Recent Publications

One of the reasons I have not been able to keep up a flow of new posts is the increase for requests to contribute to journals. Here is one of the more recent publications.

The themed section, edited by Joanne Evans and Jacqui Wilson, is titled Inclusive Archives and Recordkeeping


Sexual Abuse as the Core Transgression of Childhood Innocence: Unintended Consequences for Care Leavers

I’ve just added a copy of my article published this week in the Journal of Australian Studies – a special edition devoted to the Royal Commission on Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Try this link:

For those who want to see the contents of the Special Issue of the Journal of Australian Studies:

Contents of the Special Issue

Redress for All Forms of Abuse.

Senator Derryn Hinch was a member of the Senate Committee examining the Bill before the Parliament on a national redress scheme.

The Senator demonstrated that not all politicians come to meetings like this one with a closed mind. A few days after the hearing, he posted the following part of his diary on

These are the notes I spoke to at the Senate Committee hearing.

Senators, and Senator Hinch in particular will take a special interest in my comments, if the legislation proceeds as it is currently constructed, the Parliament will be doing a great injustice to a great number of Care Leavers

I want to make two key points:

The first is that a hierarchy of suffering has been an unintended consequence of the Royal Commission

Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child requires governments to take

“measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.”

 The Royal Commission could not include other forms of abuse into its report on redress because it had no mandate in its Letters Patent (Redress Report p.6). This should not be taken as a warrant—rigid, inflexible and mandatory—for the national Parliament to establish a one-dimensional sexual-abuse-only model of redress. Only a small minority of redress schemes around the world have focussed on sexual abuse only (18% says Prof Kathleen Daly)

The Royal Commission was well aware of the impact of having its arms tied, especially when it came to redress. It acknowledged that

…the requirement that we examine child sexual abuse in an institutional context gives us a narrower focus than most government and non-government institution redress schemes have had (Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Redress and Civil Litigation Report, 2015, p. 5).

And the Commission went on to say:

“Most previous and current redress schemes cover at least sexual and physical abuse. Some also cover emotional abuse or neglect”. (Royal Commission Redress and Civil Litigation Report, p. 102).

They were alluding to a number of precedents for redress that cover a wide range of abuse

  • Tasmania – 2003 abuse included sexual abuse, physical abuse and mental or emotional abuse while in state care (but not those placed in Homes voluntarily). The Tasmanian ex gratia payment was “was a payment in recognition of the alienation claimants have felt, the feeling of being inferior and unworthy and their separation from society and community, support, schools and employers.” (RC Redress report p. 553)
  • Queensland – 2007 Categories of harm were listed as physical injury, physical illness, psychiatric illness, psychological injury and loss of opportunity, with applicants able to include other types of harm in Homes covered by the Forde Inquiry 1999 (but did not extend to abuse in foster care)
  • WA – physical and emotional abuse and neglect as well as sexual abuse. Unlike Queensland, the WA scheme also covered foster care.
  • The Victorian Betrayal of Trust report 2013 recommended redress in relation to “criminal abuse of children” including “unlawful physical assaults, sexual abuse offences…acts of criminal neglect, and the facilitation of such offences by others.”

Please note: If past payments are to be taken into account how will the national scheme determine what part of the previous payment was made in respect of sexual abuse and what parts in respect of other forms of abuse or neglect?

The first full report by the UK Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) 2018 recommends that survivors of a post-war child migration scheme should be paid compensation by the government at state-run orphanages and church-run institutions for suffering that included

  • medical neglect,
  • physical mistreatment
  • exploitation of labour
  • separation from their families and
  • sexual exploitation.

There is no impediment—legal or moral—to the Parliament including all forms of abuse in a national redress scheme. It’s not for want of evidence or grounded recommendations on redress. That’s there in

  • the Aboriginal Deaths in Custody report 1991,
  • the Bringing Them Home report published in 1997 and
  • the Senate Committee reports tabled in 2002 (Child Migrants) and 2004 (Forgotten Australians),
  • not to forget the Senate reports in 2009 on progress on the implementation of recommendations of the Child Migrants and Forgotten Australians reports, and
  • 2010 on Government Compensation Payments.

