Chapter 10 - Provision of services
I have to pay for the right to access the services and support I am told I need
because of my childhood in these institutions, and my wife and her son pay
also, both financially and emotionally.
Evidence to the inquiry indicated that the provision of
services is vital in addressing the needs of care leavers. While a variety of
views and opinions are held by care leavers, the need for services was
This is not about persecuting those
that were in command of these institutions; it is about healing those that have
been persecuted because of the situations. It is having access to persons or
places that can assist in sorting out the pain we don't understand. (Sub 314)
This chapter provides a discussion of the effectiveness
of the services currently provided by governments and the Churches and agencies
to address the needs of care leavers. In addition to access to records
discussed previously, a number of other services required by care leavers were
highlighted during the inquiry. These include the need for support and advocacy
services; counselling services; health and aged care services; services for the
homeless; and adult literacy and numeracy and other education services.
Assistance and services are required not just for the
care leavers but also for their families if the generational effects referred
to earlier in the report are to be addressed.
We must continue to be vigilant with
our care and attention with all our children, wherever they may be, because they
will be bearing the next generation. My mother had no suitable role-models or
education to help her in her parenting role. I believe that wards of the state
from the vicious earlier years, their children and their children’s children
should now be helped by the Churches and States who helped to create the
traumatized families. (Sub 195)
Services currently provided
A range of government and non-government services are
currently provided for care leavers. The nature and extent of the services
varies widely between States, as do the services provided by the Churches and
A number of services are funded in several of the States.
In Queensland, the State
Government contributes to the funding of four entities which provide specific
services for former residents - the Forde Foundation, the Aftercare Resource
Centre (ARC), the Esther Centre
and the Historical Abuse Network (HAN).
The Forde Foundation is a charitable trust established
in 1999 by the Queensland Government in response to the Report of the
Commission of Inquiry into the Abuse of Children in Queensland Institutions
(Forde Inquiry). The Foundation distributes monies to former residents of Queensland
institutions and children formerly in foster care in the State. It generally
conducts a grants program twice a year and invites former residents to apply
for assistance for education, health, family reunion and basic necessities of
life. The Foundation was not established to pay compensation to former
residents and the grants paid are generally quite low.
Table 10.1 shows that to date, six grant rounds
have been held and approximately $594 347 has been distributed. Some 945 former
residents have been assisted with the average grant being $692. In Round 5
(2003) there were 94 new applicants to the Foundation and in Round 6 (2004)
there were 84 new applicants. The number of applicants for assistance has
increased markedly as more former residents find out about the scheme -
although the average grant has fallen considerably from $926 in 2001 to $556 in
Table 10.1: Forde Foundation - Applicants
Number of applicants
Round 1 (2001)
159, Supplementary Information, 5.7.04 (Forde Foundation).
The Foundation is funded by contributions from the
Queensland Government and donations from the Churches and from individuals. In
1999 the Queensland Government provided the Foundation with a seeding fund of
$1 million. In 2001, a further $1 million was made available to the Foundation
by the Government. The $2 million is invested by the Trust and the income from that investment is
distributed each year. The Government intended the original money to remain as
an investment so that it, and any donations, could continue earning income to
assist former residents for many years to come.
Donations of $135 000 have also been made to the
Trust fund - this includes $117 000 from the major churches and their
agencies (which comprises $75 000 from central Church bodies and the
balance from a special appeal to congregations) and about $18 000 from
The Foundation advised the Committee that although it has received no formal
written advice, it was communicated to the Board that the Churches considered
this to be a one-off grant, particularly in relation to the Catholic and Anglican
Committee believes that, compared with the contribution from the State
Government of $2 million, the contributions from the Churches and agencies
have been woefully inadequate and the Committee urges the Churches and agencies
to provide substantial additional funding to the Foundation so that it can
continue its work.
The Foundation noted that poor returns on the funds
invested in recent years has affected the amount of money that it is able to
distribute each year to recipients. The average grant in 2004 was $556.
Services are also provided by other agencies. The
Aftercare Resource Centre is responsible for provision of direct and brokered
counselling services in Queensland
and interstate, assistance with educational opportunities, record searches,
family reunions and advice on support groups. Relationships Australia
(Queensland) provides this
service which is funded by the Queensland Department of Families. Since its
inception in 1999, the service has seen 423 former residents of
institutions and provided brokered services on 6586 occasions.
Centre (Centre for Addressing Abuse in Human
Services and Faith Communities) provides support for people who have experienced
physical, sexual, emotional and spiritual abuse in church institutions, faith
communities and human services. The Historical Abuse Network is an informal
network of former residents of church and government institutions that was
established to support people who had experienced abuse within those institutions.
It meets regularly, holds forums and provides resources to support people.
The Queensland Department of Families employs a Forde
Contact Officer who provides a central liaison point of contact for former residents.
The Department also has a freedom of information service which ex residents and
the Foundation can use for the purpose of accessing family links and historical
the Department of Human Services provides funding for services to support
former wards. In 1997, VANISH, which is funded by the Department and provides support
services to care leavers and other groups such as adoptees, received ongoing
funding of $47 000 to provide search assistance and support services for
former wards, regardless of where they live now. A position was also established
in the Department's Adoption Information Service to assist former wards to
obtain information from their files and to provide counselling, support, search
and mediation services. More recently, $10 000 has been allocated to CLAN
- this funding is to be used to provide information, advice and support to
Victorian wards living interstate. An additional $76 660 has recently been
made available to VANISH specifically for the purposes of providing individual
counselling for former wards and to establish support networks in rural Victoria.
In NSW, the Department of Community Services (DoCS)
funds a telephone Helpline which is operated by Relationships Australia (NSW).
In 2003 the Helpline received additional funding to employ an experienced
counsellor for two days per week to provide support and telephone or
face-to-face counselling, assist care leavers to access information about their
care history, and to provide referral to support services. A small amount of
brokerage funds is also available to assist clients access specialist
counselling. Some 100 former care leavers have been assisted by Relationships Australia
Helpline to date.
In Western Australia,
the Department for Community Development provides counselling and personal and family
history information. Counselling is provided by department psychologists. In
exceptional circumstances the Department may purchase counselling from private
providers. Non-government agencies are not funded by the Department to provide
services specifically for ex-residents.
Non-government agencies also provide a number of services
for ex residents of institutions. While a number of services are available,
evidence to the Committee indicated that the nature and extent of services
provided is often felt by care leavers to be inadequate; are difficult to
access in many instances; or there is a reluctance to provide services by some
The Catholic Church and individual religious orders
provide a range of services. The Christian
Brothers in Western
Australia funds CBERSS which offers a number of
services for ex residents. While the Service is funded by the Congregation it
operates independently of the Christian
Brothers. CBERSS counselling services are
available to all men and their families. Counselling is offered by CBERSS
clinical staff but, if the men prefer external counselling, it is funded by
CBERSS. Financial assistance is offered via a 'no interest' loan scheme to
assist men and their families with specific needs, and men are referred to
financial counselling if this is appropriate. A literacy program is also
available - CBERSS runs an adult education course to improve literacy skills
with the course contracted to a literacy educator.
Other Churches and agencies operate a range of aftercare
programs. The Wesley Dalmar After Care Program for former residents provides
services that include counselling with a counsellor of choice. The counselling
provided is, however, time limited - with up to 20 therapy sessions available. Extensions
to this are considered on the advice of the treating professional. Other
services include the provision of advice regarding solicitors for those seeking
compensation; referral to the Aftercare Resource Centre - a DoCS funded
service; provision of initial membership of CLAN; and support of the Old Boys
and Old Girls network.
Burnside also operates an aftercare service
which provides counselling and other services. Burnside
stated that 'we employ an after-care worker that we fund ourselves. We also
have a couple of DOCS funded after-care services. ...We provide counselling, but
we also financially support people who choose to have counselling externally
and we provide for other costs for people, such as medication and so on, if
that is appropriate'.
