The Story of FICH: Part 1

The support group Formerly in Children’s Homes officially existed in Queensland in 1992 when it became Incorporated, but it had started on August 27th, 1990 after our $100 ad in the Courier Mail.

Courier Mail ad_29-10-1990

 

It was meant to be Children’s Homes, not ‘Children Homes’ but there was a typo. Here is the CM article that followed.

Birth of FICH

 

 

In 1989 Lew had written a book, typed it actually. Someone had donated a typewriter to his campaign to be elected as an Independent in the 1989 Queensland State Election. Like everything Lew did, his campaign to become an Independent member of Queensland Parliament was passionately fought, and ultimately futile. But the local paper supported him, and some people liked his idea of a Universal Basic Income. Many others supported his proposal for a papain industry in Queensland. Here is an article from the Gympie Times about Lew’s 1989 campaign.

1989 Queensland Election.jpg

The book Lew wrote in 1989 was entitled ‘Home Boy’. It will be published on this site when we have scanned it. It doesn’t contain graphic descriptions of child abuse. It is full of hope, like the man who ran for Parliament in 1989, and was kicked off the dole because he ‘wasn’t looking for work’. Around this time, we were raided, yes raided, by two heavies from Social Security. Robyn Jackson, if you are reading this, I hope you will acknowledge the role played by the Gympie Social Security office in organizing this cruel action. It terrified us, and added to the long legacy of trauma suffered by our family. The heavies ordered us to sell our rural property and move back to Brisbane, where there would be ‘more opportunities for employment’.

Lew was unable to deal with bureaucrats very well. I appealed the decision to cut us off, and made an appearance at the Social Security Tribunal. Amazingly, they agreed with my argument that running for State Parliament was a form of job-seeking. The decision to cut our income support was overturned. But this was not good enough for the powers-that-be. Social Security appealed the decision by the Tribunal. It wouldn’t be the first time this family had been cruelly and unfairly targeted, and was certainly not the last.  The Administrative Appeals Tribunal called me and said two QCs had been appointed by Social Security to fight the decision in our favour. A book-length case against us was compiled. I notified the AAT that we would not defend the action. They asked me why, and said it was ‘a shame’ as we had a ‘good case’. I guess it would have provided endless entertainment for the lawyers involved, but we knew when we were beaten. In our absence they ruled against us. Below is page 1 of a 10 page ruling, finding Lew was not eligible for the dole while tramping the streets of Gympie distributing the leaflets he’d printed off the night before.

AAT

By now, we were back in Brisbane. We had sold the farm for $70,000, paid my mother back $25,000 for the house my father had bought us in 1978, that Lew had persuaded me to sell so we could move to the country in 1982. We rented a nice house in Macgregor so our gifted children could attend the best schools. We bought appliances, had weekends at the beach. My 15 year old daughter later told me she thought we had suddenly struck it rich. As a result of my efforts, Lew gained a job as Manager of the Blind Foundation at South Brisbane, right next to the church where we were married, which was now the Serbian Orthodox Church. The pastor was delighted to meet Lew; our family was welcomed to a luncheon held in the church Hall where I had spent so many hours as a Sunday School pupil. On the wall was a picture of King Peter of Yugoslavia. He looked just like our son. We felt hope again.

But Lew’s demons never left him alone for long. Six months into the job, conflicts began with the Management Committee. A very distressing series of phone calls I made to a member of my family who was also on the Board failed to enlighten anyone about the reason for Lew’s protest. He was fired. The Federal politician in charge of the Management Committee, who as a friend of my late father’s had given Lew the job after my despairing phone call, took out an injunction to prevent any of the staff contacting him. We spent some of our last money from the sale of the farm beginning a suit for unlawful dismissal. But then Lew became disheartened at the prospect of ever succeeding in a job.

We had $2000 left. We spent it on beginning the group Formerly in Children’s Homes. In the week following the ad in the Courier Mail, we received one phone call. It was from a guy named Bill Lasham, who with his wife Sue, attended the very first FICH meeting at our rented house in Grout St. Macgregor. Soon the media got wind of it, and Lew was invited onto a morning talk show. The next meeting was attended by about thirty people. We had never met one other person who had been in a Home. Now, after another newspaper article and TV interview, we were getting phone calls every night.

At the second meeting, Bill Lasham agreed with our suggested name for the group, Former Inmates of Children’s Homes. This seemed a realistic name, but others objected to the use of the word ‘inmates’. So I suggested a change to Formerly In Children’s Homes. This would keep the acronym FICH intact, and so the group was born.

By 1992 several FICH Newsletters had been published and sent to more than 100 FICH members. Here is an excerpt from a FICH Newsletter.

FICH Newsletter Vol.3 No. 3_p2.jpg

 

Below is a sample of media articles from 1992. FICH is mentioned in a couple.

Media Articles_1992.jpg

 

Soon I will publish more about the story of FICH.

cheers

Sylvia

Sylvia

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