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This website uses words, photos and objects from people who spent time growing up in children’s homes, orphanages and other ‘care’ institutions.

These pages feature personal contributions to the National Museum of Australia’s Inside exhibition. They tell only a small part of each person’s story.

Ken Carter

Exhibition graphic panel that reads: 'WORK, FLOGGINGS … FLOGGINGS, WORK was my whole life at the homes', attributed to 'Ken Carter, Box Hill Boys Home, Box Hill, Victoria, 1950s'.

Margery Chandler

Exhibition graphic panel that reads: 'I used to think if only I could stay awake all night I wouldn't wet the bed, but of course I couldn't ... [they called me] a

Maureen Cuskelly

Black and white photo of a woman with her hands folded and resting on her lap.  The woman's face is not shown. The caption reads 'Too much work as a child ... folding sheets, polishing and scrubbing floors has meant my hands have aged years ahead of their time ... Being unable ... to write Christmas cards, hold cutlery, fumble and struggle to grip money ... difficulty dressing and being unable to change my grandson's nappy. These are the daily things I struggle with' attributed to 'Maureen Cuskelly, Sisters of the Good Shepherd convents, Abbotsford, New South Wales, and Bendigo, Victorial, 1960s'.

Eric Cutler

Exhibition graphic panel that reads: 'I recall ... numerous pillow fights after dark ... and my duty of telling stories to my dormitory mates', attributed to 'Eric Culter, Geelong and Western District Protestant Orphanage, Geelong, Victoria, 1930s, in 'The way it was', Glastonbury Child and Family Services, 1995'.

Roseanne Davenport-West

A protest placard of white cardboard with black handwritten text that reads, 'SORRY / is not Enough!! / FORgottEN / AustRaLiANS / WANT / CompENSATiON / FOR THE ABuSE / WE SuffERED!!'

Lorraine Davis

Exhibition graphic panel that reads: 'I was only eight, but had to work every day in the laundry from after breakfast to 5 pm with a break for lunch ... They must have made heaps of money from doing all this laundry', attributed to 'Lorraine Davis, Good Shepherd Magdalene Laundry, Hobart, Tasmania, 1950s, 'Orphans of the Living', by Joanna Penglase, 2005'.

Debbie Day

Image showing a poem, handwritten on lined A4 paper, which reads: 'Shush close your eyes look sound asleep. Hear him moving in the shadows so deep. Yes! He passed by not my turn tonight. But who will he pick, Will she put up a fight. SHE WAS ONLY 6. We hope he will leave and choose none tonight. We know what he will do to the one he picks. Yes we know the pain he will put on her. We know it all. SHE WAS ONLY 6. It's morning get up and make the bed. Bed number 4 is missing a girl. It was her first time in sick bay she will stay. We know why. We know who. We keep silent speaking won't help. SHE WAS ONLY 6.We wait for her to come back to us. So we can hug her and hold her close. Tell her we know. Tell her we care. She never came back. She left we are told. To a family that wants her, its lies so bold. It's just not fair. SHE WAS ONLY 6. Now I wish he had picked me. I know what to do. I wouldn't fight or cry the night through. If I had been chosen she would still be here. I wish he had picked me. Cause I am older, I AM 7.', attributed to 'Debbie Davis'.

Nancy De Vries

Exhibition graphic panel that reads: 'IT WAS A PRISON, A CHILD'S PRISON'.

Monica Duff

Colour photograph of a cot sheet, framed by a white metal cot. Embroidered in blue script is 'This baby looked all blue round the mouth as we tried to give it some milk but it just ran out of its mouth. So I ran to the nuns having their lunch and Sister hit me for disturbing their lunch and I took her to see the baby and she turned round and hit me again and said

Thelma Edsell

Exhibition graphic panel that reads: 'Because it was night-time when we arrived at the Orphanage … I kissed my three brothers goodnight and was led to this gigantic room with rows of beds like in the three bears story,' attributed to 'Thelma Edsell, Geelong Orphanage, Victoria, 1930s'.

Dorothy Fairbairn Jones

A rougly spherical ball wrapped in yellowing newspaper strips.

Peter Farr

Exhibition graphic panel that reads: 'This is one of the certificates Dad got for selling the most life assurance. But he never insured his own life. So when he died Mum had to sell the family home and go to work and we were put in a Home. She had no choice', attributed to 'John Farr, 2011'. At right is an image of a framed insurance award printed on white card, with green highlights. It reads: 'THE MUTUAL LIFE AND CITIZENS' ASSURANCE CO. LTD. / THE M.L.C / FOUNDATION FELLOWSHIP / This Certifies that / Cecil Farr / by reason of outstanding results / (DIVISIONAL) / FOR THE YEAR 1942 / qualifes for membership of the / M.L.C. DISTINGUISHED SERVICE ORDER / THE FOUNDATION FELLOWSHIP'. Silver and blue stickers printed with the words 'QUALIFIES AGAIN' are struck at regular intervals around the border. Under each is handprinted a year between 1944 and 1950.

Al Fletcher

Exhibition graphic panel that reads: 'You could look in every boy’s face and you could see the boy had left. Something else had creeped into his face. Something. You can’t explain it. But there was no boy in us any more. He had gorn,' attributed to 'Al Fletcher, describing the effect of incarceration in Westbrook Boys Home, Toowoomba, Queensland, 'Brutal', by Al Fletcher, 2010'.

Ray Flett

Exhibition graphic panel that reads: 'Society continually tells victims to ‘get over it’ or ‘it’s in the past’. I can assure you that the treatment of those of us who survive will not be ‘in the past’ as long as one of us draws breath, for we suffer the consequences every second of our existence.' attributed to 'Ray Flett, 'Orphans of the Living', by Joanna Penglase, 2005'.

Kathleen Foley

Polaroid photograph showing a group of girls standing at the front of a timber verandah rail. One of the girls holds a small bow and arrow. Some of the older girls' faces have been blurred. Typewritten text at the bottom reads 'Kathleen Foley (back row, third from right) at St Vincent's Orphanage, Nudgee, Queensland, about 1956'. 'Courtesy Kathleen Foley' is typed along the left side.

Bette Formosa

Exhibition graphic panel that reads: 'We worked seven days a week ... washing  ... scrubbing and polishing ... lighting the furnace ... dusting, serving breakfast or dinner ... bathing children, polishing shoes ... scraping and washing dishes,  polishing silver, cleaning bathrooms ... working in the babies home ... taking children to school ...', attributed to 'Bette Formosa, Dalmar Children’s Home, Carlingford, New South Wales'.
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