Care Experienced History Month - What's it all about?

Did you know that April is International Care Experienced History Month?

Care Experienced History Month was initiated in 2021 by the Scottish organisation, Who Cares Scotland, a voluntary organisation, working with care experienced young people and care leavers across Scotland. The term “Care experienced” is a term used in Scotland for people who are in or have experienced what we commonly call “out-of-home care”, these days in Australia. This covers people who identify in Australia as Care Leavers, or Forgotten Australians. As we explain throughout the Wattle Place website, Forgotten Australians/Care Leavers, are people who spent their childhoods in orphanages, foster care, kindship care, Children’s Homes and other out-of-home care as children.

The goal is to make this a global month to acknowledge the history, experiences and significant contributions to our communities by Care Leavers. It celebrates their advocacy, activism and resilience and their stories . April 30 is International Care Experienced Day of Remembrance and will mark the end of this historic month.

While it is not yet widely marked in Australia yet, we hope that it will gradually become commonly acknowledged and celebrated every April.

Unfortunately the experiences of Forgotten Australians/Care Leavers continues to be largely overlooked in Australia, and we are not really sure why! While the term Forgotten Australians (the name assigned to them in the Senate Inquiry) included the Stolen Generations and Former Child Migrants, Forgotten Australians are in fact their own distinct group as well, as are the other two groups.  Forgotten Australians share an almost identical experience to the Stolen Generations and Former Child Migrants once they were placed into the institutions or foster homes. Yet the term Forgotten Australians, and what that means, is still a mystery to the majority of the Australian population, despite Senate Inquiries, National and State Apologies and the establishment of Find and Connect and various support services along the way.

The Stolen Generations happened under the racist legislation that initiated and maintained the taking of children for assimilation into white society, to try and “breed out” Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The removal of Forgotten Australians and, to some extent, the Former Child Migrants, happened under apparent “child welfare” legislation, but was also based on a form of prejudice, with children often being taken from poor families, single mothers or people suffering with substance abuse. Whatever the reason for children being taken, the treatment they received in the institutions or foster homes was, commonly, extreme child abuse, and it is those shared experiences to which Care Experienced History Month refers.

Australia is currently facing a reckoning with the truth of our history in relation to the reality of colonisation for First Nations people in this country. That reckoning is vital if we are to mature as a nation and become the best we can be. We cannot achieve that as long as the impacts of the inhumane acts of the past continue to create inequity and injustice for members of our society.

The same is true in relation to the history of Forgotten Australians, and all who experienced institutional or foster placements. That history cannot be changed, but we can take steps towards righting the wrongs that were done to them. On an individual level, being believed and acknowledged as a part of an historical chapter in our country is validating, being seen. It says that what happened to them is very significant. If society doesn’t acknowledge it, it says to people who experienced it that what happened to them doesn’t matter, it isn’t worth remembering.

Secondly, knowing what they have endured and survived enables us to better understand the ongoing impacts they are dealing with, how these impacts affect their lives, and the supports we owe them to minimise the affects of those impacts.

So many Forgotten Australians we speak to would just like to be able to say “I’m a Forgotten Australian” (or whatever term they identify with) in any situation and people know, or at least have an idea what that means.

So we hope you will take the time to learn something about the experiences of Forgotten Australians, Stolen Generations, Former Child Migrants, Care Leavers, everyone who was placed in out-of-home care, during Care Experienced History Month and continue that learning journey beyond that.

Here are some ways you can get involved:

4 April       The National Enabling Better Aged and Community Care for Forgotten Australians Forum on 4 April is one Australian event being held as part of Care Experienced History Month. It will be held in person in Queensland but also virtually. Registration closes soon, so if you would like to attend, or to find out more, please visit Enabling Better Aged and Community Care for Forgotten Australians| Global Community Resourcing

There is also an Australian Care Experienced History Month organising committee who will be hosting a number of online events.

9 April       Care Experience & Culture Book Club Event  – click here for information or to register

11 April     Breaking the Cycle of International Out of Home Care  – click here for information or to register

14 April     Intergenerational Trauma  – click here for information or to register

20 April     Writers Roundtable  – click here for information or to register

28 April    Launch of More Than Our Childhoods website. The website promotes a project called —Care Leaver Activism & Advocacy: From Deficit Models To Survivor Narratives— which takes a multi-strand approach to promoting new histories that represent the diverse ways in which Care Leavers have defied negative expectations and campaigned for recognition.- click here for information or to register

More information about all of these events is available here