This article from the Australian Ageing Agenda is reproduced with kind permission from the Alliance for Forgotten Australians.
Support available for ‘care leavers’ in residential care
By Boris Kaspiev
No-one likes the idea of losing their independence, but for Forgotten Australians the prospect of being re-institutionalised is terrifying, writes Boris Kaspiev.
If you work in an aged care service, have you ever asked a new resident whether they grew up in an orphanage?
The people who identify as Forgotten Australians are mostly more than 50 years old. They may also be known as care leavers, homies, wardies, Former Child Migrants, or members of the Stolen Generations. Some don’t identify in this way at all.
They are the survivors of the approximately 500,000 children who found themselves in institutional or other out-of-home ‘care’ last century.
Forgotten Australians suffered from deep feelings of abandonment. Many lost their families. They suffered brutality and neglect; many were exploited as cheap labour, and grew up in harsh conditions without love and physical or emotional warmth. The treatment they experienced as children mean that many are in poor health and may age prematurely.
No-one likes the idea of losing their independence, but for Forgotten Australians the prospect of being re-institutionalised is terrifying. They know what it’s like and they don’t want to relive it.
Many Forgotten Australians find traumatic childhood memories and fears returning when they think about their aged care needs. Those anxieties may spring from childhood experiences when they were harmed by those who had been entrusted with their care. Some find the prospect of aged care delivered outside familiar places as truly frightening.
Working with these individuals requires a sympathetic understanding of the mistreatment and loss they experienced during childhood. They are burdened with memories of trauma which create fear and anxiety.
However, if aged care workers can recognise and understand their concerns, their time in aged care can become more positive and engaging.
Some may not want to talk about their childhood experiences. They may never have spoken to their families about their past. But there are things you can look for and things you can do to make them feel safe and welcomed.
Forgotten Australians may not want to be touched, or want their possessions touched. They may react strongly to authority figures and people in uniform. They may avoid the kinds of food they were served in orphanages, such as white sauce, or they may hoard their food, because they were always hungry.
Some can’t sleep with a door closed; others will avoid communal spaces. Celebrations such as birthdays or Christmas may trigger memories of abandonment and aloneness, and some will not have families with whom to share such events.
There is an excellent resource which explains the history of Forgotten Australians and helps you understand how you may best support them. It’s the Caring for Forgotten Australians, Former Child Migrants and Stolen Generations information package for aged care services.
You can also contact the national network of Find & Connect Support Services on 1800 16 11 09 (freecall), which can:
- provide support and counselling;
- obtain the personal records of Forgotten Australians, trace their history and understand why they were placed into care;
- connect people with other services and support networks; and
- where possible, reconnect with family.
The Alliance for Forgotten Australians (AFA) is a national organisation which promotes the interests of Forgotten Australians, advocates for policies and services to meet their needs, and encourages their inclusion in service planning and delivery. AFA does not itself deliver services. It may be contacted on 0419 854 980 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Victorian agencies wanting to know more about Forgotten Australians can contact the Community Education Team at Open Place in Victoria on 1800 161 109 .
Boris Kaspiev is executive officer at the Alliance for Forgotten Australians.
Here is a comment from AFA Vice-President Pamella Vernon about Rosemary Bateman’s call for recognition for Forgotten Australians.