Barnardos provides aftercare services including
counselling with a counsellor of choice; referral to peer support groups, such
as CLAN; and reunions and functions of Old Boys and Old Girls.
Services provided by the Salvation Army include the
provision of external counselling services; and where appropriate, the
reimbursement of past counselling services; the provision of pastoral care;
reimbursement of medical expenses and financial provision of ongoing medical
assistance; and contributions to legal costs. Evidence
suggested, however, that some ex-residents experience difficulties in accessing
The United Protestant Association of NSW provides file
reviews combined with ongoing counselling, reimbursement of expenses for family
reunions or to enable individuals to travel from their home to the former place
where they were in care.
A number of support and advocacy services also exist
and provide a range of services for care leavers. CLAN is a national support
and advocacy group, however, a number of other groups also operate in various
Support and advocacy services
Evidence to the Committee pointed to the valuable
support and advocacy work provided by CLAN and the other support groups around
Care Leavers of Australia
I am very grateful to CLAN as it has helped me to start to speak
out without rage about my past...and I am slowly ever so slowly starting to feel
as if I am a worthwhile human being. (Sub 352)
In recent years I was introduced to CLAN and Leonie, a tireless
worker for our cause with her association...Without their help and encouragement
I may not have told my story. Prior to their existence there was nobody to tell
and I'd have to take all of that to my grave. (Sub 360)
CLAN, which was established in 2000, is a national
self-help support and advocacy group for people aged over 25 years who grew up
or spent time during their childhood in orphanages, children's homes and other
institutions, whether as state wards, home children or as foster children. CLAN has
approximately 520 members across Australia
(it began with only 38 members in 2000). The objectives of the organisation
to provide a national network though which care
leavers can communicate with each other and share their experiences;
to raise public consciousness of past
institutional care practices and the effects of institutional care;
to lobby governments to provide acknowledgment
and support for former state wards and home children; and
to provide advocacy for care leavers wherever
CLAN was established to fill a 'service gap' in
relation to care leavers.
There has been an increasing awareness, over the past two to
three decades, of groups of people who as children underwent experiences which
have caused ongoing trauma and suffering...Although state wards and children who
grew up in Homes and institutions have had childhood experiences which are
similar, and in many cases identical, to those suffered by these groups [Stolen
Generations/child migrants], they are not recognised or acknowledged as
Australian citizens entitled to similar recognition, support and assistance. CLAN
was established to change this, and to lobby for support services for older
Care Leavers. Much of the effort and work of CLAN over the past three years has
been spent in raising awareness of Care Leaver issues, as well as providing
what services have been possible, operating as an unresourced, and under-funded
CLAN assists members to obtain their ward files or
information about the institution where they spent their childhood (members can
advertise in the CLAN newsletter to locate lost family members or former care
residents); publishes a bi-monthly newsletter; holds social gatherings; and is
building up an extensive library of books and videos on issues related to
institutional care and its effects, and personal histories of the care
experience; and engages in lobbying activities to promote greater awareness of
care leaver issues.
CLAN is operated primarily by the two women who
established it, Ms Leonie
Sheedy and Dr
is the first point of contact for people contacting CLAN - she listens to
people's stories, and advises on possible avenues of help, and contacts
agencies and government departments on behalf of members; and engages in
lobbying activities. Dr Penglase
prepares the CLAN newsletter, writes submissions and articles and deals with
CLAN was asked by the Committee about the relationships
it has established with government agencies and with care providers with which
it works. Dr Penglase
indicated that it has established a good working relationship with these
I think we are generally well regarded...The current [NSW]
minister is supportive. It was with a change of minister that we got our
funding. CLAN actually has an advisory committee with a few members from
agencies. These are the agencies who helped us get the funding - who supported
us through ACWA originally...So we are well perceived and we have our advisory
committee. I think there is a willingness to meet with us and to work with us.
But of course it varies across agencies.
In 2002 several member organisations of the Association
of Childrens Welfare Agencies, the peak child welfare organisation in NSW,
contributed a small seed grant to assist CLAN to operate as it attempted to
obtain ongoing funding from government.
Table 10.2 indicates that total funding currently
amounts to approximately $108 000, which is derived from donations from
agencies, members' subscriptions and some funding from the States. CLAN
receives no funding from the Commonwealth Government. It has received non-recurrent
grants from the NSW, Victorian, ACT and South Australian Governments, except in
the case of the ACT Government where the grant of $9 000 is spread over
three years. The other State Governments have not provided funding to CLAN. The
WA Department for Community Development indicated that it will provide a small
one-off grant to CLAN so that it may provide information and support services
for ex-residents in Western Australia.
The Table shows that donations were received from the
major agencies that operated homes in NSW, except the Salvation Army. CLAN
stated that they approached the Salvation Army in 2002 and again in 2004 but on
both occasions they refused their request for donations. As evident in the
Table, there are also some agencies in Victoria
along with Anglicare in South Australia
that have provided donations. CLAN sent approximately 40 letters to past
providers in all States other than NSW in March 2004 requesting donations
but most did not reply.
CLAN uses this funding to employ Leonie
Sheedy as a full-time worker (since April
2004), and has set up a professional website. Some funds were also earmarked to
set up a small office (the rental office space is shared with another national
support group), which was recently opened in Bankstown.
Other expenses include general running costs such as general administration,
printing of newsletters and maintaining a library of over 300 books. Funds were
also used to advertise this Inquiry in the media in an effort to reach care
leavers who might not otherwise have been aware of the Inquiry.
10.2: CLAN: Sources of Funding 2002-2004
Funding from State Governments
$20 000 ($10 000 in 2002, $10 000 in 2004)
$10 000 (2003)
$9 000 (over 3 years, $3 000 in 2003)
$5 000 (2003)
New South Wales
Boys' Town Engadine
& Family Services
1 based on two funding drives in
2002 and 2004.
2 includes only funding received to date.
Source: Submission 22, Additional Information, 9.7.04 (CLAN).
CLAN argued that they could provide more services with
additional funding and reach more of their client base. The membership of the
organisation has shown an exponential growth over recent years and now numbers
over 500 members.
If we spent every dollar we received taking out full-page ads
all over Australia
we would probably get a lot more members. What could we do for them? We would
not have a penny left to do anything at all. As it is, what can we do? Leonie
is on the phone day and night - and I mean that: day and night...What can we
offer people? We write the newsletter and send it out. We cannot offer therapy
or link-up services for searching. We are two people with a small committee.
CLAN argued that the organisation should be funded as a
'national service' for older care leavers. A national service would consist of
a small national secretariat, based in Sydney,
of which CLAN would provide the nucleus; and a co-ordinator in each State,
employed by CLAN. Offices in the States would act as a point of contact for
The services that such an organisation would provide
information and search services in all States to
help locate family members and their personal histories. This would include
assistance with accessing files; mediation with the agency where they were
raised; support in reading personal files;
the provision of, or brokerage of, therapeutic
services, including counselling services;
establishment of peer support groups;
the provision of education services, such as
outreach work to provide counselling and support
services to regional clients; and
the provision of a 1800 number.
Other organisations supported additional funding for
CLAN to enable it to expand its advocacy and support role. The United
Protestant Association of NSW stated that CLAN was 'well placed', with
Commonwealth and the community sector's assistance, to establish an independent
advocacy and support organisation for care leavers.
They are an excellent group. They have a great track
record...They, I think are well positioned to take a lead. It is in my view
entirely inappropriate...for past providers to be taking on any formal advocacy
type role...adequate resources should be made available to CLAN. They are a
national group. They are really a fledging group in many ways at this stage
but, with the resources behind them, I think they are a group that will do an
enormous power of good.
Relationships Australia (NSW) also argued that CLAN's
advocacy role should be further supported and that they should receive
resources to continue raising community awareness concerning the difficulties
experienced by adults raised in institutional care.
