Recently Bronwyn Bidstrup, COTA Queensland’s Aged and Community Care Coordinator joined Chief Executive Mark Tucker-Evans at a Forum organised by Lotus Place, Historical Abuse Network and Micah Projects to meet with older people to discuss aged care.
Up to a half-million Australian-born children in the 20th century, including some of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander decent were placed in ‘care’ or became ‘state wards’ for different reasons – illness or death of either parent, family breakdown, abuse and limited community or government support for families in need. They lived in children’s homes, orphanages, other institutions and foster homes.
Many were taken from their families, often without permission, to live in an institutional setting which often resulted in loss of identity, such as having their birth name changed or being referred to as a number. As many have not reunited with family in adulthood, they find it difficult to regain their family heritage, culture or sense of local community.
Every Australian should be able to live well, with dignity and independence, in their own community of choice and with choice of appropriate and affordable support and care services when they need them.
Many of the people who attended the Forum expressed concerns and fears about aged care as it triggered memories of the childhood experiences.
They asked that those who cared for the aged to take the time to gain knowledge about the background of the people they support. Whether they be former child migrants taken from their parents in the UK and Malta and sent to Australia without their parents permission, to be placed in institutions; the stolen generation of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who were taken from their families and communities by Federal and State government agencies and church missions under the forcible removal policies from the late 1800s until the 1970s and the forgotten Australians. They needed workers to understand their history and the trauma they’d experienced.
Most of the people who attended the Forum had trust issues and feared being locked up or drugged. Whilst many agreed that help would assist their quality of life they did not want to be a burden. Yet many had no family support and no one to look after them where they lived.
The Australian Government has recognised the special needs of this group of people and produced an information package for aged care services Caring for Forgotten Australians, Former Child Migrants and Stolen Generation.