Why Are Forgotten Australians Still Invisible, After All the Government Inquiries?

In the last Queensland State election I was surprised to discover that our electorate had been renamed, and that we had a Greens candidate who actually seemed knowledgeable. Was I dreaming? No, I now live in Maiwar and support the Greens. It’s not as if they are any different (yet) to all the other political parties who have never heard of Forgotten Australians. There’s a reason why the name Forgotten is so apt.

How many times have you, if you’re an FA or FA family member, had to explain to a social worker/doctor/other health professional or teacher the following:

What are Forgotten Australians?

Why are they different?

Why won’t they stop asking for justice?

CLAN protest photo

A CLAN protest outside the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in 2016. Image Source: Daily Mail.

Forgotten Australians ought to get a Gold Card, or the equivalent. Why? I hear you ask. FAs didn’t fight for the country.

Here is why.

Child removal creates disability. Not just in that child, but in their partners and children once they reach adulthood. If you doubt this, I can only ask that you read up on inter-generational trauma and the submissions to the Royal Commission.

Removing a child from a troubled family is like hitting a mosquito with a sledgehammer. It might remove an immediate danger to the child, and of course that is necessary in many cases. But it creates trauma, which in our family, could not be resolved. Lew woke up every day of his life thinking he was still in the Homes. Maybe the advances in medical science might have helped to repair his shattered limbic system, if he had lived a bit longer. We’ll never know.

I grew up in an upper-middle-class family in Holland Park. My first memories of school are of marching in from the bitumen parade ground each morning, the Colonel Bogey March blasting over a loudspeaker. Other kids always asked: “Did your father go to the War?” My father was medically unfit and stayed home in the CMF. He had started life as a garage mechanic, but then inherited a hessian bag factory from his father, and eventually became a ‘prominent’ business figure.

Despite the constant cold war waged by my mother, our lives were pretty uneventful. We went to the South Brisbane Congregational Church on Vulture St. I went to Sunday School, where we used to raise money for the Church-run Marsden Home at Kallangur. Once a year, we would all go to the Church picnic, attended by the Home kids. In 1991, Jim Meehan of FICH told me he’d been in Marsden Home. We drove out there one day and had a look around. Jim pointed out the tree where, he said, a boy had ended his life. The police had not been called. Of all the Home stories I heard, those concerning cover-ups like this still keep me awake at night.

What does a small child think, as they are removed from their home? Usually they will blame themselves. Whatever their parents have been doing, that is normal for kids. They don’t know any different. If the chaos around them reaches the point where welfare authorities are notified, and the kids are removed, they might think to themselves “I caused this”.

FICH members told me that even appalling parents are better than the State. I am NOT claiming that abusive, drug-taking, violent parents should be allowed to continue wrecking their kids’ lives. I am asking that deeper, and different questions be put when such crises occur. It is NOT acceptable to generate ‘clicks’ with statements like “Get clean or lose your kids”.

Why are the parents drug-addicted? Has anyone asked?

Were they in care themselves?

Has their trauma been acknowledged or addressed?

Of course not! This is Australia, where child protection is run like an industry, and runs, roughshod, over families like ours. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but in 1993 at least, prisoners at Wacol might be ‘alumni’ of Child Protection, who had ‘graduated’ out of that Department into Corrective Services, with no record kept of their childhood abuse.

A prison Psychologist told me once: “I think all former Home kids should be given a home, since theirs was taken from them”. I grew up in one house. The care leaver I married could not stay anywhere for long, and the notion of putting down roots was uncomfortable for him. Over the course of our lives, I’ve had to move many times, (about twenty-five), with one or more of my kids. We’ve managed to hang on to this home for over ten years, a record for us.

If Forgotten Australians could display, to bureaucrats, an acknowledgement of their State-conferred disability, a healing journey might begin for some. While they still have to explain, time and time again, why they are disabled, the wounds are only deepening.

Gold Cards for Forgotten Australians!

Cheers

Sylvia

 

 

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