Care Leavers agree with the Law Council of Australia (Submission 82, p. 5—and who are appearing this afternoon)

… while the Royal Commission was restricted by Letters Patent to only make recommendations about sexual abuse, governments and institutions are not so limited and can and should extend the findings to all forms of child abuse, including serious physical abuse that occurred in or around institutions and caused serious and long-term damage. The Law Council suggests that the Government should consider appropriate reform so that victims of severe physical abuse and neglect, deprivation of education or separation from culture, which can also have lifelong implications, can access appropriate redress.

Many other submissions make a similar point.

The majority of care leavers were not directly sexually abused in OOHC, but the Royal Commission’s strict interpretation of its terms of reference excluded those who “only” experienced

  • cruel physical assault,
  • emotional abuse,
  • the use of solitary confinement
  • exploitation of unpaid labour,
  • neglect of health and education;
  • subjection to unauthorised medical trials or placement in adult mental health facilities;
  • and those vast numbers who were stripped of personal identity and were terminally separated from their parents and siblings.

Many who were not given the opportunity to give voice to their abuse at the Royal Commission nurse the feeling that their abuse is considered subordinate or inferior. Having learned as children never to trust authority, many were re-traumatised by being sidelined for five years tenure of the Royal Commission and then being totally excluded by a government they thought would “do the right thing” by them, especially regarding redress.

Many care leavers who were not sexually abused have had to put their traumatic childhood lives on hold for the five years of the commission’s tenure—and a deep-seated feeling of betrayed by government.

Vol. 11 of the RC’s Final Report on Historic Residential Institutions described cruel brutality and violence that marked the childhoods of residents. Case studies like Case Study 30 on Victorian Youth Training Centres, Nos 5 and 33 which examined abuse in Salvation Army Homes, were chock full of references to other forms of abuse—and not only when they were associated with sexual abuse.


My second point is that there is a clear hierarchy of victimisation between Care Leavers and not Care Leavers.

If the Parliament goes ahead on the basis of one single redress scheme for children who grew up in OOHC as well as those who did not—Care Leavers and not Care Leavers—it will be the only scheme anywhere in the world that deals with both categories of victim or survivors, with the exception of the Australian Defence Force Reparations Scheme.

Parliament must recognise the significant differences between the two categories of survivors. The primary difference lies in the legal and moral obligations and responsibilities carried by the institutions.

Non-residential or open settings—such as sporting clubs, church activities, scouts, youth groups, schools, and even boarding schools—have a contracted duty of care on a short-term and voluntary basis, and crucially those who ran these organisations did not replace the role of parents.

Residential institutions such as orphanages, children’s Homes, youth training centres and foster care were closed, total institutions and had legal responsibility 24/7 for the long-term care of children in the place of parents.

Children in these institutions endured not only full-time legal separation from their parents (and often from their siblings too), but also were isolated from the community, and had no capacity for independent reporting to police or other authorities and were without a caring parent or protective adult.

Abuse of children in these institutions was qualitatively different from abuse in open community organisations—and should be treated differently in any redress scheme.

Abuse in closed institutions was inescapable and unrelieved. Those who ran these institutions were in total control of the lives of children who had been sent to them precisely to provide the care and protection that their parents were deemed incapable of providing. The betrayal of trust was absolute in the case of wards of the state—the state assumed permanent and complete responsibility for their care, and failed them.

As well as hierarchy of suffering with sexual abuse at the only and other forms of abuse discounted or not ranking at all, Prof Kathleen Daly shows that there is a hierarchy of victimisation wherein victims in residential care were awarded redress payments around 40% less than victims of abuse in educational or religious settings.

This is to do with the social status of the respective groups as well as reflecting the degree of difficulty former residents of OOHC have in establishing a case when they have absolutely no support for their abuse compared with the family, social, and legal support available to victims of abuse in school and church settings.

Another Apology

Formal Apologies: What do they mean? Do they matter?



Many felt the Victorian apology was inept and insincere.

The Prime Minister has set up a committee to provide advice on a proposed national apology to Australians who were sexually abused as children. (See more here.)

