On the 15th November 2011, Jenny Macklin MP, then Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs launched findandconnect.gov.au. This month marks a decade since the site first went live.
Find & Connect remains the only resource of its type in the world. Countries with a similar history of child welfare such as NZ, Scotland and Canada have expressed interest in providing a safe, online space for people who experienced care to find out about the homes, institutions, policies and records of their childhood. Australia is, so far, the only country to have provided the necessary funding for anything like the innovative Find & Connect Service that child welfare advocates fought for and won a decade ago. Many of those advocates were key in providing the knowledge and feedback that went into developing findandconnect.gov.au, and many are still involved today.
The site was first announced in 2010 as part of a wider Find & Connect Service, which included the establishment of state-based support services for people who had spent time in care. This unique model of providing access and support through a central information base, backed up by online assistance and face to face support, was built around the expressed need of people who spent time in care. The site and dedicated support services have assisted people to access records created about their time in care, confirm and validate childhood memories, join support groups of others with similar experiences, and learn about their family and the circumstances they lived in.
Find & Connect is the result of many years hard work by those whose ongoing involvement ensures the site maintains its integrity as a space that continues to be shaped by those it was created for – children who experienced out of home care in Australia between 1920 and 1990.
There have been some significant changes to the site over the last ten years. The way people expect to access information online has changed along with improvements in website design and technology. We are at the cusp of another major update to ensure we make it as simple and intuitive as we can for people coming to the site to find important information, and meet the expectation of easily accessible information provided in a respectful way.
Find & Connect when it was first published, the front page now, and a mock-up of the next front page making it easier to search for and find the information you need
As we continue to update the site, both in the information we provide, and in incorporating new technology and design standards to make it easier to access that information, one thing that has not changed has been our focus on centering the voices of people who experienced care. We weight the voices of those people who lived in or experienced welfare institutions and policies equal to the historical references we rely on for general information, ensuring the information we provide is accurate and representative.
We work directly with people sharing their stories to maintain the integrity of their voice and their lived experience of the welfare system. In How Feedback Shapes What You See on Find & Connect you can follow the journey of a page from the original information we use from historical texts, through to the inclusion of a person’s lived experience. The page starts with an accepted version of history (often reflective of the image a home wanted to project in order to secure donations, or to place children in work over the holidays), to encompass the lives of children who resided there – their treatment, their identity in the home, their responses to their surroundings.
We also incorporate specific design elements that we know are needed to allow as many people as possible to access the information they need about their time in care, such as the Map of Children’s Homes, and to information about the welfare system more generally.
We have developed policies to ensure the site remains a safe place for people researching what could have been a difficult, traumatic time in their life, even down to the words we use which can be harmful when taken straight from historical texts.
At Find & Connect, you can do your own research into the places you spent time as a child, even if you don’t remember the names of places you lived. You can take the first steps to accessing any records that may have been created about you. You can access specialists who work directly with people who experienced care in childhood to assist you to access your records, with counselling, or to meet others with shared experiences. And you can also help shape the information on the site to honestly reflect the experience of children who were in care.
One of the most significant reasons Find & Connect was established is to assist people find and access the records that were created about them as children. We follow through with this both on the site, and by working with record-holders to improve their access standards. The Records Access Documentation Grants have provided small grants to organisations that have resulted in many more records being made available to the people they were created about, and improved access standards. The site is updated to reflect all additional records that become available through the Grants. We also provide training and resources to organisations providing records access, based on current best-practice.
For more on what we’ve achieved in the last decade, you can read:
Eleven Years On
A Decade Since Sorry
Achievements in 2017
Our Genealogy – the 2015 Anniversary of Find & Connect
To access a support service in your state or territory:
Contact Support Services
To provide feedback on any aspect of the site, select ‘feedback’:
We’d like to thank everyone who has been involved in the Find & Connect web resource over the last decade, whether it be in providing feedback, usability testing, input into policy, or attending workshops to make records access easier for people who spent time in care. The generosity of those who’ve been involved, particularly those who spent time in care, allows us to keep building Find & Connect into a better, safer, easier place to find vital information about Australia’s history of welfare – right down to accessing personal records and face to face support. We look forward to the next ten years with you!