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Ripple Effect

New resources and information are continually coming to light around the historical institutions that provided care for children. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is one of the ways that significant amounts of knowledge are being shared with the broader community. The witness statements and exhibit lists for the case studies contain many personal testimonies by Care Leavers and former workers about their time at the institutions, ward files and records have been submitted as evidence and previously unseen Government documents are now discoverable.

Last August, the Royal Commission held Case Study 30 in Melbourne, inquiring into the experiences of former residents of government-run institutions including Turana, Winlaton and Baltara Reception Centre between the 1960s and 1990s. Of the numerous exhibits listed, the Guide to Out-of-Home Care Services 1940-2000 – Volume Two: Data Base (Download) provided by the Department of Health and Human Services is one that was of particular interest to us at the web resource.

The Guide was compiled by James Jenkinson Consulting in November 2001 and aimed to:

list every government and community service organisation out-of-home care service established for children and young people in Victoria from 1940 to the present time.

In 2009, during the Who Am I project, the Department of Human Services (as it was then known) provided us with a copy of the information in Volume One of the Jenkinson Guide to Out-of-Home Care Services, to assist with the content development of the Pathways website (a Victorian web resource which preceded Find & Connect). But we had never seen the ‘data base’ of Volume Two, before it was made available through the website of the Royal Commission, as an exhibit for Case Study 30.

Volume Two of the Guide to Out-of-Home Care Services contains information about over 1000 facilities and services – such as: the organisation name, welfare function, location, auspices and any relevant comments (e.g. dates). While the Guide acknowledged it wasn’t complete (and did not include psychiatric or intellectual disability services), it is an important supplement to the information available on the Find & Connect web resource, particularly in relation to family group homes in Victoria, about which the web resource does not provide a lot of detail.

Not long after the Royal Commission’s Case Study 30, we received a feedback email to the web resource from Berry Street Heritage Service asking if we had any information on Acacia Reception Family Group Home. A search revealed that Acacia was not registered on Find & Connect, so we consulted the newly-available Guide and this was our result:

Mention of Acacia in the Data Base

Mention of Acacia in the Data Base

This single mention of Acacia in the Guide made it possible for Berry Street to help a former resident continue their records search (because the Guide revealed Acacia was run by Ballarat Children’s Home, the next step was to apply to Child and Family Services Ballarat, the successor organisation that manages the records). We found this had a ripple effect. Once Berry Street knew about the Guide on the Royal Commission website, its Heritage Service was able to find new information about other family group homes, giving them new places to look for records.

Without the Royal Commission this document would never have entered the public domain, and this valuable resource would have been lost to many.

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for another interesting post, Nicola. I’m still discovering new things in the list of exhibits for Case Study 30 – it’s a veritable gold mine. While these exhibits were made available to support the statements and evidence given by witnesses, and to provide evidence of how the authorities responded to the sexual abuse of children of Victorian government institutions, the exhibits also have huge potential as sources for various research projects. Here’s a link to the Exhibits:
    https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/exhibits/404f8386-a4de-4a6a-bea3-dd3a850b0b73/case-study-30,-august-2015,-melbourne

    The files of former residents provide rare public examples of the ways that ward records are redacted before they are released by the Department, and the justifications given for this blanking out of information.

    The exhibits also contain records relating to staff of the Department and the institutions. Documents like the Duty Statements and Manuals from various institutions provide insight into how the Department understood the purpose of these institutions and the role of staff.

    There are documents that shed light on the daily routine within institutions – for example, at Turana Youth Training Centre, meals were to begin with ‘Grace and Return of Thanks’, and during the meal, ‘the clatter of dishes is to be kept to a minimum’.

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