“In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousand fold in the future. When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age, we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations. The simple step of a courageous individual is not to take part in the lie. One word of truth outweighs the world.” Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918–1956.
This post is dedicated to Rosy and Gary’s call for a fair go for themselves and other Forgotten Australian families.
Elsewhere I’ve mourned over the Wikipedia entry referring to Forgotten Australians as a ‘contested term’. Any readers (if you exist) would also be accustomed to my contempt for the term “ex-resident”.
Campaign by Alliance for Forgotten Australians
Whatever name Forgotten Australians and their families are known by, they are demanding to be heard, once more, in the Still Waiting for Justice campaign being waged by the Alliance for Forgotten Australians in the lead-up to the ersatz ‘fair go’ election.
The communiqué from Alliance for Forgotten Australians on 18/03/19 reads as follows:
To coincide with the Federal election and the forthcoming 10th Anniversary on 16 November 2019 of the Prime Minister’s Apology to Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants, AFA has launched a new campaign with the theme of ‘Still waiting for justice – unfinished business’.
We want a redress scheme that covers all forms of abuse.
We want priority access to health care, social security benefits, housing and dental care.
We have published brochures called ‘Still waiting for justice’ and are distributing these widely. Federal and opposition politicians and state premiers and chief ministers are our initial targets.
We have also published a Forgotten Australians Facebook page, and an Instagram account (afa_2k19) to support the campaign. We will be publishing responses to our campaign from all politicians on Facebook.
If you would like copies of our brochures, please contact AFA on firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0419854980.
(Alliance for Forgotten Australians, 18th March, 2019 https://forgottenaustralians.org.au/news)
Please support this campaign for a fair go for Forgotten Australians!
Just how little of a fair go Rosemary Bateman has experienced will be revealed here, in the letters she has written to government, their replies, and the repeated efforts she’s made to be heard about the health needs of Forgotten Australians. Her childhood injuries formed the basis for an adulthood cursed with illness and disability. Yet she has continued to struggle. I have to admire Rosemary’s courage, because she never gives up. She can’t. That’s what most people don’t understand about Forgotten Australians.
How hard it is to know when to admit defeat! All odds can be against a person surviving, yet my survival instinct is so strong I have rarely admitted defeat in my life. When my husband passed away I felt in one sense defeated. But I am inspired by the efforts of those who remain to ensure, as Lew declared, that no child should have to walk this path again. What Mrs. Bateman is asking for is the birthright of any citizen of a democracy; it is the level playing field, equality of opportunity, affirmative action. All these terms are still foreign to Forgotten Australians. Governments created their disability and Governments are reluctant to own this problem.
As a result of the Government’s lack of initiative, the health of Forgotten Australians like Mrs. Bateman has continued to suffer. On November 9, 2018, Mrs. Bateman wrote the following to various Government bodies.
“If Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have a special card entitling them to health needs (not unlike the Vets’ care) why don’t Forgotten Australians? Many grew up with them as well.” (I can corroborate this with an anecdote from Lew, who used to say that half the kids in the Homes were Aboriginal.)
Mrs. Bateman continued: “Sounds like discrimination to me. Where are our human rights? As a Forgotten Australian, after the Forde Enquiry I have been requesting a Gold Card for all Forgotten Australians owing to the extended health issues, often over their childhood and adult years. I am seeking such support for a second cataract surgery”.
How is it that a woman in her early 60s is facing such surgery? Who is measuring the rates of mortality and disease in Forgotten Australians? People like Rosemary and Gary Bateman are still waiting for answers.
“I beseech you to act on my behalf to secure A Fair Go and put into place a recommendation to increase the Disability Pension to a livable standard indexed by CPI which would acknowledge the lifetime Hurt, Damage and Cruelty caused by no fault of mine, except being a child with no voice”.
Rosemary and Gary Bateman have always respected the sacrifice, service and commitment of our returned soldiers. Mrs. Bateman acknowledges that this made possible the “safety, conditions and security we all share in this unique country”. Nevertheless, she and a growing number of other Forgotten Australians are adamant that “a Gold Card for Forgotten Australians should be the Order of the Day. It would empower Forgotten Australians who suffer with crippling PTSD and associated health issues which arose through no fault of their own”.
