Guest Post: Simon Gardiner, Alliance for Forgotten Australians, Life Stories Project

Story telling is recognized as an important element in healing. To tell a story suggests that the storyteller has hope. And with hope, there is a future. The value of storytelling, in the end, returns to meaning. Meaning, for all of us, can be found in so many aspects of our lives: children, a relationship, finding family, acquisition of skills and recognition, reconciliation via redress and an apology.

The Life Stories Project is an initiative of the Alliance for Forgotten Australians to support people who spent time in care before 1990 to tell and record their own story, including Forgotten Australians, Former Child Migrants and the Stolen Generations. More than 70 people from across these groups have already signalled their interest. A story may focus on their experience in ‘care’ and its impacts, or on their later adult life. Importantly, it provides the opportunity to correct any personal records which may be inaccurate or offensive.

Child Migrants, Northcote Farm School 1952

Some have already recorded their stories, however there are many more who would like to write their story but may need some assistance in undertaking this task. The Project is intended to help those who may find this task a little daunting.

Storytelling and recording and writing can take many forms. Most commonly this Project has relied on a writer sitting and talking with a Forgotten Australian (ideally face to face, but in this Covid time most commonly over the phone) about their life. “Prompt” questions are provided to structure and enable the conversation, which lasts no more than an hour however the telling of the story may take many sessions over many months. Helped by a recording and notes the writer will construct a narrative from the conversation, and the story-teller is given the opportunity for comment and amendment.

Boys at Kilmany Park Farm School 1954/5

At the end of this process the story-teller receives five professionally designed and printed hard copies of their story. An electronic copy can be provided, and a printers PDF is available for them to print additional copies as needed. The story belongs to them, and is theirs to do with as they wish. They own the story, and retain control of the story.

The Project has recruited writers from across Australia. All these writers have some understanding of the experience of people who spent time in care before 1990. All are connected in different ways with the Find and Connect service network.

The Project commenced in June 2020, funded for 12 months by the Department of Social Services and has already completed 10 stories and is currently working with 15 Forgotten Australians. It is committed to completing a story for all those who have registered interest up to 1 January 2021, but at this stage is not taking new referrals.  

For any questions about the Project, please contact Simon Gardiner on 0408 594 303 or