In 2003/04, the Senate Community Affairs References Committee held an inquiry known as “Children in Institutional Care”. As a result of this inquiry two reports were tabled in the Senate. The first report, “Forgotten Australians – a report on Australians who experienced institutional or out of home care as children” was tabled on 30 August 2004 and the “Protecting vulnerable children – A national challenge on the inquiry into children in institutional or out of home care” was tabled on 17 March 2005.
The Forgotten Australians Report estimated that 500,000 Australians experienced care in an orphanage, home or other form of out-of home care during the last century. Many children were placed for reasons such as economic stress and social disadvantage, having a single parent (predominantly unmarried women), divorce, domestic violence, parental alcoholism, a death of a parent, or parents separated by hardship or war.
The Victorian Government’s submission to this inquiry estimated that more than 100,000 children were placed in care in Victoria between 1928 and 2003. It is estimated that 59,000 of the 100,000 were State Wards.
The Forgotten Australians Report raises significant social justice issues and reveals a litany of neglect, physical and sexual abuse and criminal assaults perpetrated on vulnerable children in care last century. These children did not have the benefit of growing up within their own family and some did not know their family or the existence of other family members (including siblings) until they were adults.
One of the major themes in the Forgotten Australians Report relates to the significant disadvantage faced by many people who grew up in care. As a direct result of this experience, many Forgotten Australians now face numerous social problems including poverty, substance abuse, relationship and parenting problems, premature death (often from suicide) and other mental and physical health problems. Many continue to suffer from loss of identity and family, feelings of abandonment, a fear of authority and a lack of trust and security.
The Forgotten Australians Report deals with five main themes: acknowledgement, records and information management, service provision, service co-ordination and reparation.
Open Place co-ordinates and provides direct assistance to address the needs and issues of people who grew up in care in Victoria, it helps people deal with the legacy of their childhood experiences and provides support to improve their health and wellbeing.