, Loss and Abandonment’]

Patrick:

We assumed that we were all orphans. Later on, I discovered my mother was alive and that was unknown to me.

Graham:

We were told at the time that my parents were killed in a car accident in Port Germein. When I was 14 I found out that wasn’t quite true.

Francis:

Why should they tell so many lies? ‘You haven’t got parents or family. You’ve got nothing’. 30 years later I got this phone call from England. I’ve got 3 other brothers, after all these years.

Mark:

We were so young then and we just lived on the dream that dad would come back for us. Unbeknown to us, he went back to Darwin and was up there and living his life.

Caroline:

I don’t ever remember asking ‘Why haven’t I got a family?’ I don’t ever remember being curious about why I didn’t have a family or why I didn’t have brothers and sisters or why was I in this situation and why didn’t I live like other kids lived.

Cheryl:

You feel alone. That’s the thing. You’re alone.

Jenny:

Just so unwanted and unworthy and valueless as a person and alienated and isolated and yeah, no sense of belonging anywhere.

Cheryl:

Even as you get older and you form relationships, you’ve still got that bit of you inside where you’re still alone. Unless you’ve been through it, you don’t understand that.

Caroline:

You never really feel the same as everyone else, you always feel as though – well you have this shame that you carry with you. It’s a great shame that you weren’t wanted as a child.

Irene:

You’ve got no ego. You sort of don’t feel you’re good enough for anything yourself. That’s how I’ve felt all my life.

You don’t fit into society properly.

Female (unidentified):

We want somebody to love us for ourselves. There’s nobody to do that. It’s terrible not to be wanted. It is very terrible.

(Music Playing)

[Text on screen saying: ‘Exploitation and Neglect’]

Mary:

When we were sick we got locked in a dark room because it was our fault. You know and we used to get boils, real bad boils, because we didn’t have a lot of food.

Francis:

We got boils. We had boils. They’d put this hot brown stuff and put it on a candle and it burnt like bloody hell.

Mary:

They used to say it was dirty, because you played in the bushes. We didn’t know what that meant but we knew somehow that it was our fault that we got sick.

Mark:

So I had a heat rash and the more I sweated the more it stung. So I wouldn’t stop crying but then of course I was upsetting the other kids that were trying to sleep. I remember this nun coming over to me and she was trying to hush me up. Before I knew it, she grabbed my feet, both feet and one hand and picked me up backwards.

I remember my head was on an angle looking at her with her screaming face telling me to shut up and then she just dropped me physically back into the cot. I must have shut up. I don’t know. But I’ve never forgotten her face.

Irene:

We were locked in one room all day long and let out in twos to go work.

Mary:

They put old men and old ladies in the orphanage and then we had to look after them. We had to do the work and polish the floors.

Irene:

You’d do them every day. Polish, scrub, polish, then dry scrub, then buff.

Caroline:

We had two days at school. We cleaned the orphanages and we grew vegetables and we did laundry.

I’m outraged that they didn’t allow me to go to school. They stole my education.

Female (unidentified):

They used to send me down to kindergarten – I was 12 years old – to learn ABC and all that and you can imagine me, a 12 year old with all these kindergarteners? Yeah.

(Music Playing)

[Text on screen saying: ‘Punishment and Brutality’]

Irene:

Punishment was bad because we tried to escape once and we had the fire hose put on us and I remember I was deaf for nearly three months after that because I couldn’t hear. We were locked up for six weeks and a couple of days on bread and water. No bed, no blankets, no nothing.

We weren’t even given a toilet. We couldn’t go to the toilets, so you’d have to do it in the corner like a dog and then clean it up the next day.

Female (unidentified):

You can’t go and tell your mother. You can’t tell your father. You had to cope. My mother come up once and we told my mother something. When she left we got punched in the back of our back, our ears pulled, our hair pulled because we told our mother something what they did to us.

Lester:

The manager took me up to his office and questioned me and said ‘What did you run away for?’ I said ‘I’m not saying anything to you, you so and so,’ and with that he stripped me naked and flogged me with a six foot cane from head to toe. I’ll never forget it.

Mark:

He had a strap which was about a metre and a half long made of leather and about, I don’t know, eight inches wide. And he’d fold it over and he’d do a run up like he was about to bowl a ball in cricket and he’d just swing all his body weight into it.

Mary:

Most times I’d pass out with it, hit that badly. But it was the humiliation of being hit without your clothes and with everyone watching.

Female (unidentified):

I’m not afraid to die because I’ve been here and I reckon hell is on earth.

