canvas shoes badges from Morialta Homes baby doll dressed in white wool suitcase badges from Roslyn Hall Children's Home, Murray Dwyer Boys Orphanage, Protestant Homes Booklet from Burwood Boys' Home – 'Valuable Household Hints' ceramic elephant with broken trunk
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oral histories

The National Library of Australia is planning to record several hundred people from all over Australia talking about their experiences in institutional care, including ‘Lost Innocents’ (former child migrants) and ‘Forgotten Australians’.

If the people interviewed agree, interviews will be available on the Library’s website.

The project will run for three years and the Library expects to begin recording interviews from March 2010.

For details, see the Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants Oral History Project at www.nla.gov.au/oh/fafcm.

Listen to us

Listen to five people the Library has interviewed about their institutional experiences.

Daphne McDonald

Daphne McDonald

Mater Dei Orphanage, Camden Convent Orphanage, New South Wales

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Daphne discusses the time she and her sister spent in an orphanage and a convent. Their mother, a single parent, placed them in care so she could gain nursing qualifications, and thus be able to support the two children.

transcript >

This is an edited excerpt from a recording of an interview by Rob Willis on 3 September 2003. The catalogue record for the complete sound recording is at: National Library of Australia: ORAL TRC 5035/15-16

Smoky Dawson

Dot and Smoky Dawson

St Vincent de Paul's Boys Orphanage, South Melbourne, Victoria

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While talking about his childhood, Smoky discusses his time in the orphanage, and reflects with typical good humour on the pleasure he felt when spending time away from it.

transcript >

This is an edited excerpt from an interview by Rob Willis on 20 April 2000. The catalogue record for the complete sound recording is at: National Library of Australia: ORAL TRC 3388/231-232

Margaret Gallagher

Margaret and Terry Gallagher

Barnardo’s Home, Burwood, New South Wales

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Margaret was brought to Australia from England as a part of the Child Migration Scheme. Believing she was a war orphan, she recalls the distress and confusion she felt when it was suggested she was in the orphanage in Australia because her mother didn’t want her. It was not until much later that she was able to confirm that her mother was alive in England.

transcript >

This is an edited excerpt from an interview by Rob Willis on 2 January 2001. The catalogue record for the complete sound recording is at: National Library of Australia: ORAL TRC 4687/4-5

Rick Barker

Rob Willis and Rick Barker

Christian Brothers, Bindoon, Western Australia

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Rick was brought to Australia from England as a part of the Child Migration Scheme. Here he discusses the way a group of Scottish boys from a Nazareth House orphanage were informed they would be moving to Australia, and how the boys, who were naturally suspicious of any information they were given, discussed the implications of this announcement.

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In this second excerpt Rick discusses the punishment administered at the orphanage in Australia, and how he mentally steeled himself to endure it.

transcript >

These are edited excerpts from an interview by Rob Willis on 5 January 2001. The catalogue record for the complete sound recording is at: National Library of Australia: ORAL TRC 4687/6-9

Wilma Robb

Wilma Robb

Parramatta Girls Home and Hay Institution for Girls, New South Wales

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Wilma was committed to the care of the Child Welfare Department, and because she was considered officially ‘incorrigible’, she was transferred from Parramatta Girls Home to the high-security Hay Institution for Girls. Here she describes her ‘welcome’ to Hay and her first experience of their methods of control.

transcript >

This is an edited excerpt from an interview by Susan Marsden on 27 October 2009. The catalogue record for the complete sound recording is at: National Library of Australia: ORAL TRC 6200/1

Oral history at the National Library

The Library already holds more than 40,000 hours of audio recordings in the Oral History and Folklore Collection, making it the largest in Australia. Social history interviews – interviews that document particular communities, experiences or events – are an important component of the Library’s Oral History collection. For more information about the collection, see www.nla.gov.au/oh.

Quotes

From Forgotten Australians:

In my heart I feel if there is to be real peace for myself and others like me, I expect some acknowledgement, some justice … to be … given a fair hearing, the Australian ‘fair go’.

(p196)

Society continually tells victims to ‘get over it’, or ‘it’s in the past’. I can assure you that the treatment of those of us who survive will not be ‘in the past’ as long as one of us draws breath, for we suffer the consequences every second of our existence.

(p142)

From Lost Innocents:

To this day I cannot tolerate being in a room with a closed door.

(p81)