While CLAN is the principal support and advocacy group
for older care leavers, other support groups also provide a valuable service to
care leavers and victims of institutional abuse. Their
important role was acknowledged and supported during the inquiry.
A number of groups exist throughout Australia
and while the following list is not exhaustive it serves to illustrate the
range of groups in existence and the services they provide.
As noted previously, in Queensland
the Esther Centre
and Historical Abuse Network operates in that State and provides a number of
services for care leavers. The Esther
Centre provides support for people who have
experienced physical, sexual, emotional and spiritual abuse in church
institutions, faith communities and human services. The Historical Abuse
Network is an informal network of former residents of church and government
institutions that was established to support people who had experienced abuse
within those institutions.
VANISH (Victorian Adoption Network for Information and Self Help) provides
search and support services for people who have been separated from their
family of origin, including wards of the state and adoptees. It is funded by
the Victorian Department of Human Services. It commenced operations in 1989
with the specific focus on adoptees but five years ago the Department provided
funding for VANISH to expand its role to provide search and support for former
wards of the state. In 2002-03 the organisation was provided with further funds
for brokerage counselling for care leavers. VANISH has provided a number of
services for care leavers including conducting searches, providing one on one
support, facilitating regular support groups. Recently the organisation
conducted regional information and discussion groups for care leavers.
In Western Australia,
WINGS, which is a self-funded support group, has been operating for five years.
Its aim is to support children and adults who have been sexually, physically
and/or emotionally abused whilst in institutional or non-institutional care. It
also networks with a number of other local support groups.
A number of Catholic religious Orders either provide
services to ex-residents or fund those services. MacKillop Family Services was
established in 1997 and is managed by its three founding religious
congregations - the Sisters of Mercy, the Sisters of St Joseph and the Christian
Brothers. It provides a number of support
services for adults who grew up in institutional care. Its Heritage and
Information Service, which is funded internally through donations and
contributions from the founding religious orders, was set up to help former
residents, and/or families of former residents to access information from their
time in care. The Service provides records to former residents and assists in
searching for separated family members. Over 100 000 individual records
are now recorded on an electronic data base. In recent years the Service has supported
former residents through an oral history project, social history project and
CBERSS was established in Western
Australia in 1995 by the Christian
Brothers as an independent organisation to
provide for the needs of ex-residents of Christian
Brothers institutions. It is funded by the Christian
Brothers but the Service operates
independently of the Order. The management committee is responsible for the
development and monitoring of services, and provides the mechanism for
financial accountability to the Christian
Brothers. CBERSS provides counselling
services, financial advice, literacy services, travel assistance,
re-unification support and post reunification services and referral services.
Mercy Community Services, which is a non-profit association,
provides information and support to past residents of Sisters of Mercy
orphanages in Western Australia.
The Service provides access to records and has a Heritage Trail and Heritage
Centre to assist former residents better remember their former orphanage life.
The Service also offers basic counselling for ex residents in accessing their
files and returning to the former orphanage sites.
A number of organisations serve a more general advocacy
role for victims of institutional and other forms of abuse. Broken Rites, which
is a national organisation based in Melbourne,
is a voluntary organisation that plays an advocacy and advisory role for
persons who have experienced physical, psychological or sexual abuse by clergy,
religious or church employees. It receives no financial support from any
government and relies on voluntary donations to fund its activities. During the
past 10 years more than 2 500 people have contacted the organisation,
about 1 500 living in Victoria
Bravehearts, which is a child protection advocacy
group, was founded in 1996 in Queensland
by Ms Hetty
Johnson. It aims to promote the rights and
needs of child and adult survivors of child sexual assault; provide support
services to survivors; and increase public awareness and understanding of chid
sexual assault on the individual, family unit and society generally. Its work
in the community includes promoting self-help groups and personal counselling.
Bravehearts is also involved in education, prevention, early intervention and research.
The Abused Child Trust also provides an advocacy role
for child protection issues. The Trust, which was formed in 1988 by a group of
service professionals in Queensland,
is an independent community based agency not affiliated with any Church or community
group and is based in Brisbane.
It also provides specialised services for abused children and their families
through individualised therapy programs. The Trust has a governing Board
comprising representatives from the corporate, community and medical sectors.
Its operating costs amount to approximately $1 million. Approximately half of
this amount is provided by the State Government and the remaining half is
sourced from public and corporate donations and sponsorship.
The CREATE Foundation is a national advocacy
organisation for children and young people in care and for younger care leavers
(up to the age of 25 years). CREATE operates programs and services to connect
children and young people in care to each other and their communities; and to build
skills and resources for children and young people in care.
The Committee considers that all advocacy and support
groups play an important role in providing assistance to care leavers and
others who have suffered various forms of abuse and that they should be
supported by additional resources by the Commonwealth and State Governments and
the Churches and agencies.
The Committee considers that CLAN is providing an
extremely valuable support and advocacy role for older care leavers. This is despite
the very limited funding that is available to the organisation at present. The
Committee also notes the very widespread and genuine support expressed for CLAN
from many care leavers and organisations during the inquiry.
The Committee believes that considerable additional
resources should also be made available to CLAN and all service providers on a
recurrent basis. This would support CLAN and the others providing advocacy and
support functions, so that the organisations may continue and extend their important
work for care leavers across Australia.
The Committee notes that to date CLAN has received only limited funding from
the States. In addition, the Commonwealth Government has not provided any
funding for CLAN. The Committee notes that some Churches and agencies in
several States have provided funds to CLAN. The Committee believes that all
Churches and agencies that operated institutions should provide on-going
funding for CLAN.
The Committee notes that CLAN wishes to extend its role
and functions to include the provision of services, such as counselling and
other services as well as further develop its role nationally for care leavers.
The Committee believes that CLAN could develop along these lines and supports
further Commonwealth and State Government and Church and agency assistance for
the organisation to broaden its role in the future.
The Committee notes that while other support and
advocacy groups operating primarily on a State basis receive some funding from
State Governments, others do not. The Committee believes that State Government
funding should be maintained and extended to those groups that do not currently
receive recurring funding.
The Committee believes that there is an urgent need to
establish a professional advocacy and support group that will operate
nationally and considers that the Commonwealth should fund a national
conference of service providers and advocacy and support groups to establish
such a body. The Committee envisages that this national body should be funded
by the Commonwealth and State Governments and the Churches and agencies.
That the Commonwealth fund a national conference of
service providers and advocacy and support groups with the aim being to
establish a professional national support and advocacy body for care leavers;
and that this body be funded by the Commonwealth and State Governments and the
Churches and agencies.
That the Commonwealth and State Governments and
Churches and agencies provide on-going funding to CLAN and all advocacy and
support groups to enable these groups to maintain and extend their services to
victims of institutional abuse, and that the government and non-government
sectors widely publicise the availability of services offered by these advocacy
and support groups.
Inadequate level of services
Evidence to the inquiry commented on the lack of
services - both government and non-government - available to care leavers. CLAN
noted that service provision for care leavers was essentially a 'piecemeal
system' - 'where in each instance the services are extremely limited and poorly
Evidence from care leavers indicated that while service providers may in theory
say that they provide a range of services, in reality, significant barriers are
often placed in their way in accessing these services.
Evidence also indicated that many social services and
programs fail to recognise the particular needs and requirements of care
...you would expect to see us overrepresented in many of the
social services that are supposed to overcome these problems, but we are not;
we are apparently invisible...social services refuse to admit that we exist. We
make up an overwhelming proportion of the clients across their services, but
there has never been an admission that care leavers make up a distinct group
within those services requiring special forms of redress.
The Positive Justice Centre even suggested that services
should be established by care leavers themselves to ensure that their needs are
...we have been further abused by having to access services that
refuse to recognise our plight...these services should have no role in continuing
to administer us...we should no longer have to suffer at the hands of rank
amateurs. There is absolutely no reason why care leavers could not be assisted
to set up services to help themselves.
