Disadvantage in Australia: The New Daily has only half the story

I read an article in today’s The New Daily about poverty in Australia. I submitted several comments about the immiseration of Forgotten Australian Families. I mentioned that today is the 7th anniversary of my husband’s death. I added that he’d spent his whole life battling the legacy of childhood institutional abuse, mostly unsuccessfully. Our family remains shattered. I mentioned that I had been born into privilege, but that marrying a Stolen Child had condemned me and our children to a lifetime of hardship.

Thanks to The New Daily for publishing my comments. I’m expanding on them here. Taking children from their parents is wrong. It condemns them and their own families to misery. For one thing, it allows every bad experience they will have to be blamed on the State or Church. Whether or not the State or Churches are to blame for what happens to care leavers, they have condemned many of them, like us, to welfare dependency.

When we ran FICH, we used to ask people whether they would have preferred to remain with neglectful and abusive parents. Most said that although their parents failed them in many ways, the ties of blood meant there was often one positive experience amongst all the chaos. This one positive experience would remain in their memories to sustain them somehow. This was rarely the case for a child in Care. Institutional Carers may have provided support, even empathy, but when the child happened to succeed at something minor, it did not matter to the institution or its staff. Children in Care knew this.

Hello to Ray Hansen, who, like Lew, was in St George’s, Parkhurst. Thanks for reaching out to me.

Lew and I didn’t realise St George’s Rockhampton had been run by the Anglican Church until 1990. He’d always believed it was run by the Catholics. We didn’t find out until we began FICH. I began seeing a therapist in 1994, to deal with almost constant family strife. Later, in 1997, I submitted complaints about my own abuse as a 17 year old, in St John’s Anglican Cathedral.
Coincidentally, my meetings with Archbishop Hollingworth were later reported upon in the O’Callaghan/Briggs Inquiry 2002, although the material was later redacted (the Church blamed the University for my abuse, even though it occurred in their organ loft). Of great interest to the Archbishop was a rather triumphant memo from his assistant claiming to have caught Lew out in a lie about his time in St George’s.

That this even appeared in the Inquiry’s deliberations was curious, as it concerned a 4 year old child in a Rockhampton orphanage in 1953. Nevertheless, the Anglican Church in Brisbane has never resiled from attacking my credibility, nor the credibility of my family. The abuser was quoted in the Inquiry: I recall the student concerned as being extremely disturbed. My Psychologist remarked: he MADE you disturbed!

One of Lew’s favourite anecdotes about St George’s concerned the timber slats ‘under the house’. He’d spent a lot of time confined ‘under the house’, being too young for school. He was bored, so he taught himself to count, using the timber slats as a guide. Imagine the glee that must have been expressed in Church House upon the assistant’s alleged discovery that there had been no ‘under the house’ at the orphanage.

The accusation that Lew had imagined one of his significant memories caused distress to our family. I phoned the Central Queensland University Library, and told them the story. The kindness of the librarian has stayed with me. She managed to find a record, with photos of ‘under the house’ at St. George’s. Although we felt vindicated, and I’m sure our lawyer communicated this finding to the Archbishop, nobody from the Church has ever apologised for accusing Lew of lying about his recollection. This is no surprise, given their own cruelty towards a priest whom they had once employed. His mother’s deathbed disclosure became too heavy for him to bear, and he reported it to her abuser’s friend, the Archbishop, in 2002. It’s mentioned in my story, published by SNAPAustralia.

January is nearly over, thank the universe. February is worse for us now, but mercifully shorter than January! I’ll sign off for now. Stay safe, stay strong, as my new SNAP friend would say.

cheers

Sylvia


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