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Special requirements of Forgotten Australians investigated


Steve Spinks
2 May 2012
A Southern Cross University PhD candidate would like Forgotten Australians to participate in his research so that future government policies can be developed to meet the special requirements of this population as they age.

A Forgotten Australian is described as an Australian-born, non-Indigenous person, who as a child lived at some time in institutional out-of-home care within Australia before 1974. It is estimated there were as many as 500,000 Forgotten Australians.

In 2009 the then Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, apologised to the Forgotten Australians for abuses they suffered in institutions at the hands of government and non-profit organisations. As part of the apology, Mr Rudd identified this group of Australians as a special needs group, or people who may require special services as they age.

To better understand what some of these needs might be PhD candidate Gregory Smith, himself a Forgotten Australian, is researching how a Forgotten Australian may experience feelings of belonging or of not belonging in relation to communities, families, relationships and work places.

“I spent time in institutional out-of-home care intermittently from 1965 until 1974, and the child hood experience has influenced my life greatly,” he said.

“I am researching how people who lived in institutional care as children now experience feelings of belonging or not belonging in terms of relationships, communities and other situations. I am interested in the ways these feelings affect how they experience a sense of belongingness, a sense of self and identity as adults. Specifically, I am exploring how institutional life has impacted on their lives as adults. In doing this, I will begin with the assumption that each person interprets their own experiences in a different way.”

Mr Smith is calling on Forgotten Australians Australia-wide to participate in his research.

“If you were a resident of any form of out-of-home institutional care in Australia pre-1974, are an Australian-born non-Indigenous person, you are eligible to participate in this research,” he said.

“The participants will be interviewed at a time and place convenient to them and I will be the person conducting the interviews. The interviews will last for approximately one hour and will be audio recorded with the permission of the participant.

“It is important to note that there will be no right or wrong answers in the interview. I am interested in how the participant has, in the past or now, experienced feelings of belonging or of not belonging over the years since leaving an institution.”

The information will be then be analysed by Mr Smith to identify specific themes and participants can be kept informed of any findings. The research is completely confidential and has been approved by the human research ethics committee of the University.

To participate in the study or to find out further information Gregory Smith can be contacted on 02 66593151 during office hours or mobile: 0401 083 462 and via email on [email protected]

Photo: Gregory Smith.