How do you make up for a lack of parental love?
Breaking the news to Leonie Sheedy that our national Government was to apologise to the Forgotten Australians and the former Child Migrants unequivocally rates as the best day in my short parliamentary life.
As she screamed with a mixture of disbelief, joy and relief the enormity of what this will mean to the 500,000 Forgotten Australians and the 7,000 Child Migrants was palpable.
Leonie’s emotions were overwhelming and they overwhelmed mine. It was impossible not to join in the tears.
Leonie has been a driving force behind the Care Leavers of Australia Network which represents those who grew up in orphanages around Australia. Leonie, herself, grew up in St Catherine’s orphanage in Geelong and now lives in Georges Hall, Sydney.
The decision to make this apology is the culmination of years of campaigning on her part and the part of many others who have sought remembrance and acknowledgement at the highest level for so many who have suffered.
In the public eye this issue is often seen as acknowledging terrible physical and sexual abuse of the most vulnerable people in our community.
This certainly occurred and forms part of the wrongs of history that an apology will help correct. Many wonderful people cared for those kids in these orphanages. But sadly there were predators who roamed the corridors of these orphanages breaking lives.
To speak to those who have suffered this abuse is to witness a largely unseen ocean of human misery which continues to this day as these survivors try to reconcile their existence around the appalling set of cards that fate dealt them at the outset of their lives. This impending national act will help to heal.
Yet the apology is about far more than just abuse.
Parental love, for most of us, was the bedrock of our childhoods and endures into adulthood as a source of unconditional love upon which we can always rely. As parents we know that through all the difficulties and anxieties of parenting the one fundamental that we must provide to our children is parental love.
If you’ve had it, then to imagine growing up without it is impossible.
The policies which were in place at all levels of government through most of the 20th Century undermined parental love in two key ways.
First, the threshold for removing children from their parents was far lower than it is today. In some case removal occurred simply because parents were poor.
Second, once removed these children were placed into large orphanages. There the chances of receiving parental love, even from the most well meaning carer who may have had another fifty kids to look after, was nil.
Both polices removed any hope for thousands of Australians of ever experiencing parental love and the cost of that to our nation is immeasurable.
It is true that many of the circumstances that led to children being removed from their parents are simply tragic and at the same time not the fault of government. Yet nowadays these circumstances are addressed from the point of view of maximising the chance of parental love while defending the vulnerable. Removing children from their parents only occurs when there is no other option. And when it occurs kids are placed within families where there is at least a chance that parental love may come from another source.
It is the past devaluing of parental love by the state for which the Government now intends to say sorry to all those denied it.
The Forgotten Australians and the Child Migrants have grown up and had families of their own. They are, in the main, magnificent parents who understand the value of love. Yet the experiences of their childhood continue to haunt them. They talk about their own kids as being second generation Forgotten Australians: kids who have to live with parents wrestling demons.
Amidst the flood of messages received by Leonie and CLAN since the announcement of the forthcoming apology last Sunday one rings with a particular poignancy. A woman told Leonie that the apology would finally give her legitimacy in the eyes of her family about why she is the way she is.
This apology will help provide understanding to her children and to a nation about a deep seated sadness harboured by so many among us who grew up in orphanages. By providing that understanding this will be a truly noble act.
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…