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Documenting the histories of people who grew up in institutional 'care'

The exhibition Inside: Life in Children's Homes and Institutions was based on the experiences of people who grew up in children's homes, orphanages and other 'care' institutions in Australia in the 20th century.

It is only recently that the history of these children and the experiences they endured are being more broadly written and discussed. The treatment they received has often affected their whole lives and the legacies of their experiences continue to impact on following generations.

The Inside exhibition on which this website is based was launched in 2011 on the second anniversary of the Australian Government's National Apology to Forgotten Australians and former child migrants. The website was  moved into new templates in 2021 as part of the Museum's website redevelopment, to make content accessible on mobile devices.

Exhibition display of an apron and a crib.

View of the Inside, Life in Children's Homes and Institutions exhibition

These members of the Forgotten Australians, Stolen Generations and former child migrants shared their stories through submissions to Senate inquiries, personal biographies and collected histories, film, radio and press, and via private conversations, emails and posts on the National Museum of Australia's Inside: Life in Children's Homes blog.

Inside: Life in Children’s Homes and Institutions was developed by the National Museum of Australia and supported by the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.

Inside exhibition objects

The passing of time and the nature of children's homes and institutions, where children owned very few possessions and sometimes wanted to leave the stigma of the institution behind, meant that the survival of objects is relatively rare.

Most of the objects featured on this website came from former residents of children's homes, who donated or loaned precious objects from their time in the home, or from the lives they made outside. Many are now part of the National Museum of Australia's National Historical Collection and many were borrowed from the rich collection of Australia's Orphanage Museum (Care Leavers of Australia Network).

Inside: Life in Children’s Homes series
  • Last updated: 14 February 2012
  • 5 programs
Compelling accounts of life in Australian children's homes and institutions, shared as part of the National Museum's Inside exhibition.
Understanding and Representing Trauma conversation
  • Last updated: 5 October 2010
  • 2 programs
The Understanding and Representing Trauma Symposium accompanied the exhibition Inside: Life in Children’s Homes. Researchers recounted their experiences in working on personal, confronting and challenging stories, and communicating those stories to a wider public.
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