The level of assistance provided by State Governments
and the Churches was criticised during the inquiry. In relation to the
State-funded services, Catholic Welfare Australia argued that State Governments
need to provide more adequate funding so that the present needs of care leavers
can be addressed - 'we may ask what are the State and Territory Governments
doing to address the trauma and hurt experienced by adults who were former
children in institutional care given that this care was the ultimate
responsibility of these governments'.
a number of criticisms of the Forde Foundation were made during the inquiry,
Concerns about the small amounts of funds
available for dispersal - '...if the Beattie Government was genuine they would
have put in at least $10 million into the Foundation. This would have been then
able to be of real assistance to the victims'. (Sub 78)
The process of making applications which
reinforces the feelings of powerless and dependency of their childhood - 'I
don't feel it is worth losing my mental health any further since the process of
applying, waiting etc. is disempowering and soul destroying'. (Sub 242)
In the absence of any other form of redress
there is a perception that the Foundation is providing a form of compensation,
and consequently, a very inadequate amount of compensation - 'The Queensland
Government has let us (the victims) and society down in the past. During the
Forde Enquiry, they promised the earth and said they would deliver justice, but
there was no justice awarded and our pain did not subside or simply go away'. (Sub
The Forde Foundation, while noting that the Queensland
Government has gone much further than other State Governments in redressing the
harm done to former residents in institutions, conceded that 'significant gaps'
in services persist for former children in care. A principal limitation is that
the agencies providing services are all Brisbane-based while many former
residents are located throughout the State and live interstate - 'the agencies
are insufficiently funded to overcome the inequities in access that result'. A report by
the Forde Implementation Monitoring Committee in 2001 stated that the Forde
Foundation is 'insufficiently funded' to meet the enormous level of need
experienced by ex residents.
Services provided by the Aftercare Resource Centre are
only available to former care leavers of Queensland
institutions, so that care leavers living in that State but raised elsewhere
are ineligible. People raised in care in Queensland
but living elsewhere are unlikely to access its services, since the services
are located in Queensland. The Forde
Foundation indicated, however, that grants are available to ex-residents living
interstate which they can use to access services in their state of residence.
This is also a problem in other States that fund
services for care leavers, namely NSW and Victoria.
Services provided in those States are limited to care leavers who were
ex-residents of the particular institutions in those States. Many care leavers
have moved interstate because of the very negative associations that a
particular institution in a particular State has for them. When this occurs
they find themselves ineligible for services in their current state of
residence (if services are provided).
Submissions noted that there is a need for the
Commonwealth to be involved in funding services to address the gaps in service
provision in the States. The Esther
Centre stated that:
People who have experienced abuse in church, state and foster
care do not necessarily live as adults in the state which they resided as a child...The
Commonwealth has responsibility for Australian citizens and as such should
contribute to developing a National Service System, which will respond to
adults today regardless of the state in which they were in care.
CLAN also considered that services in NSW and Victoria
are inadequate. With regard to NSW, CLAN noted that care leavers who contact
the telephone Helpline 'if they are able to demonstrate that they feel they
were abused by their care experiences in the past, may eventually get a few
counselling sessions, paid for by DOCS. This has to be negotiated with DOCS by
Helpline staff, hence the delay. This service is staffed for two days a week only,
and is tacked on to the existing service for younger state wards'. CLAN noted
that in Victoria,
VANISH 'has only recently begun to provide a limited service' to care leavers.
CLAN stated that it was not aware of State-funded services in States other than
Queensland, NSW and Victoria.
In relation to the situation in Western
Australia, the Christian
Brothers voiced their concerns that the
State Government has, over the last 10 years, offered only a 'minimal level of
support' to former residents of institutions.
The nature and extent of services provided by Churches
and church-run agencies also varies. As illustrated above, while some Churches
and agencies offer a fairly comprehensive range of services to former residents,
others provide fairly minimal assistance. Assistance offered by Churches is
also necessarily limited to those former
residents that were in particular institutions operated by the particular
Church or religious order. While the Churches may indeed offer services, many
former residents may not know that the services exist or will not use the
services because of past negative experiences as children in the various
institutions. CLAN stated that:
Non-government agencies who were past providers (i.e. ran the
Homes) when appealed to will in some cases provide assistance to former inmates
in obtaining their records and paying for some counselling. However this is
dependant on the goodwill, and the resources of the agency involved. Many Care
Leavers would, in any case, never turn for help to the agency which ran the
institution, just as many would not attempt to deal with the government
department which took them from their parents initially and through which they
have often had abusive experiences.
Evidence indicated that there is significant unmet need
for services for care leavers. VANISH noted that in the last financial year
that organisation had a 650 per cent increase in the number of
contacts with care leavers - 'the demand continues to grow. We know we are only
scratching the surface and our limited resources cannot provide the services
that are required'.
CLAN also stated that the needs of care leavers are less recognised than other
groups because care leavers as a group lack a high public profile and many
individual care leavers lack the necessary skills required to advance their
profile in the community.
A lot of us [care leavers] are dead, in jail, alcoholics or
having difficulty just getting through life. There is stigma, shame, and lack
of education...When you talk about other groups who jump up and down and have
high visibility, they are educated people and they have people to speak on their
Evidence to the inquiry also suggested that there is a
need for assistance and services for the families of care leavers in a range of
areas including counselling, support services, financial assistance and
assistance with legal costs.
The Government also needs to recognise that this assistance
should be made available to the children and grandchildren of Wards. I know my
daughters have suffered as a result of my lack of nurturing, in that I am
incapable of affording to them what I have little or no experience of. It is
also possible that their children will also suffer as a result of the deficient
parenting that I have taught to my children. (Sub 28)
To say that this trauma has severely affected each and every
sibling in my family is an under-statement. (Sub 203)
Evidence to the inquiry indicates that there is a
serious lack of services available to address the needs of care leavers. Governments
at all levels - and the non-government sector - need to address this matter urgently.
To date only four States - Queensland,
NSW, Victoria and Western
Australia - provide services for care leavers and
these services are limited. In the States that fund services for care leavers -
namely Queensland, NSW and Victoria
- services provided are limited to those who were ex-residents of the
particular institutions in those States. This poses problems for many care
leavers who have moved interstate and are therefore not eligible for services
in their present state of residence. The Committee believes that State
Government funded services should be provided to care leavers in the particular
State irrespective of where the care leaver was institutionalised. The
Committee believes that the funding arrangements for this could be arranged
through the Community and Disability Services Ministerial Council with a form
of reciprocal agreement between the States.
Services provided by the Churches and agencies vary widely
with some providing a more comprehensive range of services than others. While
the States provide information on the amount of funding for various services the
funding allocated by the Churches and agencies to services is more difficult to
establish. Access to these services is also limited to ex-residents of the particular
institutions operated by the Churches and many care leavers are reluctant to
utilise these services even where they are available because of past negative
experiences in these institutions.
The Committee believes that the Churches need to provide
a comprehensive range of services to care leavers. It should not be left up to
the States to provide services that the Churches and agencies could fund from
their own resources. The Committee also considers that the services provided to
ex-residents need to be available throughout Australia.
The Committee notes that CBERSS provides services to ex-residents irrespective
of where they now reside in Australia.
In addition, the Committee believes that services and assistance should not
only be provided to care leavers, but also should be extended to their
That all State Governments, Churches and agencies
provide a comprehensive range of support services and assistance to care
leavers and their families.
That all State Government funded services for care
leavers be available to all care leavers in the respective State, irrespective
of where the care leaver was institutionalised; and that funding provisions for
this arrangement be arranged through the Community and Disability Services
During the inquiry the need for improvements in the
provision of a number of services, including counselling, health and aged care;
services for the homeless; and adult literacy and numeracy and further education
were highlighted. These issues are discussed below.
The need for counselling and other therapeutic services
for care leavers was emphasised during the inquiry. In particular, a need was
identified for specialist counselling to deal with the trauma of past
institutional care experiences; to deal with the acute difficulties in forming
and maintaining relationships; difficulties associated with the process of information
disclosure when personal records are released; and pre and post family reunion.
