Forgotten Australians find their voices

Forgotten Australians

How hard will it be for people who grew up in orphanages and homes to make a submission to the Royal Commission?

Longford resident Ray Shingles says it will be tough but he plans on sharing his story.

“This is a big thing with the Royal Commission, this is our last gasp for them to get it right and I think they will get it right,” he says.

“I have a voice and in my community of Forgotten Australians, I will always have a voice and I will always barrack for the underprivileged in the Forgotten Australians.”

The Forgotten Australians, people who spent time in homes, orphanages and out of home care will be among those preparing submissions to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The Royal Commission will investigate how institutions and agencies responsible for children have managed allegations of child abuse.

It will look at religious organisations, government agencies, orphanages, schools and foster care.

Ray Shingles spent six years at Kilmany Park, a Presbyterian Church home for boys in a farm setting on the outskirts of Sale. He says the regimented lifestyle was abusive.

“If there was a bit of dust on the ledges, you were knocked to the ground and you had to get back up and clean the whole lot again,” Ray recalls.

“You lived a life of fear. You had no voice, you had no rights, you didn’t talk back.

“I was very angry with the situation, disillusioned with the situation. All I wanted was my parents.”

Ray was born out of wedlock and put into care at the age of three.

He was fostered to a Gippsland-based family initially but ended up in the boys home in 1969.

He says he was denied calls and letters from his mother, finding out as an adult she had written to him every week. It’s not the only information kept from him.

“At 13 when I found out my mother had died and the church-run home knew… I found out at school from my step-sister,” Ray says.

“The home knew she died.”

Ray struggled through adolescence but turned his hand to fostering children and farming.

He’s still dealing with his childhood experiences and has relied on the Care Leavers Australia Network and a support group in Gippsland for help.

However there are still many people who have not yet faced their personal horror and Ray fears this may hold them back from having a say during the Royal Commission.

“It’s going to be difficult for people to revisit all those past abuses – when I say abuses I’m not just talking about physical abuse, I’m talking about sexual abuse,” he says.

“What I’m seeing in the Gippsland region is they’ve never told anyone their story, they’ve never told anyone of the abuse that they endured.

“I’ve come across husbands that haven’t even told their wives and all of a sudden the marriage is starting to get very shaky and only by chance they may have mentioned to someone else they have come out of a home.”

Read about workshops run by Care Leavers Australia Network, for (care leavers) (institutionalised children) on how to tell a very personal and painful story.

Visit the Forgotten Australians Website.

Source ABC Gippsland

Image Credit ABC Gippsland