There are many things we’ve learned from past apologies.

Care Leavers and survivors of child abuse have inspired an apology landslide in the past twenty years. Professor Kathleen Daly made a valiant attempt to count them. In Australia alone, she has documented more than 60.[1] And even her eagle eyes missed some! Never mind the quantity, feel the sincerity!

Many Care Leavers would agree that these apologies vary in genuineness. Intention and effect are not necessarily the same. We hear apologies in a variety of ways. We know the difference between someone who acknowledges—even with ‘deep regret’—that a wrong was done, and another person who names the crimes and pledges to do everything in their power to put things right and commits to ensuring such crimes never happen again.

Words really matter—even when an apology is denied. For instance, when Prime Minister Howard refused to offer a national apology to the Stolen Generations in 1997, and offered instead a statement of “sincere and deep regret”, he offended not only Indigenous Australians but many decent non-Indigenous too. It would take another eleven years—and a different Prime Minister—before a heartfelt apology was offered, and was warmly received.

Howard’s language was not accidental. He was advocating, for the ears of “mainstream Australia”, a particular reading of Australian history. And, it has to be said, many non-Indigenous Australians preferred his version to the much-derided “black-armband view” of our history. In Howard’s view, the disgraceful treatment of Indigenous Australians was “a blemish” on an otherwise good record.

On the other hand, while Prime Minister Rudd’s 2008 “apology without reservations” was initially hailed as an historic moment, it was soon revealed to be seriously flawed. Rudd named “the hurt, the pain and suffering…the indignity, the degradation, and the humiliation”, but he offered nothing tangible to make amends for that shameful past. Indeed, it is now clear that he opposed reparations. His Minister for Indigenous Affairs at the time is still calling, ten years on, for the Commonwealth to take its share of responsibility with the States to make reparations and pay compensation.[2]

National Apology screened around Australia in 2008 (Credit Department of Education Victoria)

In contrast, in the following year, Rudd apologised to Care Leavers (using the term “Forgotten Australians” which many find objectionable) and British Child Migrants, and was ready and positioned to announce a number of tangible measures—albeit short of financial redress.[3]

That national apology was highlighted by the spontaneous and sustained applause by Care Leavers to Malcolm Turnbull, then Leader of the Opposition, when he uttered the words, “We believe you”; although some in the audience thought he had crossed a rhetorical bridge too distant when he went on to tell them he loved them. One was heard to mumble, “Yeah, I’ll bet he loves fish and chips too!” Trust has to be earned.

National Apology to “Forgotten Australians” and Child Migrants 2009

The witness box of the recently completed Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse offered opportunities to add to the litany of formal apologies. Some of these were apparently heartfelt while others were predicably formulaic. For example, reading a prepared script—as Cardinal Pell did—without making eye contact with the survivor—John Ellis, sat close by—was never likely to ring true.

An apology offered as a big public event where emotions are heightened can raise hopes and expectations of significant change. When the euphoria fades, Care Leavers may come to assess it as nothing more than the apologiser laying an expectation on the receiver that they should now “get over it…get on with it”. A unilateral message to their real constituency: “Job done, we’re moving on.”

Too many apologies are like an abstract noun when they should be an active verb. One child and family welfare agency issued a formal apology in its glossy annual report without alerting former residents of the institution for which the agency is now responsible that it was going to make an apology. A university vice-chancellor issued an apology—little more than a media release—to those who were the subject of medical experiments conducted by its scientists. These are apologies as abstract nouns.

I want apologies to be an active process of negotiation. When you apologise, you enter into an open transaction with someone who has been hurt (not necessarily by you personally). You offer, they respond, you negotiate for a time around the terms and conditions, and finally, with goodwill, you agree on the nature, wording and form of the apology.

As Malcolm Turnbull gears up for yet another national apology, he would do well to address three elements:

  • the language he uses to apologise
  • the negotiations that need to take place with the recipients of the apology
  • what tangible action he proposes to put things right and to ensure that the crimes for which he is apologising don’t happen in the future.

