As I said in yesterday’s post, for me, this is a time for reflection, regrouping, and thinking for me. As well as for sorting out a number of pressing problems.
Something I have wanted to do for years but haven’t, however, is to get in touch with more people whose parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, spouses, or other relatives have been through the Homes or other forms of institutional ‘care’ in Australia. Largely, as a way of trying to understand things better.
From my searches, it doesn’t look like a group exists solely for kids / grandkids / etc. of institutional ‘care’ survivors to meet and talk with each other. I feel that we have much that we could do to support each other, learn from each other, and help arrive at our own personal goals in relation to our loved ones, whatever these goals may be. I’ve recently joined a number of groups of Forgotten Australians and similar groups on facebook and elsewhere and have been touched by being accepted into these groups. It’s helpful to listen to what people have to say about where things are at. I strongly encourage people who want to learn more about the issues to ask to join such groups. Just as I encourage people to undertake their own research: there is a wealth of information on the Internet nowadays.
Since my father died, I’ve been approached by quite a few people looking to find information about their formerly institutionalised parents, when they’ve passed away. Some people have also approached me to ask about what support services are available to help them care for their parents who are still living. I’ve generally pointed people towards the various support organisations that now exist and of which I’m aware. Mostly, it seems people are searching for historical records and wanting to piece together missing elements in the stories of their families’ lives. Underlying this, however, I suspect there are many who are searching for broader answers to questions they may have about why things happened the way they did.
Just as there are commonalities in experiences of those who survived ‘care’, I suspect there may be commonalities of experiences and insights among those who love and support these survivors. It would be helpful for people to be able to get together and talk about these things. People who’ve worked out solutions to problems they’re facing or have faced can help each other by sharing with each other. For example, while not all survivors of ‘care’ now require care themselves, many do. It may help carers to have a place to talk about this and help each other with day-to-day problems – e.g., dealing with governmental organisations as part of their caring responsibilities.
Something that concerns me as well is that there is currently a dearth of research into Inter-generational / inter-familial / intra-familial effects relating to Homes survivors. (I use the term ‘Homes’ loosely to encompass groups such as Forgotten Australians, Child Migrants, Stolen Generations, and others.) This stands in stark contrast to the situation in respect of, for example, second-generation (and even third-generation) Holocaust survivors, and descendants of Vietnam War veterans, where there has been some work done. From my own, limited experiences in talking with members of the medical / caring professions, there is less than optimal understanding of the experiences of Forgotten Australians, Child Migrants, Stolen Generations, etc., although this is changing a bit. There’s an even smaller understanding of the impacts on and experiences of family members. Without such understanding in the professions, it’s unlikely that people can receive the counselling and support they really need.
That suggests to me that it’s up to family members / descendants to start the ball rolling by working together to develop our own understanding of ourselves and our experiences. It may be hard to talk about these things. I find it hard. It might be hard to talk about these things because if you care about someone who’s been through ‘care’ and had a very bad time of it, there may be a tendency at times to want to ignore your own problems as being ‘lesser’ in some way. Hopefully, people will find that there’s a shared understanding that you face your own difficulties, and that it’s okay to acknowledge them without diminishing what the person you love went through. Again, it would be good if there were a way for people to provide each other with constructive advice about dealing with day-to-day problems and feelings about loving someone who was in ‘care’, but with an acknowledgment of their own feelings and problems too.
A lot of people who love someone who’s been through ‘care’ have superb levels of understanding about the issues. In my experience at least, a reasonable level understanding of the issues has been very helpful, even if painful. When my Dad, Lewis Blayse, started the support group ‘FICH’ (Formerly in Children’s Homes) in 1990, his initial motivation was to develop his own personal understanding of his experiences and to find out the extent to which they tallied with those of others; this was partly intended as a way of understanding himself and trying to heal from his experiences, although he never achieved this goal. Critically, as well, he felt he’d worked out a fair bit about what impact his experiences had had on him, and he was interested in helping others obtain similar levels of understanding if he could. He learned as much as he taught, and this was of great benefit to him, even though the learning process never ended. For me, having a reasonable level of understanding helped at many points in my life with my Dad. He was awesome, but there were times when I struggled to understand him and wished I knew more than I did. I don’t know how deep the level of understanding is among family members of survivors of ‘care’ throughout Australia. In my view, it would be good if it were much deeper: lack of knowledge is a common reason for avoidable conflict and pain.
There are many fantastic resources these days for anyone who wants to learn more about the issues with a view to helping a person who went through ‘care’. These can be accessed even if the person you care about isn’t up to talking much about what they went through, which may be the case. As I say, though, there doesn’t seem to be a place for people who love someone who went through ‘care’ to chat daily about matters affecting them. Such discussions may take the form of trying to find a way to come to terms with what has happened to someone they love or loved and lost. They may take the form of talking about ongoing struggles to support and care for a loved one who survived ‘care’. They may be to talk about resources / support services available to assist them in their care of family members. They may be to track down lost members of extended families. They may be of a more overtly political flavour.
Whatever your motivations, for those who are related to or otherwise in a relationship with someone who was in ‘care’ who do want to get together and talk about things in a constructive, respectful, and gentle way with each other, I’ve just set up a facebook group called “Kids & Family of Forgotten Australians, Child Migrants, Stolen Generations” (https://www.facebook.com/groups/285302578303029/).
I recently kicked off a discussion asking people of their experiences in providing information about the experiences of loved ones to the current Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. A few people have already posted up useful informational resources for those who may not know much about history and are keen to learn more.
I look forward to talking with new members. The group is also open to survivors themselves. You just need to ask to be joined, as it’s a ‘closed group’ in facebook format so that only members can read posts on the group page. I hope readers who join will jump on the site and start their own discussion threads about whatever they want to talk about.
PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION: HELP OBTAIN JUSTICE FOR LEWIS BLAYSE FROM THE SALVATION ARMY.