9th March 2012
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WHEN Val Noble arrived at Geelong’s St Catherine’s orphanage in 1937, seven formative years of her life had already been consigned to a blank.
Seventy-five years later and she’s still striving to fill the picture from the time she was taken from her mother’s arms as an infant and adopted out, then sent to homes in Royal Park and Box Hill.
She has no idea why she was sent to St Catherine’s.
In the 1970s, when she tried to view her state ward file she received a humiliating response.
“The chap said I wasn’t able to read anything pertaining to that period of my life,” Mrs Noble said. “They blacked it out – it just feels horrible.”
Mrs Noble, of Melbourne, is now 82 and has gained new hope of opening a door to her past after delivery of a Victorian Ombudsman’s report investigating the storage and management of ward records by the Department of Human Services.
Ombudsman George Brouwer has called for immediate departmental action in cataloguing the files to enable wards to enable access to lost and often traumatic chapters of the lives of many.
Mrs Hope welcomed the call for action and prospect of gaining dignity.
“I think it’s marvellous that they’re even looking into it – people think you’ve all forgotten and don’t care but you do,” Mrs Hope said.
The founder of Care Leavers Australia Network (CLAN), Leonie Sheedy, who also attended St Catherine’s said many records might help support claims of abuse and neglect against the state.
“The information in these records helps Care Leavers reunify with mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and extended family, as well as holding vital medical histories,” Mrs Sheedy said.
“Long suffering Care Leavers have been distressed by being told, over many years that these records have been destroyed, can’t be found or don’t exist. In most cases that’s not true”.