The lack of due diligence on any one of these three pillars will lead to the proposed apology being a dismal failure –  it will be rejected by large numbers of those the Prime Minister is apologising to.



[1] Kathleen Daly, Redressing Institutional Abuse of Children, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, pp. 237-246.

[2] Jenny Macklin, “How We Said Sorry: Reflecting on the Apology: a Decade On”, Meanjin, March 2018


Loud Fences

The tacit semantics of ‘Loud Fences’: tracing the connections between activism, heritage and new histories

This article written by Associate Professor Jacqueline Wilson and I was published in the International Journal of Heritage Studies on 11 May 2017


In 2015, in response to harrowing accounts of child sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic clergy in the town of Ballarat, a campaign of public support was launched in the form of coloured ribbons attached to the fences of institutions where the abuse had occurred.

The “Loud Fence” campaign has become a global form of protest and commemoration.

Institutions’ reactions were varied; some removed the ribbons, to find them promptly replaced, with attendant publicity. Thus was established a silent dialogue that encapsulated the contested nature of the ribbons’ symbolism, and exemplified, too, the campaign’s disparate implied audiences.

The paper discusses the meanings of the Loud Fences in relation to divided community sensibilities and intangible heritage, as a performative mode of activism and of heritagemaking.

It considers ways in which the campaign challenges institutional cultures that stand as extant remnants of colonialism and as edifices of iconic institutional power.

The Loud Fences campaign is characterised as a grassroots quest, initially intended to show solidarity with disenfranchised victims of abuse, that has come to be seen as giving them a symbolic “voice” in the face of institutional denial.

The paper touches upon the ways in which such campaigns, based on visual symbols and contested, yet unspoken, “dialogue”, can be historicised.


The link to then full article is here

Lost and found: counter-narratives of dis/located families

Lost and found: counter-narratives of dis/located families

This is the Abstract for a paper presented at a symposium of the Dis/located Children’s Network in Adelaide on 16 December by Frank Golding in collaboration with Associate Professor Jacqueline Z Wilson of Federation University Australia


Conventional histories of children in institutional care are dominated by the voices of officials, administrators and agencies, in many cases justifying the existence of a coercive welfare system and its regime of institutions which separated impoverished children from their families and community, rendered them invisible to the public and silenced their voices.

However, energised by the rights movement and a chain of formal inquiries, survivors of institutionalised childhoods produced an outpouring of testimony about atrocious child abuse and neglect, ushering in a national sentiment of regret and apologies.

In this context and with the advent of rights-to-information legislation, many survivors of institutional “care” became determined to better understand the story of why they were in “care” and to reconnect with lost or fragmented families.

Many imagined the child welfare archives as storehouses of hope, but it was soon revealed that many personal records had been lost or destroyed, and those that were located were woefully inadequate, often inaccurate, and lacking basic information.

Worse, many files were painful to read because of the recurring negativity about children and the disparaging slander of their parents.

Confident in the conviction that everyone has the right to define their experiences in their own words and terms, care-leavers are now asserting a developing counter-narrative in which their voices challenge the dominant narrative of previous eras.

This paper summarises a case study in which the authors go beyond traditional welfare archives and uncover a hitherto unknown story of multi-generational custody in welfare facilities.

In doing so, they illustrate the historic ideology underpinning child welfare in Victoria.

For more on the Dis/located Children’s Network click here.

Royal Commission in New Zealand


Leonie Sheedy, CEO of CLAN, and I were invited to participate in a hui (gathering or workshop) in Wellington, New Zealand on 14-15 February.

The purpose of the hui was to discuss the Terms of Reference (ToR) for the NZ Royal Commission of Inquiry into Historical Abuse in State Care.

It is significant that the NZ government has put the ToR out in draft form to allow for consultation for a period of at least two months. By contrast the Australian government handed down its ToR for the recently completed Royal Commission as a fait accompli.

Moreover, whereas the Australian government selected its six Royal Commissioners in camera, the NZ government has appointed just one to date—Sir Anand Satyanand (former Governor-General and Ombudsman) as its Chair. The choice of other Commissioners (probably four more) is up for public discussion.

Sir Anan opened the proceedings and made a point of sitting and listening throughout the two days of the hui.

