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Memorial to children who died in State Care

Next month, on 17 June 2015, a memorial to children who died in state care in South Australia will be unveiled at the West Terrace Cemetery in Adelaide.

The ceremony coincides with the 7th anniversary of the South Australian State Apology to Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants. All are welcome, but please RSVP by 5 June to Irene at Elm Place on 08 8419 2042. More information about the ceremony is available from Relationships Australia South Australia.

This memorial in South Australia will be the first of its kind in Australia. There are several memorials to children from individual institutions who died in care, such as at St Joseph’s Home, Neerkol (Queensland), Ballarat Orphanage (VIC) and Parkerville Children’s Home (WA).

The report of the Mullighan Inquiry in South Australia (2008) devoted a chapter to the issue of deaths of children in state care. When the department was asked to provide the Commission with information about children who died in care, it was found that there was no single consolidated list. The Inquiry found that the department had failed to properly record the deaths of children in state care over the last century (p.482).



  1. That’s good to know, Karen. Can you let us know when your article is published please.
    While I’m here, I can report on a very interesting article in the June issue of Ancestor the Quartely Journal of the Genealogical Society ovf Vic: “John Brown, Industrial School Child”. Marilyn Fordred reports that in 1865 more than 11percent of children in the Industrial schools in Vic died. The main cause of death was contagious diseases. My great grandfather was in two of these places in that year -and luckily survived. Not so lucky was my aunt who died in the Ballarat Orphanage from a neglected medical condition. She was 12years old. There was no inquest and she was buried in an unmarked mass grave. Her death certificate carries the name of her grandmother as her mother. It meant a lot to me when a few years ago Ballarat CAFS erected a decent memorial for her and the other 25 orphanage children buried with her.

  2. Cate O'Neill

    June 3, 2015 at 11:47 am

    Here is a link to a story on 9 News Adelaide from 21 December 2014, when plans for this memorial were announced:

  3. This is a great idea. So many children died and their lives went unnoticed. It’s important, I think, to make distinctions between groups of children who died – although it is not easy to be sure of the numbers in each category:
    – those who died of disease or illness whether avoidable or not
    – those who died of neglect while in ‘care’
    – those who died because of criminal behaviour.

    In the past it was too easy for children to be quietly buried out of sight of public or official scrutiny. In many cases, there was no coronial inquest.

    • Nell Musgrove

      June 3, 2015 at 11:34 am

      I’d like to second Frank Golding’s comment – I think it is really important to acknowledge and commemorate the suffering and loss associated with each death of a child in out-of-home ‘care’. If we want to try to understand which were potentially avoidable, and how to avoid repetition of past wrongs, it is also essential that we do the best we can to build knowledge about what factors really led to deaths of children and how (and whether) this has changed over time as well as in relation to the various types of out-of-home ‘care’. I think there is important work still to be done in this area, and this memorial is a great development.

      • Hi Frank and Nell

        Thank you for your comments. We have records of the circumstances of the deaths of most of the children we have identified as dying while in State Care. This is of course restricted by access to records in SA. Most of the information comes from pre 1913 records and/or from information found in newspapers. There is a mix of causes of death. I have written further on all of this for a special issue of the Journal of the History of Children and Youth on Children and Death. This is to be published later this year. The ceremony itself will unveil 50 plaques of names children who have been identified as buried in unmarked graves at the cemetery. They represent many more whose graves have not yet been identified. The ceremony will be in the form of a remembrance ceremony. I will be posting a further blog on it soon. Forgotten Australian Steven Page has been at the centre of this project and has done an amazing research job.

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