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Facts and Statistics for Forgotten Australians

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The term ‘Forgotten Australians’ was first used in the Senate Committee Report: Forgotten Australians 2004 and refers to  those who as children experienced ‘out of home care’ and were raised in orphanages/children’s institutions, foster care and/or de facto adoptee situations.  Forgotten Australians were formerly referred to as ‘careleavers’. 

Senate Committe Report and Apology

“Upwards of, and possibly more than, 500,000 Australians experienced care in an orphanage, Home or other form of out-of-home care during the last century. As many of these people have had a family it is highly likely that every Australian was, is related to, works with or knows someone who experienced childhood in an institution or out of home care environment.” 

Executive Summary – Senate Committee Report, ‘Forgotten Australians’ 2004. 

Recommendation One of this Senate Report: "That the Commonwealth Government issue a formal statement acknowledging, on behalf of the nation, the hurt and distress suffered by many children in institutional care, particularly the children who were victims of abuse and assault; and apologising for the harm caused to these children"

The Apology to the Forgotten Australians and former Child Migrants was delivered by the Prime Minister,  Mr. Kevin Rudd on 16 November 2009. 

Victorian Apology

On 9 August 2006, the Premier Steve Bracks formally apologised on behalf of the Victorian Government for the suffering caused to Forgotten Australians and former Child Migrants whilst ‘in care’.   As a result of the Victorian Parliamentary Apology, Open Place was established in January 2010 to provide a range of services to meet the needs of Forgotten Australians.  

On  25 October  2010 the memorial pictured, which  sits on the Southbank Promenade, was unveiled as a lasting memory in recognition of the experience of ‘care leavers’ and provides an opportunity for the wider community to reflect on the experiences of Forgotten Australians.


Family Search Assistance

Through an on-going agreement with Open Place, VANISH continues to assist some Forgotten Australians with searching for family members. As there is no legislation governing the rights of Forgotten Australians with regard to accessing information on family members as with adopted persons, family tracing can only be done via the use of public records.





Adopted Persons and Forgotten Australians 

Many adopted persons will have had an experience of ‘out of home care’ or will have a relative who experienced ‘out of home care’.

Some adopted persons

  • experienced ‘out of home care’ as children prior to being adopted.
  • experienced ‘out of home care’ after the break down of the adoption arrangement for a variety reasons.
  • discover in the process of searching for family members that a parent and/or siblings were also in ‘out of home care’ as children.

Many adopted persons and Forgotten Australians  may have overlapping experiences, and the loss and grief engendered may be complex, multi-layered and far-reaching across generations.


Out of Home Care

With the closure of Children’s Homes/Orphanages in the 1970s, changes occurred  to ‘out-of-home’ care arrangements.   

At 30 June 2012 in Victoria,

  • there were 3,526 children in out-of-home care.

At 30 June 2012 throughout Australia,

  • just over 39,600 children were in ‘out-of-home’ care ;  of these children, 44% were in foster care, 47% were living with relatives/kin and 5% were in residential care.