The benefits of counselling are wide-ranging.
Counselling promotes good physical and mental health; offers a supportive
relationship in times of crisis; provides a safe place to express suppressed
emotions; helps build self esteem; aids the development of a positive outlook;
helps overcome depression; offers a more effective way to handle stressful
situations; and assists in developing meaningful relationships.
Demand for counselling services is increasing.
Relationships Australia (NSW) reported that nine new clients contacted the
Aftercare Helpline in August 2003, compared to an average of 2 or 3 per month
over 2003. In 2003-04, 50 new clients contacted the service.
As noted previously, counselling services are currently
provided to care leavers from a number of sources, both government and
non-government. A number of State Governments - Queensland,
NSW and Victoria - fund counselling services.
Counselling services are also provided by non-government agencies. The Catholic
Church offers counselling and other services through functionally independent
agencies, such as CBERSS, through the Church's Centacare network or via
referral to other counsellors acceptable to the care leaver. Other groups, such
as the Salvation Army, Barnardos, UnitingCare
Dalmar and the United Protestant Association
provide counselling as part of their aftercare services. Most provide
counselling on an ongoing basis, however, Wesley
Dalmar does not provide counselling on a
long term basis. Eight to twenty sessions of therapy are available with
additional sessions only provided on the advice of the treating professional. In the case
of Barnardos, while counselling provided by the organisation is available on an
ongoing basis, external counselling is usually limited to up to 10 sessions,
although this may be extended in certain circumstances. A number of
organisations provide for external counselling if clients prefer this,
including the Salvation Army, Barnardos, CBERSS, UnitingCare
Burnside and Wesley
Dalmar. Evidence to
the Committee from care leavers indicated a great deal of frustration when
attempting to access counselling services supposedly available from past
providers. These barriers constitute a form of secondary abuse.
Many submissions from care leavers commented on the personal
benefits of counselling in improving their lives and addressing issues arising
from their experiences in care.
Having counselling was a blessing for me and so was my
counsellor, Cathy. She helped me to realise that
the feelings I was having were normal responses to the abuse I endured. Through
her I realised that I have nothing to feel ashamed or guilty about. (Sub 94)
I have attended life enrichment classes and a decade of
counselling to improve my life. I made some interesting discoveries about
myself and became more assertive so I would thoroughly recommend that to
anyone. (Sub 360)
I feel I have emerged from a fog. I do feel a different person
now with a truer sense of myself. I now have a voice. I now know I have a
choice. I have found my own inner support...What I have gained through my courage
to seek some meaning has been so liberating. It’s what we all, from damage
institutional care need, KNOWLEDGE with UNDERSTANDING and SUPPORT to find our
true self. (Sub 192)
For some care leavers, however, counselling has not
assisted in improving their lives or ability to cope. One submission noted that
'counselling has never really helped. Since I left the orphanage, I have been
in and out of psychiatric wards as I had no family, no one to turn to for
One submission also noted that the offer of counselling can be used by the
Churches to 'blame the victim' and deflect responsibility from the need to
provide other forms of redress, particularly monetary compensation. Counselling
in these instances can be 'simply used by these organisations to minimise their
liability and an endeavour to persuade the victim that it was really he/she who
was at fault, and not the organisation and the offender'.
As noted above, counselling is often needed during the
process of the release of personal records so as to help ex-residents come to
term with this information. One submission noted that 'a person may seek
counselling initially on reading the file, then at different times throughout
the process of discovery. It can be time consuming and long term'. MacKillop
Family Services noted that in interpreting the records, it is also important to
be able to place a person's time in care in an historical context. People
searching for their records usually have many questions that need to be
answered. They need to understand and clarify why some children were adopted,
some placed in institutional care and others placed in foster care. They will
also need help with the language they encounter in the records, as many of the
client records are written in a manner which may appear harsh or judgmental by
today's standards. Former residents are also often keen to try and reconstruct
the daily routines of their life in care, to match their memories with recorded
information, and to question particular procedures and practices.
Counselling is also needed to deal with the complex
psychological and psychiatric problems facing many care leavers. CBERSS,
drawing on their experience, noted that 'the long term consequences of the early
separation of these men from their families...are very evident. Very often they
have failed to create satisfactory relationships later in life. Many experience
ongoing trauma and significant psychological difficulties'.
While some care leavers use Church agencies, evidence
indicated that independent agencies also need to be funded to provide, or to
broker, counselling services, including specialist counselling services. Some
submissions argued that many care leavers will not use the current services
offered by Churches or Church-related agencies because of past negative
experiences whilst in institutions operated by these groups. One former care
leaver from a Catholic institution emphasised the importance of allowing
'choice' of counselling practitioners:
I believe survivors of sexual abuse should be given a choice as
to who they see for ongoing treatment. In my case the real healing began when I
saw an independent psychiatrist completely outside of the Catholic Institution.
If you put survivors with psychiatrists and psychologists of the Catholic
Church, as Towards Healing recommends, you are putting clients into the hands
of people representing an institution that has gravely violated their trust. It
would be far healthier and quite within their rights to allow survivors to
choose practitioners of their own choice. This would need be subsidized by the
church or the government as many independent practitioners are in private
practice. (Sub 114)
Evidence from organisations and individual care leavers
argued that specialist counselling services are required to address the
particular needs of care leavers.
Many care leavers would benefit from counselling - but the
counsellors need to have an understanding of what our lives were like - not
just an "intellectual" model of how we should be "treated".
Counsellors [need] to have child development knowledge with
particular understanding of ward needs and issues, as distinct from government
workers within agencies, who do not have this professional training, as in
support workers who are often utilised in these roles without any training or
much awareness. These people can often create more problems due to their lack
of ability. (Sub 369)
Relationships Australia (NSW) also noted that many care
leavers express dissatisfaction with generalist services where there is a lack
of understanding of the circumstances of being in care - 'they have expressed a
need for specialist services that have an understanding of issues specific to
The organisation noted that clients expressed the need for professionals who
can work across a range of issues including separation, grief and loss,
relationships, depression and sexual assault rather than have to attend
discrete services where they have to retell their life story to a variety of professionals. Many care
leavers assert that retelling their story is particularly distressing and
counter productive to the healing process.
Submissions noted that the Vietnam Veterans Counselling
Service (VVCS) provides an excellent model of how such a specialist counselling
service could operate. Many of the
health problems of veterans, such as anxiety disorders and depression are similar
to those experienced by care leavers. The services provided under the VVCS,
which are free, include counselling; therapeutic and educational group
programs; community development and health promotion. There are also specialist
projects such as one that is directed at sons and daughters of veterans to
combat suicide. Services are available to partners of Vietnam
veterans and the children of veterans. CLAN noted that, as recognised by the VVCS,
it is important to provide services to the families, including the children, of
Some organisations are building up expertise in the area
of specialist counselling. Centacare noted that many staff have been with that
organisation for over 20 years and 'have developed quite extensive experience
in certain areas. There is a high focus given to a supervision model that
supports both the worker and their professional development. It is my
experience that there is a suite of staff within the organisation who have
select skills that are drawn upon for special occurrences within each of the
branches. There is a collective wisdom that seems to have evolved from the work
that is done'.
Again however, the Committee received evidence of care leavers seeking
specialist counselling but barriers being put in their way in accessing these
Submissions also argued that funding should be
allocated to a wide range of professionals and not limited to a particular
specialty, so that recovering survivors can have access to a range of 'healing
modalities' - 'every individual needs the recovery plan to follow their
personal requirements and must not be expected to somehow make themself fit one
model designed to "fit all"'.
Evidence also pointed to the benefits of counsellors
coming from an institutional care background. The Committee received evidence
from a person who had experienced institutional care and had become a
professionally trained counsellor. He indicated that he felt he was able to do
far more for victims of institutional abuse than counsellors without this
background because he had been through the system himself and had a deeper
understanding of the issues involved and his clients' needs. One submission
also noted that specially trained counsellors may indeed need to come from a
consumer based environment where ex-care people operate their own service.
