Over the twentieth century, over half a million children were institutionalised across Australia, 100,000 of them in Victoria. This report, Beyond the Home Gates: Life After Growing Up in Catholic Institutions, was developed in the wake of the third of three Australian inquiries concerned with the institutionalisation of children, the Senate Community Affairs References Committee’s inquiry into children in institutional care, published as the report, ‘Forgotten Australians: A Report on Australians who Experienced Institutional or Out-of-Home Care as Children’. ‘Forgotten Australians’ identified oral history research with former residents as an area of critical need.
The research involved oral history interviews undertaken with 40 people aged in their 40s to 70s who left Catholic children’s institutions in Victoria between 1945 and 1983. Among this group there is considerable diversity in the reasons for them coming into care, how care was experienced and what has happened since. Their life stories show how they have integrated their childhood experiences of growing up in institutions and the diverse ways their lives have subsequently unfolded. The findings of the research are presented in six areas: the impact of growing up in institutions; families of origin; relationships and parenting; education, skills and employment; health and wellbeing; and service provision. In presenting this material, we have focused on the research participants’ own interpretations of these issues.
The research was guided by a reference group chaired by MacKillop Family Services, with membership including representation from people who grew up in institutional care and the support and advocacy groups VANISH and Broken Rites.