Project Helps Find "Forgotten Australians"
28 July 2008 at 4:01 pm
A landmark project is set to develop an accessible history of Victoria’s children’s homes in a bid to help "Forgotten Australians" to find out more about their past.
The Who am I? Every Record Tells a Story project is expected to benefit thousands of Forgotten Australians – people who were in institutional care until the late 1970s – as well as members of the Stolen Generation and younger people who are now in the process of leaving care.
Led by the University of Melbourne, the project will see academic social workers, historians and archivists work with the community sector and Department of Human Services over the next three years to develop a digital archive consolidating the records of Victorian children’s homes.
The histories will be consolidated on to an electronic database which can be readily accessed by the homes’ former residents and provide a model for how care organisations should keep their records in the future.
Given the enormous scope of the project, the database will initially include histories of more than 90 former homes but ultimately its developers hope that others will be added.
The project will also include research into the experiences of the Forgotten Australians and younger care leavers in accessing their personal records from services.
Alongside the University of Melbourne, partners in the project include Australian Catholic University, Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare, community based organisations, the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Association and Department of Human Services.
Project leader Professor Cathy Humphreys, Alfred Felton Chair in the University of Melbourne’s School of Nursing and Social Work, says poor record keeping by many institutions has denied many former residents the opportunity to reconcile their past.
She says having access to accurate information about where they lived could play a role in the healing process for people coming to terms with often traumatic pasts.
She says the problem is that although some organisations had good record keeping, many are in disarray and this makes it extremely difficult for former residents.
Other important aspects of the project will include the identification and development of current good practices in record keeping and archiving; and researching the experience of care leavers and Forgotten Australians accessing their files.
The Who am I? Every Record Tells a Story project has received $800,000 in funding from the Australian Research Council, Community Sector Organisations and Department of Human Services.
The Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare also launched a report – It’s Not Too Late to Care – into the life outcomes of people brought up in institutional care in Victoria.
It has made 5 main recommendations to the Victorian Government including:
1 The establishment of a Victorian health card that identifies careleavers as a special community group and allows them priority access to and fee concessions for physical, mental and dental health services.
2 Reviewing of Home and Community Care services guidelines to facilitate easy access to these services for careleavers. Trialling of innovative programs in partnership with careleavers and the Federal Government aimed at meeting the aged care needs of careleavers in alternative home-based settings.
3 Increased investment in support services for careleavers and their families such as counselling, literacy and numeracy, dental services, mental health services etc, through careleaver support groups and other community service organisations.
4 Assistance to community organisations to catalogue records, and set up supported record access services for careleavers seeking access to their personal records. The possibility of developing collaborative models of record access should also be explored.
5 Setting up a reparation and redress scheme in Victoria following the example set by other states in Australia.
For more information go to: http://www.cwav.asn.au