Evidence indicated that there was a need for specialist
university training for health care professionals so that they can address the
multifaceted and complex psychological and emotional needs of victims of
One care leaver noted current inadequacies in this area:
I met with three psychiatrists as a double-check. You go to one
and they say, "I think I will refer you to somebody else", who then
asks you to go and check with someone else, just to make sure they are going
down the right track. I have gone to three of those. They all come up with,
"This is new". A visiting Sydney
psychiatrist came up and had a chat with me for two hours and thought: "Okay.
I have not heard any of this before. This is new".
Broken Rites believes that the training of psychologists
and counsellors in this area needs to encompass a high degree of clinical
It should not just be the barefoot psychologist who comes out
with a three-year degree. These are highly traumatised people with major
psychiatric disabilities and major psychological problems. The best outcome, I
believe, will be where these two types of professionals are treating in tandem.
Accessibility of counselling
Evidence indicated that access to counselling services
is limited by lack of funding. CLAN cited as an example the funding (of $77 000)
provided by the Victorian Government for counselling services for wards in that
State. The services, provided by VANISH, are limited to $450 per client - 'a
lousy $450...will only get you five sessions of psychotherapy'.
Relationships Australia (NSW) stated that clients of
their service report that community health and sexual assault counselling
services have policies that limit the number of sessions offered to clients.
This often works against the best interests of clients who need to have the
opportunity, often over an extended period of time, to examine and deal with
many issues that they have been carrying for many years. Some
particular client groups are denied access to services. In Queensland,
the Aftercare Resource Centre is unable to guarantee counselling to former
residents who are in prison due to inadequacy of funding and difficulty of
access. Many prisoners have specific counselling needs that cannot be met
within the prison system.
Evidence highlighted the problem of providing services
to care leavers in regional areas. One submission noted that many former ex-residents
who have been in care in NSW do not live in the Sydney
metropolitan area where they can access services - some live in regional areas
and others have moved interstate. A similar
situation exists in other States. One care leaver who lives in regional Victoria
'...I'm required to travel 2 hrs each way to Melbourne
to access the services and support I require. I receive no financial support to
do this, and my family and I go without'. Submissions
emphasised the need for outreach services to offer counselling and support
services to clients living in regional areas.
Submissions argued that self-help and peer support
groups should be supported and encouraged. Care leavers indicated that they
receive great benefit from these groups, especially from the support and
encouragement of other ex-residents.
I have started
attending a peer support group where other care leavers are sharing their
experience. We need this. This is our history - I don't have a family history
of parents and siblings - and this group of people have an understanding of my
life. We can talk, we can share and I know there is little judgement - not like
the shame and embarrassment I feel if I talk with others who do not have this
life experience. (Sub 258)
Evidence indicates that people from abusive backgrounds
benefit from peer support. CLAN suggested that drop-in centres should be
established in every State. These centres would be useful for care leavers as
they would then have access to a network of fellow ex-residents that could
support each other. Informal forums on a range of matters, such as anger
management, could also be held in these centres - '...you could help in these
more informal ways people who do not want intensive therapy or any sort of
therapy or counselling. It is offering a range of services like that that will
draw people in, and peer support. Meeting other homies and wardies is the best
thing of all'.
CLAN suggested that self-help groups could be facilitated by specially trained
The Committee believes that there is a significant need
for on-going counselling services to be provided for care leavers. The
Committee considers that the services currently provided by the States and
non-government sector need to be maintained and extended where possible. The Committee
believes that all States should fund services and that non-government agencies
should extend their services, wherever possible, and publicise the availability
of these services. In addition, all counselling services should be provided on
a long-term basis to clients and external counselling should be funded if
ex-residents prefer this option. Services should also be provided in regional
areas to meet the needs of care leavers living outside metropolitan areas.
The Committee believes that it is vitally important to allow
care leavers choice in the selection of counsellors. The Committee understands
that for many care leavers the provision of counselling services through Church-related
auspices are unacceptable because they are perceived to lack sufficient
independence from the institution that has gravely violated their trust in the
The inquiry highlighted the importance of specialist
counselling services. The traumas suffered by care leavers are often complex
and multifaceted and, as a consequence, need to be delivered by specialist
providers with an in-depth knowledge of care leaver issues. The Committee
strongly supports the provision of specialist services, noting that a number of
agencies, such as CBERSS, Centacare and Relationships Australia have built up
an extensive knowledge and expertise of issues facing care leavers and that
this knowledge base should be utilised wherever possible.
The Committee believes that specialist training of
counsellors is required. Specialist higher education courses should be
available for the training of health professionals in areas related to the
psychological and psychiatric effects of institutional abuse. The Committee
notes the recent initiative to establish a new Chair in Child Protection at the
University of South
Australia which will provide a special
interdisciplinary focus on child protection issues. This issue is discussed
further in chapter 11. The Committee also considers that former care
leavers should be encouraged to undertake training to become professional counsellors
to support their fellow care leavers.
That all State Governments, Churches and agencies fund
counselling services for care leavers and their families, and that those currently
providing counselling services maintain and, where possible, expand their
services including to regional areas. The counselling services should include:
the extension of specialist counselling services
that address the particular needs of care leavers;
their provision to clients on a long-term or as
required basis; and
the provision of external counselling as an
That specialist higher education courses be available
for the training of health professionals in areas related to the particular psychological
and psychiatric effects of institutional abuse.
Health and aged care
The health and aged care needs of care leavers were
raised during the inquiry. One care leaver noted that:
Health care is inadequate for those abused in the past who
because of abuses have poor health and health needs that are not being met.
Many of those abused in the past die early...As well as early deaths there are
suicides. These factors indicate that existing remedies and support mechanisms
are not meeting all needs. (Sub 87)
Submissions also commented on the lack of research into
the health needs of care leavers in Australia.
As discussed earlier in the report care leavers were
not only subjected to emotional, physical and sexual abuse as children within
institutions but their basic health needs were neglected. Care leavers
suggested that many of their subsequent health problems were directly related
to past neglect and/or abuse. The major health problems they report include depression,
anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorders, drug and alcohol problems; and poor
physical, dental and mental health.
My life has been extremely hard, due I believe, to the treatment
meted out to me whilst I was in the care of the Salvation Army. I am still
trying to come to terms with it. I am now on a disability pension, my health is
deteriorating, I have had bypass surgery, suffer with anxiety, depression and
obsessive-compulsive disorder. (Sub 231)
I am in contact with others who were in Catholic institutions...[many]
are now over fifty and suffering poor mental and physical health, unemployment,
insecure housing and social isolation etc. (Sub 383)
The fact that many care leavers come from socioeconomic
disadvantaged backgrounds (lack of educational opportunities often meant that
job prospects were poor for many ex-residents) has further health implications.
Studies have shown that socioeconomic disadvantage as a risk factor for ill health
interacts with other risk factors that affect health outcomes.
Many care leavers suffer from forms of 'multiple
disadvantage'. This was graphically illustrated in the experiences care leavers
related to the inquiry. One carer leaver stated that he lives in public housing
in a regional area of Victoria because it’s the only way he can 'afford a
decent standard of living' but has to travel long distances to Melbourne to
access a range of services that he requires because they are not available in
regional centres. This puts further strain on family finances often leading to
a reliance on charities for basic living expenses. Evidence to
the Committee indicated that instances such as these are not uncommon.
Child abuse and maltreatment potentially has long term
impacts on a victim's mental health. The Committee received many distressing
examples of mental health problems experienced by care leavers which are
described in more detail in chapter 6.
I'm stressed out totally all of the time, I have over-anxiety,
scared of people; don't trust any people any of the time...I don't fit in
anywhere in life. (Sub 290)
I am forty-four years of age and I pray to God I could just bury
my past but no matter how hard I try it just comes back to me and I feel a deep
depression and great sadness for my family. (Sub 271)
For some care leavers their lifelong experiences have
resulted in a loss of trust in health providers.
