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A Day to Remember
Opening of the New Clan Offices & National Orphanage Museum 31-5-08
The opening of the new CLAN offices on Saturday May 31 was a tremendous success. Over 130 were in attendance and the day was a very happy occasion.
The ceremonies got under way at 11am with Jim Luthy welcoming the guests, especially retiring Senator Andrew Murray, Jason Clare (MP for Blaxland), Richard Marles (MP for Corio), Kevin Greene (The NSW Minister for Community Services (DOCS)), and Tony Stewart MP, Deputy Speaker and Member for Bankstown. Jim then welcomed CLAN members from all states of Australia. CLAN appreciate the attendance by those who had to travel such long distances.
The office was then officially opened by Jason Clare, who has been tremendously helpful to CLAN, and who was very warmly received. He spoke of first meeting Leonie and how much he had come to appreciate her passion for the cause of Care leavers.
After the opening, the crowd moved down the corridor to the Orphanage Museum.The exhibits were very moving for many of those attending, and no-one in attendance could fail to see how much the existence of the Museum meant to them. It was in this atmosphere that one of CLAN's very dear friends, and CLAN's patron, Richard Marles, opened the temporary home of the National Orphanage Museum. Richard also recalled his first meeting with Leonie, describing her as a 'Force Of Nature', a sentiment most of the crowd agreed with, before speaking of the support that he received and receives from his sister and family, and how it reminds him constantly of the struggles and burdens of those who did not have that family support through no fault of their own. It was this that made him feel so honoured by the opportunity to open the National Orphanage Museum, which reflected the history of Care leavers and provided an indelible record of this shamefully-neglected chapter of Australia's history. He also emphasised the National character of the Orphanage Museum, remembering that all the great museums had experienced humble beginnings, and spoke of the need for an apology, an acknowledgement, by the Federal Government, and stated that he was certain that it would happen. Several in the crowd were deeply moved by his speech, some to tears.
Over the next half-hour, the visitors and guests were able to inspect the museum and its exhibits, and several commented on how wonderfully presented it was, giving them a sense that their past and their history was acknowledged.
At noon, the festivities moved to the Bankstown Hotel for the next stage of the day's events, the farewell to Senator Murray, who retires from Federal Politics in a few weeks. CLAN would like to thank, once again, the Hotel and its staff, for donating their function room and providing lunch for the attendees, especially Linda who organised the function for us. Senator Murray's speech told of his past as a Child Migrant, and of the inquiry trilogy: Stolen Generations, Child Migrants, and Forgotten Australians. While he was happy to claim the credit for the second of the three, it was his belief that the credit for the Forgotten Australians inquiry belonged to the founders of CLAN, whose submission to the Child Migrants enquiry made it clear to him that there needed to be another Senate Enquiry into the subject. He then addressed his colleagues, warning that the task that they had undertaken was very rewarding, but would mark them, and speaking of the challenges to come. His words gave a strong sense of the baton, and burden, being passed from his hands to those who were succeeding him in the fight for Justice for the Forgotten Australians. He also acknowledged those who had helped him in his efforts on behalf of care-leavers, especially his wife, Pam, and his policy advisor, Dr Marilyn Rock.
CLAN's Founders, Leonie Sheedy and Joanna Penglase, then acknowledged CLAN's friends and supporters with the giving of small gifts of appreciation. Senator Murray was most prominent amongst these, of course, as were those who had assisted him on behalf of Forgotten Australians over the last eight years. Another notable thank-you was to MTC Work solutions, Belmore, who have produced a 2-minute promotional DVD for CLAN. We have heard reports recently that when the DVD was played for MTC management, there was only stunned silence in the room afterwards. CLAN must also thank Paul Linossier of MacKillop Family Services, who has volunteered to convert over 120 slides into photographs and provide a copy on CD for us to post on our website. Gifts were also given to those who had organised Socials in each state, CLAN's hardworking Committee, and many who had supported the organisation in its early days.
The day was very much a social gathering, an acknowledgement of those who have helped us in the past, and a celebration of the determination to go forward from here. CLAN thanks everyone who attended and everyone who has supported us and especially everyone who helped on the day. It was a wonderful occasion which will never be forgotten by those who attended.
We also have a report of the days' events written by Kris of Tasmania. Click on THIS LINK to read it.