Mrs. Bateman notes that “as ‘Children in Care’ (which term I use very loosely, as there was very little Care) the Government, acting as surrogate parents, failed in their DUTY OF CARE to protect me and care for my health and well being”.
Lew used to say: he always knew he was a child of the State, that the State was his parent. Until age 18 he lived in constant fear of being taken away again by a social worker, which makes the response from the Social Services Minister to Rosemary Bateman all the more painful, with its references to helpful social workers. In view of the fear of social workers routinely felt by children in ‘care’, the response by Social Services to Mrs. Bateman’s call for a Gold Card is more than pathetic. But I’ll let it speak for itself.
Just before Christmas 2018, Mrs. Bateman somehow found the courage to reply to this poor excuse for a response.
“I read your letter with some intrepid hope, but to my dismay, I have been exiled once again. Life is a hell of a thing to happen to a Person.
I was unable to attend the National Apology due to health issues and financial embarrassment, but had the good fortune to witness same on television.
I sent away for a copy of the National Apology, to both the PM and the Opposition Leader, and the only reply received was from Mr Bill Shorten MP.
People of the nation have always had a complicated relationship with the truth. People need truth to live, and the truth here is in the pudding, which is the wordsmiths of the apology.
I spent my childhood in institutional abusive care and my greatest fear is that in my mature years I suspect I will again be subjected to institutional abusive care.
There is a saying ‘The more things change, the more they stay the same’. Please prove me wrong and restore my faith in the goodness of human nature”.
A copy of the petition to the Australian Federal Government for a Card of Recognition – a Health Card for Medical and Dental Care for all Forgotten Australians was attached to Mrs. Bateman’s letter.
She concluded: “This is your Government’s Great Opportunity to leave a lifelong and life changing Legacy, one about which future generations will say: Here was a Government by the people and for the people. An Australia to be proud of for its long standing quote: Everyone deserves a fair go”.
In view of the total lack of recognition by Government of the need for a Forgotten Australian Gold Card, the response from the Attorney General’s Department, reproduced below, may not surprise anyone.
The Attorney General’s Department is “not in a position” to offer a scheme similar to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs DVA Health Card – All Conditions”.
Thankfully, not everyone shares the view of the Attorney General’s office. Senator Hinch offered a ray of hope.
The trouble is, for the Batemans and many other families, next year might not be in time! Rosemary Bateman, like so many other Forgotten Australians, keeps coming up against health professionals who confuse her severe, complex, chronic PTSD with personality traits that they choose to characterize as “difficult”. I’d be “difficult” too if nobody recognized who I was. Especially if my life were in danger. Here is some of Rosemary’s response to Senator Hinch.
“I don’t want to sound like a bleeding heart but on the 22nd of February 2019 I was admitted to Prince Charles hospital with a suspected heart attack and on the 25th February my heart stopped and I died. But just like Jesus, and with the skill of Heart Specialists, I rose on the third day.
The system still refuses to acknowledge Forgotten Australians; information gained from my local GP (from notes regarding my stay at Prince Charles Hospital) noted that in their words ‘I was a difficult subject’.
This system still refuses to acknowledge the existence of Forgotten Australians, both doctors and health department.
How much can a koala bear? When a gold card seems too dammed difficult?”
And now, today, we can see renewed fighting spirit in the Alliance for Forgotten Australians campaign “Still Waiting for Justice” (18/03/19).
Rosemary Bateman’s campaign for a Gold Card for Forgotten Australians has been acknowledged by the Alliance for Forgotten Australians. Their letter to her is reproduced below.
I found it heartening to read Gary Bateman’s tribute to his wife, reproduced below with kind permission of the writer.
Mr. Bateman’s words reminded me of how much I valued Lew as a father to my children. I can’t imagine a world without our amazing children. I grieve for the suffering they endure because of what he suffered, while honoring their own struggles to heal, and their indomitable spirits.
I plead with all my heart on behalf of those Forgotten Australians who are left: Look after these people! They have suffered too much. They, their partners and their children want only to find peace and some measure of comfort in their remaining years.
Give Forgotten Australians a Gold Card.