Right throughout my life I've been on and off medication and
each time I become suicidal...For me, it seems as if every-time I go to a doctor
or psychiatrist to try and work out what is going on with me, they just want to
put you on medication. If you don't have the dollars, they don't have the time
and medication is a quick fix to get rid of you. This also applies to
psychologists and counsellors. I trust none of these so called professionals
any more, I haven't really for many years. (Sub 291)
Studies have shown that the emotional, mental health
and behavioural problems that may result from child maltreatment include, among
other things, an increased risk of becoming involved in violent relationships
with peers as an adult. The intergenerational transmission of violent behaviour
is a disturbing potential consequence of child maltreatment. While the
phenomenon is complex and not completely understood, it appears that the
majority of maltreated children will not perpetrate violence as adults. One
study has produced a 'best estimate' rate of 30 per cent. Further,
intergenerational transmission of violence can occur when the perpetrator has
only witnessed (as a child) violence directed towards others. It is also
apparent that adults, particularly males, who have suffered physical violence
during adolescence, or who have witnessed domestic violence, are more likely to
be involved in marital aggression themselves.
Studies have also shown that other mental health and
behavioural problems that may result from child maltreatment include an increased
risk of a range of serious emotional and behavioural problems, including
depression, anxiety disorders, psychophysiological (somatic) complaints, peer
conflicts, social isolation; and conflicts with adults and other forms of
Evidence received by the Committee support these findings.
The emotional and psychological cost to the individual
who has been abused is significant. They are less likely to fulfil their full
potential to become productive citizens. For many, the nature of their mental ill-health
means that they are unlikely to hold down fulltime employment. This leads to
long term dependency on welfare. For others there a descent into homelessness.
Anecdotal evidence received by the Committee also indicates a high incidence of
suicide among care leavers. For society, the monetary costs in a range of areas
are also significant. These costs include frequent hospitalisations; use of
psychiatrists and other health professionals; frequent, and often protracted incarceration;
reliance on government income support such as the Disability Support Pension or
other payments; and the cost of pharmaceutical benefits.
Mental health issues are addressed in the National
Mental Health Strategy, which is an agreement between the Commonwealth and
State Governments. The strategy provides an overarching policy framework, while
the States deliver mental health services. This strategy recognises that all
Australian governments need to improve services and mental health policy to
ensure those with a mental illness, wherever possible, enjoy the same
opportunities as other Australians. The Strategy recognises that for
community-based treatment to be effective people with an ongoing illness may
need access to a range of different services such as specialised mental health
services; general medical services, accommodation support, community and
domiciliary care; and income support, employment and training services. While, as
noted above, former residents who were in institutional care settings often
have severe mental health problems they are not identified as a specific
sub-group under the strategy.
There has been a general trend towards providing mental
health services in community settings and the Committee supports these moves as
they may better address the particular needs of care leavers who are invariably
suspicious of 'institutional-type' settings. Public community mental health
services include community based services such as mobile treatment teams and
community residential services staffed either on a full-time or part time
Depression and suicide were also identified as key
problems facing many care leavers. Some government initiatives have been
implemented in this area. Under the National Mental Health Strategy a National Action
Plan for Depression has been developed jointly between the Commonwealth and
State Governments and community representatives. The Plan provides a framework
to address depression across the health care continuum and covers a number of
interventions including prevention and early intervention; assessment and
treatment of depressive disorders; and research needs.
In 2000 the Commonwealth Government launched the National
Depression Initiative, which is being implemented through beyondblue, an independent public company. Beyondblue, which is funded by the Commonwealth and most States,
launched the maturityblues initiative
in June 2004, which will address depression in the elderly and those in aged
care. Maturityblues aims to raise
awareness of depression in older people and its impact on family members and
carers; inform policies regarding depression in the areas of aged, health and
community care; primary care; acute care and residential care; and improve
diagnosis and treatment.
also has in place a National Suicide Prevention Strategy. The Strategy aims to
support national suicide prevention strategies across the life span; and
implement a strategic framework for a whole of government and whole of
community approach to suicide prevention. The Strategy, while it has a
particular focus on youth suicide, also focuses on groups identified as being
at high risk, including the elderly, people with mental illnesses, people with
substance abuse problems, rural residents and prisoners. Many of
these high risk groups would include care leavers although ex-residents of
institutions are not a specific target group under the strategy.
The Committee considers it beneficial that these initiatives
focus on a whole of government and whole of community approach. However, the
Committee believes that it is important that these various initiatives recognise
the particular needs of care leavers. As many individual care leavers are most unlikely
to know that these programs are in operation, the Committee also considers that
information about these programs should be widely disseminated to care leaver support
and advocacy groups.
Evidence to the Committee emphasised that it was
important to recognise the aged care needs of care leavers, especially as they
represent an ageing group in the population. CLAN indicated that most of its
membership is in the 40 to 60 years old age ranges - thus for older care
leavers aged care issues are important.
An academic researcher in the area of ageing reinforced
this point noting that many care leavers who are now in their middle and older
...will have particular issues as they age and service providers
are currently unaware of these issues...Additionally the broader population
needs to be aware of these issues so that services now and into the future can
be better able to respond to this group in our community.
Concerns were raised during the inquiry especially in
relation to the appropriateness of current residential care arrangements. Evidence
to the inquiry indicates that there needs to be a careful assessment of the
type of residential aged care facility provided as many former care leavers are
suspicious of 'institutional-type' facilities. Ms
Sheedy of CLAN noted:
I personally have told my kids, "You're not putting me in a
home when I get old; I've already been in one and I'm not going back to one"...The
people who make their living from looking after the aged need to be aware of
our category of people because some of us are going to end up in nursing homes...How
are the staff going to be able to meet our needs if they are not aware of us? 
The Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA)
is currently undertaking a number of trials focusing on innovative residential
care models. The Aged Care Innovative Pool tests innovative models of aged care
services for specific target groups. The projects to date have included the
acute care/aged care interface - these projects combine rehabilitation services
with aged care support for older people after a hospital stay; the
disability/aged care interface - projects combine aged care with disability
support to enable people with a disability who are ageing to remain in their
current living environment; and new service models for people with dementia. The
Committee believes that models such as these could be trialled addressing the
particular needs of care leavers. The Committee notes that the Commonwealth currently
funds programs for special needs groups. For example, funding is provided to improve
access by culturally and linguistically diverse communities to culturally
appropriate aged care services and for flexible aged care services for the indigenous
As noted above, older care leavers - along with most
older people needing care - would prefer to receive this care in their own
homes whenever possible. The Committee notes that a number of programs are in
place to assist people live independently in their own homes, and in their own
communities, with access to community care when needed. The Home and Community
Care (HACC) program provides care, including assistance with daily living
activities, in people's homes. HACC services include nursing, personal care,
domestic assistance, delivered meals, day care, transport and home modification
and maintenance. This care helps delay or prevent the need for residential
care. The HACC program provided care services to 700 000 clients in
2002-03. Community Aged Care Packages support frail aged older people with
complex conditions in their own homes and give increased choice to remain at
home rather than use residential care. The Extended Aged Care at Home program
also provides high-level aged care to people in their own homes.
The Committee supports these programs and believes that
they should be promoted and extended where possible as a means of assisting
care leavers - and older people generally - to remain in their own homes. Information
about the programs should also be widely disseminated to care leaver support
and advocacy groups.
The Committee believes that the health care and aged
care needs of care leavers need to be addressed urgently. Many care leavers are
highly traumatised people with major psychiatric disabilities and major
psychological problems. The Committee notes that there are a number of
initiatives at the Commonwealth and State level that address issues related to
mental health, depression and suicide prevention. The Committee is pleased that
many of these approaches take a whole of government approach recognising the
complex needs of people facing these problems and the need for an integrated
approach in addressing these problems. The Committee also believes that all
these programs should focus on the particular needs of care leavers.
