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Then and Now – Children in the Welfare System

This month brought us important stories about the child welfare system, and the people caught up in it – their lives as children, their work to heal their trauma, and the system now. We’ve collected three of them here, two in print and one television documentary.

Fifty years after her nightmare, Jessamine is showing me around the grounds of what used to be Kamballa Special Unit, a prison for girls with emotional or behavioural problems. The buildings once housed a school for orphans and now form a part of the Female Factory complex, a museum cluster of historic penal and medical facilities on the northern banks of the river at Parramatta, in Sydney’s west. The Kamballa barracks architecture has all the stern and baleful confidence of a typical Victorian-era institution.

Sydney Morning Herald

Sandie Jessamine lived and (and escaped from) Kamballa, in NSW. She’s written about her experiences, and this article is about her life and time at Kamballa.

Read the article here: ‘You know when you’re watching a horror film…?’: Life in 1970s juvenile detention
Read more: Kamballa on Find & Connect.

It was like we were out of sight and out of mind because we were 25 kilometres out of town. You didn’t get rid of that feeling of hopelessness until you turned 18 and were free of the system

Anne, ABC News

Former residents of St Joseph’s Orphanage at Neerkol in Qld are exhibiting their artwork as a way of addressing their childhood trauma as part of the Reconciling Histories project.

Read the article here: How a survivor of the horrors of Neerkol orphanage walked out of the darkness and into the light
Read more: Neerkol on Find & Connect

Through sharing stories of adversity and resilience, The Department will help to provide all Australians with a deeper understanding of the complex issues affecting the families and workers entwined within NSW’s child protection system. Their stories are at times confronting, but also heart-warming and inspiring.

SBS media release

This program is about current child welfare practices in NSW. It is available on SBS On Demand.

You can watch it here: SBS On Demand, The Department
Read more: Historical Background of Child Welfare on Find & Connect

If you were in care as child and need support, please contact the Find & Connect Support Services. Freecall 1800 16 11 09 on 9-5 on weekdays, or email us here.


  1. I’ve just discovered the website , leaving me somewhat nonplussed. That anyone even remembered that we existed or would be interested in our stories is somewhat unsettling. While I was more fortunate, even lucky, than some, to recall those experiences is not without emotions surfacing unbidden.
    Sincerely, Paul Collins (locker # 27)

    • Find & Connect

      November 8, 2021 at 10:44 am

      Hi Paul, thanks for your comment. There are support services in each state & territory specifically for people who spent time in out of home care as children that may be helpful for you. They provide a range of services, including connections to support networks. You can find them here:

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