John Honner; 17/11/09;
John Honner has worked in community services for the past ten years. He was an instigator of a research project exploring the life experiences of a sample of care leavers: see Suellen Murray et al, After the Orphanage: Life beyond the Children’s Home (Sydney: UNSW Press, 2009). His submission to the Senate Inquiry that led to the Forgotten Australians report can be read here.
At 11.00am yesterday, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, on behalf of the Commonwealth of Australia, formally apologised to generations of Australians who were subjected to harm in children’s homes through the twentieth century.Some could no longer be cared for in their families, yet were labeled ‘orphans’. Others were child migrants, sent out from Britain to have a chance of a better life in Australia. Many lived in a series of residential institutions, from infancy to adolescence, with every move damaging their development.There are some 500,000 of these ‘Forgotten Australians’ and ‘Lost Innocents’. They all suffered hurt and distress. Many were victims of abuse and assault. Many never experienced a hug. Many were kept separate from siblings. Many never knew until years later that they actually had a mother and a family. All were at risk of attachment disorder and most lived with a fractured identity. Many struggled later in life to develop relationships. Most finished their very inadequate schooling at the age of fourteen and were used as cheap labour.Many live heroic, resilient lives, holding on to hope. Some, as the Prime Minister acknowledged, ‘could not cope and took their own lives in despair’.They were all innocent.