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Hell on Earth: the forgotten children of Australia

“I’m not afraid to die, ‘cause I reckon hell is here on Earth,” says one forgotten Australian, her large dark eyes shining and wet as she remembers her time in ‘care’.

From 1947 until 1972, up to 10,000 children were forcibly sent to Australia from the UK and Malta. This is on top of the generation upon generation of stolen Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children removed from their families and put in group care homes. It is estimated that in the 20th Century alone, 500,000 children were denied their childhoods and put into institutions here in Australia.

Now, as old age beckons and the prospect of later life in an aged care facility looms, memories of a scarred childhood return for these forgotten Australians, forced child migrants and stolen generations.

As one forgotten Australian put it:

Things happen and you’re suddenly back at that time. I had to go to hospital a couple of years ago and they put me in a ward and it was like a dormitory. I freaked out and I refused to be there. I really put on a performance. It was instantly back in that dormitory situation – beds and cupboards. It was just awful.”

This is a common theme for those care leavers, the mental anguish that still lingers. Years of forced feeding, poor nutrition, forced labour and little access to education, on top of abuse, both physical and sexual.

“I don’t know. I’d kill myself I think if I had to go in a home, because I don’t think I could. I wouldn’t handle it,” says another forgotten Australian.

Helping Hand are seeking solutions to these issues and project officer for forgotten Australians Diana O’Neill spoke to Aged Care Insite to discuss what providers can do to ease transitions.

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