The Commission differs from the recently completed Australian Royal Commission in other important ways:

  • It will examine all forms of child abuse—physical and emotional abuse, and neglect—not just sexual abuse
  • It will focus on state care—including situations in which the state has delegated, licensed, or contracted out its decision-making authority or care functions to another individual, entity, or service provider
  • It will work with an advisory panel of survivors
  • It will give particular consideration to Maori and any groups where differential impact is evident, e.g. by gender, LGBTQI people, Pacific people and people who have experienced mental health issues.

The draft ToR put a time frame around the Commission of 1950 to the end of the century, but all participants bar none spoke against this (at both ends of the time span).

Other key topics at the hui included

  • redress,
  • apologies,
  • the paucity of historical records, and
  • ways of engaging with survivors to ensure their effective participation in the inquiry.

Further information can be found here but the Royal Commission itself will establish its own website and other communication methods.

Hope Street

Hope Street: From Voice to Agency for Care-Leavers in Higher Education

This is a new article written by Dr Jacqueline Wilson, Dr Philip Mendes and myself just published in the latest issue of Life Writing

In summary:

In the early 1980s, one of the authors became an adolescent ward of the State of Victoria, Australia, and went into out-of-home care.

While in care, repeated encounters with researchers, journalists and policy-makers left her disillusioned as to the efficacy and relevance of their activities, in that although she was sporadically provided with a ‘voice’, this did little to bridge the divide between their world of privilege and the non-privileged world of the subject of their attentions.

The article argues that this divide is perpetuated long after people leave care as adults, and that a mere ‘voice’ is not enough – what is needed is agency, in the design and execution of research.

This can be achieved through extended education, depending in turn on an inclusive culture shift within institutions of higher learning. The article utilises the author’s personal experience as a brief case study.

The article can be accessed here

The Missing Dads of Spring Street

This is a piece I wrote for the Melbourne Herald-Sun nearly a decade ago. It was published on 4 September 2008 in time for Father’s Day. The editor cut it back a bit to fit the space he was allowing.

It’s a bit dated in the detail, as you will see, but the sentiment still holds true.


THE following witticism is contrived, but has merit, particularly as Father’s Day is coming up.

When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around.

But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.

Actually, Mark Twain’s father died when he was aged 11, at which point he left school and became the breadwinner “father” of his family.

What does a father really mean?

Love, protection, wisdom, role model, provider? Lots of good words spring to mind.

Hundreds of thousands of children… grew up in out-of-home “care”, mainly in orphanages, without a father.

A Catholic orphanage girl said she always thought a father was a priest because the only men she saw were called “father”.

Many orphanage children lost their fathers in wars, not necessarily by death.

A Care Leavers of Australia Network survey in 2006 (291 respondents) showed that more than four out of every 10 former inmates had a father in a war and there was a strong correlation between war service, post-traumatic stress and alcoholism.

Others lost their fathers in divorce courts. Many were simply abandoned by their fathers (and sometimes their mothers, too).

Many were taken from parents because of poverty, incapacity, violence – or worse. When children became wards, the state became father. But there was not much love and too much brutality and neglect.

In my day, I suppose premiers John Cain Sr and Albert Dunstan took it in turns to be my legal father, but Ian McFarlin, TT Hollaway and JRB McDonald had a go, too.

But whichever was my dad, none of them ever came to see me or their other children in the Ballarat Orphanage. I wonder if Premier John Brumby is a better father to the thousands of children who are his in “care” today?

Our CLAN Father’s Day card will remind him that those who were sexually abused while in the “care” of the state are still waiting for the sort of redress that Queensland, Tasmania, and Western Australia (and soon South Australia) are providing.

Some of us find Father’s Day difficult.

We try to think of a father we never knew. We never had a father who would teach us, by simple example, how to be a father when our turn came around.

We struggle to show our own children love because no one showed us love as a child. We are over-protective because of the nasty things that adults did to us as vulnerable children.

Some were harsh disciplinarians because canes and straps were the only way they knew.

On Father’s Day, we’re happy for happy fathers and those who have a happy father. But it’s not such a special day for us.