(Music Playing)

[Text on screen saying: ‘Sexual Abuse’]

Graham:

One of the nuns, I was her sleeping partner and I was 10 years old. She used to call me her belly warmer. Sometime during the women’s cycle they need something, cuddling and I was it. She used to fondle me and the Catholic Church, when I went to the Catholic Church, said ‘Don’t be silly, she’s a nun’.

Jenny:

The first person that got me from the home actually had a bizarre personality disorder and wanted a baby girl to replace her daughter because her daughter was an adult. She used to dress me in adult clothes and call me her name. It was just totally bizarre and she set me up with, you know, men.

Cheryl:

I used to go on holidays with a family, every holiday for about six years with this one family. The husband used to sexually abuse me.

That had the biggest impact on my life.

My kids often said to me ‘Why do you turn your head when we go to kiss you?’

I couldn’t work out why and then I realised I was seeing his face.

Jenny:

I was told ‘You tell anyone I’ll kill your dog,’ and my dog was my best friend. I was kept locked up so that everything could be kept quiet and I was just meat for men really when I was little.

Francis:

There was this bus with all these school girls from the college or school. They came up and I wrote a note down and I said ‘Listen’. I said ‘Don’t say anything to the brothers’. I said ‘If you can, when you get back to Perth, report this to somebody in authority’. But I never heard nothing about it.

You know, because I wanted the outside to know what was going on in there but nothing happened.

(Music Playing)

[Text on screen saying: ‘Loss of Culture and Identity’]

Graham:

First up in the morning was the best dressed. Nothing was yours. You never had any private property. It all belonged to the school or the orphanage.

Caroline:

I don’t know how many children were there but probably over 100 at the time. I was just this little, bewildered, lost, scared kid.

Netta:

They put us in three groups – Catholic, Church of England and Methodist. They didn’t care whether you were brothers and sisters, they still separated you.

The policeman gave me a name and they named it after Charlotte Waters and there was six of us named Waters, because we were all together from different sections of the centre. That was the pickup station, so they gave us all Waters and we thought we were sisters and brothers.

Mary:

Basically we lost our families, you know, our whole families and it’s taken years to find anyone.

Netta:

We didn’t know what birthday was. When the teachers asked our birthday, we didn’t know, so the Church people told us – they put a hat and we had to pick out the dates. I think they gave us our age by the size of us. I must have been a little bit big, or I don’t know, because I don’t feel I’m 82.

Mary:

Up until a couple of year ago I had no identification, no paperwork and I don’t think people realised it. A lot of them were walking around without a birth certificate.

Female (unidentified):

We were scrubbed with scrubbing brushes and I don’t know why they thought that it would make us whiter. When we were finally sent home, my father was too scared to talk about culture because he thought we’d be removed again.

We didn’t even know we were Aboriginal.

Mark:

The home really didn’t embrace that at all. None of the orphanages did. If anything it was not talked about. They went out of their way to make sure you didn’t know anything or connect with anything that led to that Aboriginality.

Netta:

I knew I was different, because when we went to school in Scarborough a lot of the children used to say ‘Are you the blacks that killed Captain Cook?’ We said ‘What? We never killed Captain Cook’.

Female (unidentified):

I’m caught in this world between not being white enough to fit in with the white culture and not being black enough because I wasn’t brought up in it. I’m struggling to try and know who I am and where I fit in, in the world.

Narrator:

These experiences of deprived, abused, stolen childhoods have affected and continue to affect many Forgotten Australians, Former Child Migrants and Stolen Generations.

Because of what happened to them as children, many Forgotten Australians, Former Child Migrants and Stolen Generations have had to manage in life without family support.

Female (unidentified):

I’ve got no one to talk to, so you kind of keep it inside. I’ve had three nervous breakdowns.

Narrator:

What happened in the institutions of their childhood lives on, always vivid in the memories of Forgotten Australians, Former Child Migrants and Stolen Generations.

Francis:

You don’t forget these things.

You know, I don’t like to bring it up but you never forget it.

(Music Playing)

[Text on screen saying: ‘Impacts’]

Mary:

I coped a lot because I pretended things didn’t happen and I’ve still retained a lot of that today. It’s not a good way of coping with any sort of situation.

Caroline:

I carried a lot of anger for many years. Someone would look at me the wrong way and I’d fire. People said that was because I had red hair but I think it was more because I grew up in care.

Graham:

I hate to say it but I have no respect. There’s no automatic respect given to anyone in a uniform. You want my respect, you earn it.

Lester:

For me personally, the biggest thing would be the beatings and the floggings that I got from the manager of the place. I’ll never forget that. It’s always there in the back of your mind.

