Forgotten Australians: My Sense Of Injustice Is Burning Brightly

I need to talk about an issue that is bothering me in a big way. I feel....I'm not sure how to describe it. I feel upset, I feel angry and I feel cynical. Not for myself, because I had a better upbringing and childhood than I could ever have asked for. But for my Father, and for the hundreds of thousands of other people who suffered abuse, mental physical and sexual, at the hands of the people who were paid to 'care' for them.

I'm sorry that this post won't be my usual fun and lighthearted one; but as the title says, my sense of injustice in the world is burning me so hard that it hurts right now. And I don't know what to do about that. So I'm doing the only thing I can do which is to share this story and hopefully raise some awareness of this issue.

My Dad has written a book, which I know some of you already know about. It tells his story; of a 'childhood' spent in institutions, a 'childhood' that was absolutely robbed from him. In his words,

" ... It is not only a story about a small dark part of Australia's history, but the search for my identity and the search for a father who had once loved me as a child.
Before he died when I was just three, he left me just a thread of a memory to cling to. 
This story is about me clinging to that thread of a memory for the next 47 years as I searched for answers. I needed to know what had happened to my father and why my sister and I were put into the care, for want of a better word.  
My story covers a span from childhood in orphanages, through boys homes, sent back to foster parents to whom I was a burden to and ultimately to jail."
But my post today isn't just about his book. My post is also about the Royal Commission into Forgotten Australians . In 2009, the Australian Government 'apologised' in Parliament, to the hundreds of thousands of then children who were treated so very badly in both Government and Private (religious) run institutions. They announced a Royal Commission into the abuse and set aside a budget of some 40 plus million dollars to do so. 

Again in the words of my Father:

"I contacted the commission to tell my story. They were very nice during the initial interview. They asked me what homes and institutions I was in.
I told them my small story. The same story of thousands of us. The abuse, physical and mental. The denial of food for up to twenty four hours. Being tied to our beds for hours on end, canings, being locked in broom cupboards. Made to wear the wet bed sheets around us as punishment for wetting the bed, and the list went on.

And then came the final insult to us.

I was told that the abuse that I had suffered in care as a child could not be listened to as it had happened in government run institutions. The royal commission would only take submissions from people who were sexually abused in NON government, religious institutions.
They would NOT be taking evidence of physical abuse on children in care if it happened in a government run institution.

How bloody convenient for them. They knew that if they allowed evidence of any abuse from within a government run institution then that would open a Pandora's box that they could never contain."

I am beyond appalled at the hypocrisy of this. How bloody convenient for them indeed. I cannot escape the thought that keeps circling in my head; that we as a nation were asked to say sorry to the Indigenous Australians for the damage done when Europeans settled here over 200 years ago. The Government felt that injustice was something we needed to atone for as a nation. Yet here we are with half a million or so Forgotten Australians, children who did nothing wrong except be born into families that either didn't want them or couldn't care for them, and the Australian Government doesn't feel the need to investigate the abuse they suffered. Doesn't feel the need to properly apologise. Our Government who is supposed to be for the people is choosing to ignore what these people want. They don't want compensation, that's not what it's about. It's about acknowledgement. It's about someone in 'power' finally saying 'you know what? It was wrong, and it should never have happened.' And more importantly it's about someone saying

"I believe you."

My hope for this is simple: that enough copies of this book are bought and read that it comes to the attention of the powers that be. And that it makes them take notice. I know that's an idealistic, unrealistic and probably highly naive way to think, but I cannot help the way I feel. My parents brought me up to be an optimistic person. Despite his horrendous 'childhood' my Father still managed to instill a sense of right and wrong, hope and optimism in me. And right now, my sense of right and wrong tells me this is very very very wrong. 

Please, if you do nothing else, share this post around. Let's see if we can get this issue the attention it so very greatly deserves. 


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