Politics, Community & Society > The "Forgotten Australians" Recommendations

The "Forgotten Australians" Recommendations

By BARBARA LANE
Published: April 23, 2009

Inquiry into the Implementation of the “Forgotten Australians” Recommendations:

The Australian Senate Community Affairs Committee is currently conducting an Inquiry into the implementation of the recommendations of the “Forgotten Australians” and “Lost Innocents” Inquiries. The Senate has agreed to extend its reporting date to June 25th, 2009.

August 30th, 2008 was the seventh anniversary of the tabling of Lost Innocents: righting the record, and the fourth anniversary of the tabling of the Forgotten Australians report. The senate agreed it was time to update progress with the response to the recommendations of these reports.

The “Forgotten Australians” were the approximately 500,000 Australians who experienced institutional or out-of-home care as children during the last century, many of whom relate stories of severe abuse and neglect. Children were placed in institutions for many reasons, including being orphaned, poverty, family breakdown and parental inability to cope. Some were made wards of the state after being charged with being uncontrollable, neglected or in moral danger, not because they had done anything wrong, but because circumstances made them status offenders.

Action in relation to the Forgotten Australians has so far been mainly State-based. Queensland held the Forde Inquiry into abuse in its institutions and subsequently issued an apology to those harmed in Queensland institutions during their childhood. They set up the Redress Scheme, which is providing two levels of ex-gratia payments to abuse and neglect survivors. In Queensland the Level 1 payments are $7000 and the Level 2 payments are “up to $33,000”.

Tasmania and Western Australia have also set up redress schemes. The Western Australian level one payments are $10,000 and level two payments are “up to $80,000”.

New South Wales issued an apology but has not offered any compensation at this stage.

Recommendation 1 of the Forgotten Australians Report is:

“That the Commonwealth Government issue a formal statement acknowledging, on behalf of the nation, the hurt and distress suffered by many children in institutional care, particularly the children who were victims of abuse and assault; and apologizing for the harm caused to these children.”

Many Australians await this national acknowledgement and apology. Looking at the wide range of State responses, from no apology or acknowledgement at all to varying degrees of financial reparation, it is easy to see why a whole of government approach is required.

Recommendation 6 is:

“That the Commonwealth Government establish and manage a national reparations fund for victims of institutional abuse in institutions and out-of-home care settings…”

Other Recommendations require the recognition of Australian care-leavers as a specific group with particular needs, which would suggest the use of a Gold Card system, to make provision of “a comprehensive range of support services and assistance to care leavers and their families” a more manageable process.

The report also offers a number of recommendations regarding internal church redress and complaints processes, including Recommendation 8 “That the Commonwealth establish an external complaints review mechanism…” , and Recommendation 9 “That the Churches and agencies publish comprehensive data on all abuse complaints received to date, and then subsequently on an annual basis…”.

Many of the recommendations have not yet been implemented.

More information visit:

or contact the Community Affairs Committee Secretary on 02 6277 3515 .

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