Anger, resentment, hatred.

Female (unidentified):

I feel intimidated by people in authority. It’s like I regress back to that little girl where I’m afraid of my own shadow.

Irene:

I don’t trust people at all. Very hard. And doctors I don’t trust.

Graham:

I just don’t even like going to hospital. In fact I had a double bypass and I was the quickest bloke out of the hospital. As soon as they said I wasn’t going to die, I was gone.

Caroline:

Things happen and you’re suddenly back at that time. I had to go to hospital a couple of years ago and they put me in a ward and it was like a dormitory. I freaked out and I refused to be there. I really put on a performance. It was instantly back in that dormitory situation – beds and cupboards. It was just awful.

Cheryl:

There was one nun that used to hit me if I wet the bed. That memory came back recently, because I was in hospital sick and I became incontinent. I remembered all that and I was so scared. Just that feeling of scaredness, thinking I’m going to get into trouble.

Caroline:

That’s how we grew up as children, so going back to that is very fearful to many Forgotten Australians.

I don’t know what the answer is but it’s a very scary proposition. We’re an ageing population. I mean we’re mostly in our 50s/60s and beyond, so it’s quite scary.

Narrator:

Those who spent their childhoods in institutions or out of home care, unloved and exploited, cannot imagine returning to that life.

Female (unidentified):

It would frighten me a lot to go into a home. A lot. Because it would remind me of being in a home.

Three homes. Another home, I couldn’t handle it. I just couldn’t handle it.

Narrator:

Only by being flexible and adaptable can we meet the needs of those who were regimented as children.

Graham:

I wouldn’t go. I’d just jump on the bike and I’d go off into the bush rather than go back into that system of being told what to do, when to do it.

Irene:

I don’t know. I’d kill myself I think if I had to go in a home, because I don’t think I could. I wouldn’t handle it.

(Music Playing)

[Text on screen saying: ‘Fears and concerns of Forgotten Australians, Former Child Migrants and Stolen Generations’]

Mary:

I don’t sleep very well at night. I’m scared to sleep in my bedroom in case I’m locked in. I never lock my doors. I’m more scared of not being able to get out than I am of somebody coming in. You know in your heart it’s not going to happen but the fear’s always there, that somebody’s going to knock you on the back of the head or hit you across the face or pull your bedclothes off of a night and whack you.

Cheryl:

I don’t eat vegetables. I won’t eat custard. I won’t eat porridge, anything like that, because I was force fed.

Caroline:

I don’t eat anything white and sloppy, because I reckon everything we ate was covered in foul white sauce to cover a multitude of sins.

Graham:

Privacy. Where would I go? Where would I keep my books?

Cheryl:

Possessions. You know, what might seem trivial to you, a little statue or a book, that’s theirs. Don’t touch it.

(Music Playing)

[Text on screen saying: ‘Caring for Forgotten Australians, Former Child Migrants and Stolen Generations]

Narrator:

Workers in aged care know and understand about groups with anxieties and issues, health issues, language or cultural issues, dementia. The issues and concerns of Forgotten Australians, Former Child Migrants and Stolen Generations are just as real.

Lester:

So they need to understand where we came from and offer the support, the love and respect that we never had.

Mark:

A lot of people aren’t aware half the time of what a person’s gone through, you know, when they’ve lived their life, because not a lot of people share that.

Mary:

If you are in that job, be a little more thoughtful, if somebody’s got some odd ways about them, maybe it’s because something’s happened.

Jenny:

Not everyone’s easy to love but the ones that aren’t easy, the challenges, are the ones you’ll most satisfaction out of, because you know you’ve gone that one step further and shown them that bit of kindness, that maybe that one smile or ten minutes of listening really, really can change their life forever, you know.

Caroline:

Forgotten Australians are like any group. They come in all shapes and sizes and they all have different issues that stem from probably not being cared for as a child.

I think it was Nelson Mandela that said ‘If you damage a child you end up with a damaged adult’ and that’s certainly very true. We’re all damaged in one way or another.

Narrator:

Please note that members of these groups may not identify as Forgotten Australians or Former Child Migrants or Stolen Generations. They are individuals first and foremost. Please respect their right to privacy and their journeys through life.

It is strongly recommended that you follow up a viewing of this DVD with a de-brief on the issues raised in the DVD.

More detailed information about caring for Forgotten Australians, Former Child Migrants and Stolen Generations is in the other materials in this education kit.

[Text on screen saying: ‘Department of Health, Australian Government’, @Commonwealth of Australia 2016 - www.health.gov.au’]

[End of Transcript]