Open Place announcement

Berry Street has made the decision to cease operating Open Place after 30 June 2020. Open Place will continue to provide services as normal during the transition to new service arrangements from July 2020.

We are proud to have delivered Open Place for the last 9 years, providing connection, belonging and understanding for many who have been in institutional care prior to 1990. It has been a difficult decision, but we believe it is in the best interests of Forgotten Australians (also known as pre-1990 Care Leavers) and in line with Berry Street’s core focus on children and young people and our commitment to participating in the National Redress Scheme.

Over coming months, we will take opportunities to reflect on and celebrate the success of Open Place and the people who have made the service what it is.

Further information can be obtained in the Frequently Asked Questions.

Budget News

The Victorian Government has announced its budget for 2018-19. It appears that additional funding has been made available to both Open Place and CLAN. The following information is taken directly from the publically available Budget papers:

Open Place and Care Leavers Network of Australia – Additional Support

Additional funding for Open Place and CLAN of $1 million dollars per year for years 2017-18 & 2018-19. Split not specified

Open Place is a support and advocacy service that coordinates and provides direct assistance to people who grew up in Victorian institutional care. Increased funding to Open Place will increase access to universal health and welfare services for care leavers, and provide targeted brokerage funding for care leavers experiencing extreme hardship.

Care Leavers Network of Australia is a support, advocacy, research and training network for people who grew up in Australian orphanages, children’s homes, foster care and other institutions. Increased funding over two years to Care Leavers Network of Australia will provide increased advocacy and support for Victorian institutional care leavers.

This initiative contributes to the Department of Human Services’ Community Participation output.

Open Place will seek further advice from the Department of Health and Human Services about how this funding is to be used and what the split between Open Place and CLAN is. Please note these funds, however they are to be used, is not available until 1 July 2017.

Long Term Outcomes for Forgotten Australians (LOFA)

The University of New South Wales (UNSW) recently launched its study on long term outcomes for Forgotten Australians. The link to this report is here.

Despite the quality of this report, there are some rumours circulating about this research that was released on Monday.

Allegations are being made that personal details of those who may have completed the survey or participated in interviews or focus groups have been passed onto staff members within the Find and Connect services, including Micah projects (Lotus Place) and Berry Street (Open Place). THIS IS INCORRECT.

The survey was completed by participants anonymously online, and where individuals completed paper versions of the survey they were returned directly to the University in a reply paid envelope.
Information from surveys, interviews and focus groups could be accessed by the UNSW research team alone. The University has very strict policies about confidentiality.

Open Place was not involved in any interviews or focus groups. Open Place has no access to any of the data collected through the survey, interviews or focus groups.

The role of Open Place along with Berry Street was/is to act as a partner organization. Open Place provided information to the public (posters, fliers, web site and newsletter) about the research. Open Place believes the research IS A CRITICAL COMPONENT OF GETTING PERSUASIVE DATA TO CONVINCE THE POLITICIANS AND THE COMMUNITY that the health and aged care needs of Forgotten Australians ought to be a priority for government, at both a state and federal level.

The LOFA study is the first credible piece of research that actually supplies some quantitative data about the health and aged care needs of Forgotten Australians. It has long been the vision of many Forgotten Australians that the childhood abuse suffered, and that has led to long term health problems in adulthood, would be recognised by access to priority health care (accessed possibly by a version of the Veterans gold card). Such a vision can only be realised if those with the power are persuaded that something terrible happened to children in “care” and that these terrible happenings are directly connected to complex health problems in adulthood.

This is what the LOFA research has been able to demonstrate. The research offers a wonderful opportunity for advocates to lobby and argue for a gold card.

If we want politicians to take seriously the circumstances of Forgotten Australians we have to find some common ground. This research provides it. As the manager of Open Place I am proud that we have made a contribution to this ground breaking research. We have an environment, with the recent redress announcement and the continuing work of the Royal Commission, that makes change a possibility. This research adds to this momentum.

Completely unfounded rumours about breaches of privacy and confidentiality do nothing for the cause of Forgotten Australians. Collectively we can do better.

Simon Gardiner
Manager, Open Place

We Hope

The purpose of this publication launched in November 2016 at the anniversary of the National Apology is to say that Forgotten Australians matter. Their lives and their stories matter. In this publication it is the Forgotten Australians themselves speaking; of hope, recognition and justice, which many still seek as a result of childhood experiences and the struggles in adult life as a consequence of these experiences.

Click here to download the booklet

Royal Commission Submissions

Open Place has provided the Royal Commission with a number of submissions. Please click on link to access these submissions.

