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Forgotten Australians

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Forgotten Australians, also referred to as Care Leavers, are a group of Australians who experienced institutional  and out of home 'care' as children2. The separation of families occurred from the 1940s until the late 1980s and this group is estimated to have consisted of more than 500,000 people2. Many children were taken from their families without permission and were made to believe that they were unwanted or orphans3.

Within these 'homes' and institutions, abuse was rife. Many Forgotten Australians share similar experiences of being used as child labour, abused physically, mentally, and sexually, and denied education, health care and affection.


These mistreatments have led to many long-term effects on Care Leavers including but not limited to, substance abuse, loss of identity and culture, accelerated physical ailments, homelessness, relationship issues, educational difficulties and a myriad of mental illnesses and trauma symptoms4.

Term FA

 Who are the Forgotten Australians? Background and Overview is a video produced in 2011 by the Alliance for Forgotten Australians, narrated by Jack Thompson. 

To view more videos and information visit the Alliance for Forgotten Australians website. 

The Term 'Forgotten Australians'

The term 'Forgotten Australian' was coined in 2004 after the Senate Investigation: A report on Australians who experienced out-of-home 'care' as children4. 'Forgotten Australians' has since become a term to describe this group, especially within the Government and other official services. However, many do not wish to be identified by the term ‘forgotten’ and we respect this. Whilst many experienced very poor and traumatising experiences, it is not the experience of all, nor was it the most defining factor in their childhoods. Additionally, the term is not exclusively used to describe this group, especially as opposed to 'Care Leaver', which is the official term in the UK4 and how Forgotten Australians are described in the Aged Care Act.

Many wish to be identified by terms such as 'Care Leaver', 'State Ward', or 'Homie' but there is an array of terms that individuals self-identify with. It is understood that many of those who were placed in out-of-home or institutional 'care' do not wish to be identified as 'Forgotten Australians' and this preference should be respected and used when possible. This is a repeat from earlier – does not matter! For the purpose of this website, the title 'Forgotten Australians' will be used as this is the term most frequently used by Government and Government services. We respect and acknowledge every individual who has their own unique preferred term13.

Two hands holding single flowers

Photograph Collections

Most images of Forgotten Australians and institutions are protected and archived in various State and National Libraries or other Museums. This can make it difficult to locate photographs, below are some resources for finding photographs.

National Museum & Library of Australia 

The blog Inside by the National Museum of Australia and the National Library of Australia has a small collection of images, which can be viewed through the Government archive site, Trove. The site also hosts a collection of images of artefacts6.

clock tower

State Library of Victoria

The State Library of Victoria hosts over one hundred images relating to Forgotten Australians, including photographs of buildings, gardens, people and more. They are held under the OzChild Collection of Photographic Prints7.

CLAN Museum

The Australian Orphanage Museum has been maintained by CLAN and has hundreds of items on display in Geelong Victoria.

Screenshot 2022-09-19 at 10-46-04 Museum Relocation - CLAN_edited.jpg

Queensland Archives: Schools, hospitals and orphanages

Queensland State Archives (QSA) holds many of the nineteenth and early to mid-twentieth century records of Queensland government schools, hospitals, asylums, medical staff, orphanages and children’s homes.


NSW – Information Access Guideline Care Leavers’ Access to Out-Of-Home Care Records

A new information guideline has been designed to help those who were in foster care, children’s homes and government or privately run orphanages “in the previous century” as well as people who arrived as child migrants access records.


State Library South Australia

The State Library South Australia Information Guide covers sources institutional care of children in South Australia, including hospitals, orphanages and reformatories. Information about the history of education, Aboriginal missions and the 'stolen generation' can be found in other Library Guides.


Libraries Tasmania

For State Records in Tasmania, records about childhood experiences and care are restricted access, to ensure that sensitive personal and medical information remains private. However, applications can be made to access the Tasmanian Archives.


Library & Archives NT

The Library & Archives NT is the Northern Territory’s primary public research library and hosts archives on the history and culture of the Northern Territory.

There is a wide variety if collections and resources to be explored using the online search engine, where you can enter in key words and select the type of record you are looking for.


Find & Connect – Western Australia Archival Collection

Currently, Western Australia does not provide public access to State Records, however photographs and other records can be identified through the Find & Connect search engine.


Council of Australasian Archives and Records Authorities

The Council of Australasian Archives and Records Authorities (CAARA) comprises the heads of the government archives authorities of the Commonwealth of Australia, New Zealand and each of the Australian States and Territories. CAARA aims to improve the practice and management of government archives and records by sharing information, collaborating across jurisdictions, identifying and responding to emerging issues and advocating for government archives and records management.

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