Frank Golding is author of An Orphan’s Escape: memories of a lost childhood (

Lost & Found: State Children in Victoria (6)


One last example, because it shows that changes in welfare policy were not uniform or consistent:

St Joseph’s Homes for Children in Flemington 1981-1997:   the Family Group Homes era.

It’s probably true to say that, broadly speaking, child-savers like Selina Sutherland and those involved in the boarding-out movement were Protestant. Catholics seemed to prefer large institutions and were slower to change to small-scale facilities.

When St Joseph’s Home in Surrey Hills finally closed in 1991 after 90 years of congregate care, the long-term resident children were placed in foster care or hostels, and the staff moved to a row of shop fronts in Pin Oak Crescent, Flemington.

The shop-front Pin Oak Crescent, Flemington )photo courtesy MacKillop Family Services)

They intended it to be a drop-in crisis centre—with short-term accommodation for local families doing it tough. They also purchased houses in Finsbury Street for use as family group residential care.

Family Group Homes, Flemington

Sister Mary Cavanagh commented that the children who came into these family group homes in Flemington came into care at a later age

so they were more damaged…And they weren’t really wanting to be part of a family and were often very destructive and difficult. It was very difficult to get them to settle into a family set-up where they were competing with the couple’s children.[1]

Clearly the Josephites, who were long accustomed to stricter institutions, were facing problems with the children in these more open settings.

Moreover, St Joseph’s—conceived as a localised service—found itself taking children from all over the inner suburbs of Melbourne. Some expressed concern that the government was pushing too hard for family reunification.[2]

The Christian Brothers took control of the homes in 1991. The Brothers were determined to set a new direction for their child welfare system. Ultimately, in July 1997, St Joseph’s Home for Children became part of MacKillop Family Services and, after providing a family support and counselling service, and disability service, MacKillop left the Pin Oak Crescent, Flemington address just a few months ago.


  1. Conclusion

I have looked at a handful of the more than 300 institutions in Victoria, large and small, that have looked after children at some time.[3] In the examples close to North Melbourne—and throughout the nation too—the trends in out-of-home care are clear.

In the modern era, residential care is the least common form of care for children in need of care and protection. The dominant form today is kinship care, followed by foster care.

Yet, questions remain: why remove children at all?  And if the state decides to do so, must it be more than a temporary change in the life of the family?

At the start I pointed to proposition of the Legal Aid review in 2016: 

that the removal of a child from the family is one of the most serious actions that the State can take, and should be a last resort.

I have discussed the purposes and motivations for separating children from their families in the examples close to North Melbourne. These motives have been mixed and so too has been the system—if we can call it that—a strange hybrid where intention and effect were not always close allies. To paraphrase Phillip Adams, the muddy footprints of welfare history are all over the carpet.

Whichever way you look at the OOHC system today, it is—as ever—in a state of crisis.[4] It is—and always has been—overstretched and in need of resources.

But more than anything it needs a more coherent purpose and rationale. It is self-evident that if the state removes children from their families, it must ensure that it provides a better environment for those children—not a worse one.

The Royal Commission and other inquiries have demonstrated that far too often the systems set up to protect children from abuse and neglect have themselves cause harm to children and their families.

My personal opinion is that the best interest of kids is to keep them with their families by supporting their families in tough times. If children must be taken out of their families for their immediate safety, the aim should be to work collaboratively with those families to get the children back as soon as it is reasonable to do so.



[1] Jill Barnard & Karen Twigg, Holding on to Hope: A history of the founding agencies of MacKillop Family Services 1854-1997, Australian Scholarly Publishing, Melbourne, 2004, p. 284.

[2] Barnard & Twigg, 2004, p. 300, 307.

[3] Frank Golding for Melbourne Museum, with support of CLAN (Care Leavers of Australia Network: and Find & Connect (

[4] See Commission for Children and Young People, “…as a good parent would…”: Inquiry into the adequacy of the provision of residential care services to Victorian children and young people who have been subject to sexual abuse or sexual exploitation whilst residing in residential care, The Commission, Melbourne, 2015.