Comments on the Salvation Army
Open Place Response to Royal Commission Consultation Paper
Principles Trauma Approach
Royal Commission Therapeutic and Support Submission
Redress Paper
Response to Royal Commission Consultation Paper on Records

Update About Melbourne Response

You will have seen the media release (here) from Truth Justice Healing Council about additional payments via the Melbourne Response. Open Place has written to Melbourne Response seeking clarifications. The questions put to Melbourne Response are below:

  • Are additional Payments available only to those who have been sexually abused? What is available to those who have been criminally abused while in “care” but not sexually abused? 
  • What process exists for those who have not previously been a part of the Melbourne Response? What do survivors need to do to get access to this redress scheme?
  • If survivors accept this additional payment will they be obliged to sign a deed of release preventing them from taking any civil action?
  • How is the Melbourne Response disseminating this information about a review and additional repayments? Will those who are on your books be contacted individually?
  • Will all those who apply (under the conditions) be “topped” up to the maximum of $150,000?

Open Place will place the answers to these questions (if responded to) on our website.

Commonwealth Media Release Regarding Redress

Below is the media release from the Commonwealth Government. The media release provides little detail of eligibility and time lines. As more details become available these will be posted on the web site. This is encouraging news but more needs to be known.

You can view this media release here.

Addressing abuse – recent and past

The broadcast of footage from the Don Dale juvenile detention centre in the NT on ABC’s Four Corners program shocked Australia, and prompted the Prime Minister to instigate an immediate Royal Commission.

For many Forgotten Australians the images were a disturbing reminder of their own abuse in state institutions and their continued long wait for redress.

Open Place Manager Simon Gardiner shares his reflections.

Read more

Victorian Government Releases Consultation Paper on Redress Scheme and Civil Litigation

The Victorian Government is seeking community views on the development of a Victorian redress scheme for victims of institutional child abuse.

The paper explores key issues surrounding a potential Victorian redress scheme for institutional child abuse.

The consultation paper is the next step in the Government’s election commitment to implement all outstanding recommendations from the Parliamentary Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Non-Government organisations.

The inquiry delivered the Betrayal of Trust report, and one of their recommendations was that the government should consider creating another way for survivors of institutional child abuse to bring claims of abuse against institutions, instead of requiring them to bring their claims to court.

The scheme aims to provide victims with alternative ways to seek justice and it is essential that the Government consults with key stakeholders to develop a redress scheme.

The Victorian Government is looking at “options for a redress scheme to consider abuse that occurred in both government and non-government institutions.”

The government invites stakeholders and members of the public to make a submission in response to this paper by Monday 5 October 2015.

Open Place is seeking advice from Forgotten Australians that will inform the Open Place submission. Please contact Open Place’s manager with any comments.

The consultation paper is available on the Department of Justice & regulation here.

The release of the consultation paper does not preclude Victoria’s participation in a national scheme. The Government remains prepared to consult and work with other Australian governments to address the harm of institutional child abuse.

Arrangements for Records Relating to Former Wards

FIND have recently been in communication with the Director and Keeper of Public Records (PROV) in relation to the authorisation for DHS/FIND to release the original photos & letters held within a ward file.

The current practice has been to scan the original and supply a copy of the scanned letter &/or photo to the former ward.

FIND have been granted permission by the Keeper of Public Records to provide former wards with the original letters &/or photos held within their own ward file.

The provision of original letters &/or photos is subject to the following conditions:
1. Any records released to a former ward must be accurately copied.
2. Such copies created under this process must be retained on the relevant case file or other record from which the original was obtained.
3. Original records must only be given to the person who is the subject of the record and who is the former ward of the State and not to any other individuals who claim relationship to the subject of the record.

FIND cannot guarantee that every former ward file will contain original letters &/or photos. In the cases that there are original letters &/or photos FIND will advise the former ward accordingly and provide them with that original copy. As noted above FIND will keep a copy on the DHS ward file record.

FIND continue to ensure that Government policy and legislative requirements are met and that continued support and access to records for former wards is maintained.

If you have any queries regarding the above information please contact FIND on 1300 769 926

Online exhibition: “Inside: Life in Children’s Homes and Institutions”

The National Museum of Australia has published an online version of the “Inside: Life in Children’s Home and Institutions”. The original exhibition was on show at the National Museum in Canberra from 16 November 2011 until 26 February 2012. It then travelled to Melbourne Museum from August 2013 to January 2014.

Website: NMA Online Exhibition

WARNING: This website contains confronting and disturbing content, and names and images of deceased people. It may not be suitable for children under 15 years. Many of the historical images show an official, sanitised view which did not reflect reality. The faces of some adolescents have been blurred to protect privacy.

La Trobe Evaluation

Latrobe University was contracted, via the original tender agreement with the Department of Human Services, to conduct an evaluation of the first three years of the operating of Open Place. The Final Report of the Evaluation can be read via the link. Comments about the Evaluation can be forwarded to the Manager of Open Place.

Click here to download the Final Report