Next week provides an opportunity to stand with me and the hundreds of thousands of older Australians who experienced neglect and abuse as children, writes Meg Schwarz.

On 16 November 2009, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made a formal and moving apology on behalf of our nation to people who spent their childhoods in orphanages and other out-of-home care in Australia. 

Often known as Forgotten Australians and former child migrants, many of these people suffered appalling deprivations and abuse while growing up in Australia’s 800 institutions and other out-of-home care accommodation in the 20th-century. I am one of them.

Meg Schwarz

Over 500,000 children, collectively called Care Leavers, experienced neglect and abuse as children that has, for many, impacted their adulthood and led to significant barriers to accessing aged care and the support they need and deserve.

Across Australia, 16 November is a day of commemoration for this large group of now older people. It represents a day of reflection on the past – lost childhoods, opportunities, family and friends.

It’s also a day of reflecting on the present and future through Mr Rudd’s National Apology speech, where he said “let us also resolve this day that this National Apology becomes a turning point in our nation’s story. A turning point for shattered lives. A turning point for governments at all levels and of every political hue and colour to do all in our power to never let this happen again. For the protection of children is the sacred duty of us all.”

Across the country, Forgotten Australians and former child migrants will be acknowledged through commemoration events held at memorials in each state.

In South Australia, we have a major event at 10.00am at the SA Memorial to Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrant at Peace Park in North Adelaide. The event will also see the launch of a Memorial Garden by Adelaide City Council who donated $25,000 to its development.  

This group has significant barriers to accessing aged care as a result of childhood trauma. Understanding the history and experiences of this group will enable not only an understanding of trauma but how to provide services that are trauma informed.

Stand with us.

Meg Schwarz is a Forgotten Australian who works in the aged care sector

Main image: National Apology to the Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants, Great Hall at Australian Parliament House Source: National Museum of Australia

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Meg Schwarz

Project co-ordinator at Helping Hand

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  1. I agree Lynette and certainly data tells us that the rates of child abuse in Australia, in particular, are increasing every year. For many older Care Leavers though, fortunately there are a range of funded programs and projects that are ameliorating (or attempting to do so) the negative impact of past trauma. Prevention is always a better strategy than intervention though!

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