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About the exhibition

WARNING: This website contains confronting and disturbing content, and names and images of deceased people. It may not be suitable for children under 15 years. Many of the historical images show an official, sanitised view which did not reflect reality. The faces of some adolescents have been blurred to protect privacy.

About the exhibition

Exhibition display of an apron and a crib.

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

The exhibition Inside: Life in Children's Homes and Institutions is 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.

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).

Exhibition opening in Canberra

Inside was launched at the National Museum in Canberra on 15 November 2011. Actor Jack Thompson made an impassioned plea for continuing recognition of Forgotten Australians at the launch. The exhibition was officially opened by Community Services Minister Jenny Macklin and Christine Harms, who spent 13 years in Nazareth House as a child, performed Eagles Wings.


audio_w15 Listen to the audio of the Inside exhibition launch

Read the transcript of the Inside exhibition launch

Exhibition virtual tour

The exhibition, Inside: Life in Children's Homes and Institutions, was on show in the National Museum's Studio Gallery from 15 November 2011 to 26 February 2012. These images by National Museum photographer Jason McCarthy document the display.

Inside is also due to go on show at the Melbourne Museum from August 2013 to January 2014.


Australia's Orphanage Museum on the Care Leavers of Australia Network website

audio_w15 'Understanding and representing trauma' conversation
Includes reflections from curators and researchers who worked on the Forgotten Australians exhibition and oral history project

'Let our histories be visible' article by Adele Chynoweth in the Museum's reCollections journal

Main image: The Inside exhibition on show at the National Museum in Canberra, with Mary Brownlee's 'My Ireland' apron at left. Photo: Jason McCarthy.

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