Thanks Boris for this communication detailing the struggles & determined active plight of Rosemary Bateman to have Forgotten Australian’s adequately & appropriately recognized, for harms inflicted upon them as innocent Children, under a regime of the ethos of “Protecting the Child” but operating in a separatist harsh, abusive & inhumane ideology. These accurate descriptions has been irregutably established by, not only the Federal Government’s Forgotten Australian’s Senate Inquiry together with the additional Federal Senate Inquiry, Lost Innocence, with the release & tabling in the Legislative Council the Forgotten Australian’s Senate Report & subsequently that which followed with the Forgotten Australian’s National Apology which on the 16th November 2019 commemorates this Historical Event, that, unlike the illinformed Minister Christian Porters direction to authorize the whitewashed reply from the Minister for Social Services, who is obviously oblivious to the Recommendations set down & accepted by the Australian Federal Government & sealed with a Promise from the then Prime Minister Rudd, that these Recommendations would be implemented. This of course goes contra to these responses received by Rosemary Bateman to her concise & well informed tracking of her articulation narratives, documented within comprehensive timelines of correspondence & emphatic appeals, together with the these pathetic & misinformed, disrespectful responses, mentioned above. This disdained obtuse stance by this Government & it’s Departments both Federal Attorneys General & the Federal Department of Social Services, is in opposition to the regular & sustained dialogues that AFA The Alliance for Forgotten Australian’s has maintained over the previous ten years in advocating, lobbying tendering & implementing many of the Federal Government’s initiatives in the moving forward of the Recommendations, which sadly only a handful has Actually come to fruition. This reality has been instrumental in our latest Petition by way of Advocating & Lobbying, yet again, our latest project “Our Unfinished Business is Your Unfinished Business, in the attempt to support Forgotten Australian’s our Stakeholder Groups & especially the VOICE of Rosemary Bateman in her eloquently presented & heartwrenching appeals, whereby, the proof of the disdain, indifference & other contempt displayed for all to witness in these cruel & as mentioned misinformed reactions & responses. The proof is in, that the current Government by referring Rosemary to the Centrelink Offices & the Find & Connect Support for the needs of Forgotten Australian’s, is that they’re ignorant of the actual Funding criteria, firstly & secondly that the Funding does NOT cover the all medical or most of the needs that they have eluded to also that the brokerage is not only fundamentally limited, whereby, the Support Services deny many of what most were LEAD to believe that they were entitled to. In other words it’s a hideous situation for a needy Forgotten Australian to approach the Service to then be denied support. So, we’re sent back to the demoralizing situation of begging “Cap in Hand” which culminates in shame, guilt, fear & worthiness all over again. So that We’re thrust right back into that alien environment of being “Nobody’s Child,” This is the reality that Rosemary Bateman has described, but with the added responses & reactions that is proof beyond doubt that we’re well & truly “A FORGOTTEN AUSTRALIAN” “A FORGOTTEN PEOPLE” OUR BIRTHRIGHT OBLITERATED… EXPUNGED again a fact mentioned in appeals that Rosemary put forward. This has been ours, The Members & The Board of The Alliance for Forgotten Australian’s from the beginnings in 2009 as Our Mantra… Our Desire, Our Mission… Our Purpose… Our Ideals… Our Principles…Our Intentions & Our Challenges that whatever we, the Lived Experience Practitioners/Advocates embark upon, is to “RIGHT THE WRONGS OF THE PAST” in the interests of BETTERING THE AGING POPULATION OF OUR FORGOTTEN AUSTRALIAN PEOPLES SO AS TO LIVE OUT THEIR FINAL YEARS HAVING BEEN RECOGNIZED AND THEIR DIGNITY RESTORED. THIS IS THE LEAST OF WHICH WE ASK. Boris, I understand that this response is long winded & that I’m half way across the world but to suggest I turn of my fear fuelled odometer, is impossible. The feelings of ho hopelessness, helplessness & alienation by reading these responses has come at a price, not just for me , but I’m sure everyone at AFA. The futility is palpable & being away from my network with my son & his young family is traumatic, because, I’ve been pretty well instructed that this topic is taboo, as my son suffers greatly from his Mother’s ongoing trauma, so here we are it’s suck it up Pamella, endure the pain… send off elongated emails to the Mob back home or just curl up & suffer in silence. I chose the Mob back home my Tribe. Tomorrow it’s literally the Alcatraz’s Psych Ward Cruise… where an ancestor of mine was incarcerated… true story. Signing off. Pamella
The Alliance for Forgotten Australians https://forgottenaustralians.org.au/ remains an important resource for care leavers and their families, and deserves the support of all in government. Sadly, this support is lacking. If you know any FA’s or have an FA family member, now is the time to write to your parliamentary representatives – both State and Federal.
Ask them what they are doing, on an electorate level, to help support Stolen Generations both indigenous and non-indigenous.