Day means recognition of lost love
For many Forgotten Australians, it’s hard to explain exactly what today national apology means.
For some, it means they are finally believed after being silenced for years over accusations of sexual, physical or emotional abuse that occurred to them as children in institutions to them as children in institution that were meant to often them a better life.
For others it validates their parents as successful carers, years after many of them died, tortured by the belief they were not.
But for every Forgotten Australian, said former Ballarat Orphanage resident Frank Golding last week, today’s apology by Prime Minster Kevin Rudd recognises the one thing every one of those children lost when paced in institutional care.
“The lack of love was the core issue, when you had 200 kids with four or five staff members, there was no personal attention or affection,” he said.
“And year after year, there was the feeling that somehow or another it was your fault, your parent’s didn’t love you and they had abandoned you.
“That lack of love transfers to many to an inability to be a good parent.
“I think this will affect a log children of people who grew up in an orphanage as much as their parents.”
Today’s apology will go out to nearly 500,000 people placed in government or institutionalised care between the 1920s and 1970s as children.
Mr Golding, a resident of Ballarat Orphanage from 1942 to 1953 with his two brothers, said like himself, the majority were not orphans.
Today in Canberra, Mr Rudd will apologise on behalf of the nation for the forced removal from parents and for the neglect and abuse many suffered while in care.
Mr Golding estimates the number making the pilgrimage to Canberra to hear the apology in person will reach more than 1000.
For Mr Golding, today marks the end of a long campaign for recognition for Forgotten Australians.
But more than that, it will offer him a time for personal reflection.
“There will be thoughts about separated sibling and parents. My thoughts will be going to my mother. She suffered as much as I did in a sense because she wasn’t able to be a mother,” he said.
“I imagine after tomorrow there will be conversation that hadn’t been held around family dinner tables before, people will be saying ‘I didn’t know that.’
“There will be a renewed confidence they can talk about it and not feel ashamed and approach governments and agencies for support.”
Mr Golding was one of more than 400 children who passed through the doors of Ballarat Orphanage in more than 100 years of its operation.
OPINION: Apology to victims only a step on healing journey
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will today apologise to half a million Australians who have come to be known as the Forgotten Generation.
As children, they were placed in the care of the state at institutions across the court. Their experiences therein were many and varied.
Some will tell you institutionalisation saved them from a life of despair. Others say it led to a life of despair.
With the pass of time, it has become clear that a portion of these children – including those housed in institutions here in Ballarat – were subjected to cruel and brutal treatment at the hands of those who were meant to protect them.
Such treatment was an awful breach of the trust placed in the system by the community at the time.
Today’s apology will be watched with interest by survivors of that system.
Like the apology to the Stolen Generation, Mr Rudd’s words today will not change history.
However, the acknowledgement it gives victims will allow them to take another step forward on their journey to healing.