The Long-term Outcomes of Forgotten Australians Study (LOFA) research project funded by the Australian Research Council wants to hear from adult survivors of Australian childhood institutions or Out of Home Care, who were in care during the period 1930-1989.
This is the first national research study to examine the range of experiences – both good and bad – that children had while ‘in care’ in that time period. Information provided by participants will inform current service provision to Forgotten Australians, helping to refine systems and models of care and policy.
The Hon Justice Peter McClellan AM, Chair, Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse officially launched theLOFAresearch study on Wednesday, 18 February.
Many people who have lived in care have felt that their histories and the impact of their care experiences have not been properly examined – this research seeks to address that.
“Concern has grown nationally and internationally about the history of trauma and victimisation experienced by the profoundly disadvantaged and vulnerable groups – Forgotten Australians, the Stolen Generation and Child Migrants – while growing up in institutions and other types of public care, and in their transition into adulthood,” said Elizabeth Fernandez, chief LOFA investigator and Professor of Social Work in the UNSW School of Social Science.
“They frequently brought to this transition from care a history of trauma, of maltreatment, instability of living arrangements, educational neglect, alienation from their siblings and families and elevated levels of physical and mental health need. They also suffered dislocation from culture and community.”
“This national research led by the University of New South Wales aims to capture their lived experience in care and their present life circumstances in order to build a knowledge base of the distinctive needs of this population, and identify risk and protective factors associated with current adult outcomes of care leavers in order to underpin governments’ and policymakers strategies to ameliorate the challenges faced by all children who were in institutional, or other forms of care, during this period.”
International Chief investigator Mark Courtney from the University of Chicago said the 20th Century “saw multitudes of vulnerable children around the world separated from their families and placed into institutions where they too often experienced neglect and abuse. This study provides an independent and unprecedented perspective on the experiences and current needs of one of the most important of these populations, the Forgotten Australians.”
In the first half of 2015, LOFA are invitingadult survivors of Australian childhood institutions or Out of Home Careto complete an online survey, take part in an individual interview or participate in a focus group. It is estimated that there are 500,000 people known as Forgotten Australians, who experienced institutional or other out-of-home care in the last century in Australia.
“This research will provide insights into how we can improve the design of current out-of-home care. The outcomes for children have remained poor over time in relation to social, education, vocational and health indices. Factors associated with positive outcomes are what we desperately need to identify,” said Dr Wendy Foote, Deputy CEO Association of Child Welfare Agencies (ACWA), partner investigator and Adjunct Lecturer in Social Work Practice at UNSW.
David Hill, author, former Chairman and Patron of the CREATE Foundation and former Managing Director of the ABC was a resident of children’s institutions including Barnardos in England and a child migrant to Australia as part of the Fairbridge Farm Scheme.
“We know that children who spent a large part of their childhood in institutions start life severely disadvantaged, they are sure to have more of a struggle through adult life. They will have a poorer education, have more difficulty finding and holding down a job and be more likely to experience homelessness.This survey will help with our understanding of these issues and hopefully avoid or at least address the problems for kids who go into the care system today and in the future,” said Mr Hill.
Caroline Carroll OAM, Chair of Alliance of Forgotten Australiansbelieves, “This is a very important research project, documenting the lifelong impacts of childhood institutionalisation. We need to highlight the need and improvement to specialised services for the Forgotten Australians.”
Shortcomings in care will not be LOFA’s sole focus – it also aims to identify positive experiences of care and successful outcomes. Health, social and family networks, education and vocational outcomes for those who grew up in care are included in the research focus.
“For many children placed in care last century the experience was damaging, with lifelong impacts.The current Royal Commission into Sexual Abuse in Institutional Care is reminding us of that. Some Forgotten Australians have had different experiences in care however, and it is important that we learn from that as well. It is very important – for children in care now – that we focus, not just on avoiding the mistakes of the past, but on identifying the factors that underpinned or contributed to the resilience and positive personal outcomes for some,” said Deirdre Cheers, Executive Director, CatholicCare, Broken Bay.
Professor Fernandez said LOFA was a topical and timely examination ofthe lives of Forgotten Australians and demonstration of commitment by UNSW researchers and partners to improving outcomes.
Prem Ramburuth, President of the UNSW Academic Board, said the University was, “very pleased and proud that UNSW researchers, their supporting organisations and partner institutions are able to contribute to such vital research for implementation in our communities and wider Australian society. The research will provide invaluable insights into the experiences of both groups and individuals who, as young children, were placed in institutions and different forms of homecare for a range of reasons. It will explore their experiences and garner in-depth knowledge of the impact of being in care services, including their sense of loss and loneliness. It will also provide insights into their courage, strength, resilience and actions that enabled them to survive. This knowledge and understanding will be used to inform the development of strategies for those who are currently in care or will become care leavers.” she said
To complete the survey online visit: www.forgottenaustralians.unsw.edu.au or to complete a paper version or if you need assistance to complete the survey, phone: (02) 9385 1516.
About the survey
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse focuses on sexual abuse of children in institutions and the way institutions have responded to allegations and instances of child sexual abuse. The LOFA study has a much broader remit – exploring both maltreatment and abuse and positive and nurturing experiences whilst in care. It will also examine the long-term trajectories of those who grew up in care.
This important research is funded by the Australian Research Council and will be conducted in partnership withUNSW, the University of Chicago, University of York, Association of Children’s Welfare Agencies, Relationships Australia, Alliance for Forgotten Australians, CatholicCare Broken Bay, Micah Projects Inc. and Berry Street Victoria.