The Committee also considers that the aged care needs
of care leavers need to be addressed and supports the trialling, under the Aged
Care Innovative Pool funding, of innovative models of aged care for this target
group. The Committee also believes that programs to assist people remain in
their own homes, with access to community care when needed, should be promoted
and adequately funded.
The Committee further considers that because so many
care leavers who could benefit from these programs are marginalised in society
and would be unaware of these services and how to access them, it is imperative
that the government is proactive in disseminating information about them. Information
about the programs should be widely available to care leaver support and
That the Commonwealth and State Governments in
providing funding for health care and in the development of health prevention
programs, especially mental health, depression, suicide prevention and drug and
alcohol prevention programs, recognise and cater for the health needs and requirements
of care leavers.
That the Department of Health and Ageing fund a pilot
program under the Aged Care Innovative Pool to test innovative models of aged care
services focussing on the specific needs
of care leavers.
That the Home and Community Care program recognise the
particular needs of care leavers; and that information about the program be
widely disseminated to care leaver support and advocacy groups in all States.
Housing and homelessness
Evidence to the inquiry indicated that care leavers
often experience problems in accessing affordable housing. Many are in low
paying jobs that means that public housing or rental accommodation is often the
only housing option. The Committee also received evidence that many care
leavers are homeless or at risk of homelessness. One witness
I was involved in the Burdekin inquiry into homeless children
and young people in the late 1980s...One of the conclusions that we came to
there, which I could back up from my own anecdotal experience, was that one of
the best ways of becoming homeless was to be placed in the care of the state'.
The Positive Justice Centre noted that care leavers
make up a high proportion of the users of the Supported Accommodation
Assistance Program (SAAP) services but 'there has never been an admission that
care leavers make up a distinct group within those services requiring special
forms of redress'.
SAAP, which is jointly funded by the Commonwealth and the States, provides
transitional supported accommodation and other services to people who are
homeless or at risk of homelessness.
One witness pointed to the lack of specific data and
information on homeless care leavers in the SAAP program. The witness,
referring to the Burdekin report into homelessness, stated that:
...[the report] found that 50 per cent of homeless children had
been in the care of the state but, barring some miraculous transformation for
care leavers, you would not know this from the homelessness and SAAP services.
Apart from a few inquiries, you will find absolutely no reference to care
leavers in the literature generated by the service providers.
The Committee believes that the needs of homeless care
leavers should be addressed and that the SAAP program needs to recognise and respond
to their particular needs and the requirements of this particularly vulnerable
group. Information about the program also should be made widely available to
care leaver support groups.
That the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program
recognise the particular needs of care leavers; and that:
data on the usage of the Program by care leavers
be collected; and
information about the Program be widely
disseminated to care leaver support and advocacy groups in all States.
Adult literacy and numeracy and other education
As noted in earlier chapters, due to the lack of
education received in many institutions, many care leavers left the
institutions with a serious lack of literacy and numeracy skills - which have
remained with them throughout life. There remains a substantial need for adult
literacy and numeracy and other education services to be provided to care
A range of services are currently provided. The States
fund courses in adult literacy and numeracy through TAFE institutions - most of
these courses are free or a small fee is charged. The Commonwealth, under the
Language, Literacy and Numeracy Programme, provides literacy and numeracy
training to eligible job seekers whose skills are below the level considered
necessary to secure sustainable employment or pursue further education and
training. These courses are provided free of charge. Private training providers
also offer courses on a fee for service basis. Community-based groups also
provide literacy programs. In Western Australia Read Write Now!, a community-based volunteer group that has
provided adult literacy tutoring since 1977, offers professional one-on-one
assistance to adults wanting to improve their literacy skills.
assistance for educational expenses is one of a number of items provided
through the Forde Foundation for ex-residents. CBERSS runs an adult education
course to improve the literacy skills of ex-residents of Christian
Brothers institutions in Western
During the inquiry some care leavers also indicated
that they would have liked to further their education in later life - some have
succeeded in pursuing further studies, although others indicated that they
found further education too difficult for a variety of reasons. Some care
leavers indicated a degree of embarrassment in adult education classes - which
emphasises the importance for many of one-on-one tutoring assistance.
It was not until my late forties that I obtained an education,
even though I made many attempts prior to this. I paid a friend to teach me how
to write...I'm currently attending Melbourne University and am halfway though a
Bachelor of Arts degree, receiving very high marks for my work in all subjects
so far. (Sub 166)
Committee was heartened to hear stories such as these from care leavers who
have pursued further education often under difficult circumstances.
Submissions argued that educational opportunities
should be extended for care leavers. One submission argued that state wards
should have access to HECS-exempt tertiary courses as the cost of courses
provides a disincentive for many care leavers who would like to undertake these
The Committee notes that the Queensland University of
Technology (QUT) in Brisbane
has an initiative that assists ex residents of State or Church institutions,
and those whose parents were in these institutions, to access courses at the
University. The proposal entails an alternative entry pathway involving lower
entry scores to courses for ex residents and includes an orientation program to
help with transition into university. The proposal is part of the QUT's Q-Step
program - an alternative entry program targeting students from low income backgrounds.
The Committee believes that literacy and numeracy
courses and associated adult education courses should be made available to care
leavers where they feel that they would benefit from such courses. The
Committee notes that the States currently provide such courses through TAFE
institutions and the Commonwealth also provides some assistance in this area.
The Committee believes that Church groups and agencies should
provide information on adult literacy and numeracy courses to ex residents and
fund these courses as part of the package of measures offered to former
residents where care leavers indicate a preference for one-on-one private
tutoring. The Committee further considers that the Commonwealth and the States should
widely publicise the availability of adult literacy and numeracy education
courses to care leavers and care leaver support groups.
The Committee also believes that opportunities for
further education for care leavers should be encouraged. It notes the
initiative of the Queensland University of Technology in developing alternative
entry pathways for ex-residents and their children to access its courses and
encourages other States to initiate similar developments.
That the Commonwealth and State Governments widely
publicise the availability of adult literacy and numeracy services and
associated adult education courses to care leavers and care leaver support
That State Governments investigate options for
alternative entry pathways to higher education courses for ex-residents of
institutions and their children.
Evidence pointed to the need for data to be collected
on the particular needs of care leavers, especially the need for services and
other supports. Despite the fact that care leavers feature prominently in
prison populations, have high unemployment levels, and have high rates of
suicide, drug and alcohol addiction and mental health problems, policy makers
or governments do not seem to be making the link between being in care and
later problems in life:
...while one in five adult prisoners and one in three juvenile
prisoners have been in care, no acknowledgement of this exists in the criminal
justice system. The failure of organisations such as the courts...and all the
various schools of criminology in universities across this country to even
recognise that this representation exists shows how effective the total
exclusion of care leavers is. It also represents a major missed opportunity to
develop crime prevention policies and programs that actually work. What is
needed is an acknowledgement that care leavers exist in disproportionate
numbers across myriad social services.
A care leaver suggested that state child protection
departments examine child registers to track people through the services:
...you can run it through a survey...and then look at the outcomes.
You can look at mental health, imprisonment, court records and drug and alcohol
issues. You can look at coronial records and see how many people died at young
ages, and at Centrelink records - all those sorts of things.
Some care leavers consider that agencies such as
Centrelink do not know how to deal with people who have been in institutions. 'Have you been in care' type questions on
such forms would inform staff of a care leaver's background - and the
likelihood of a traumatic childhood:
Yes, so it is: "That is who I am; that is where I
belong." If only the day could come when we could say, "I grew up in
care", and people would say: "That would have been terrible".
...when I look at intake forms for penitentiaries, there is
nothing there about what your background is, whether you were brought up in
care, whether you were an adopted person or whether you were a foster care
person. There is no reason why these simple, basic questions cannot be put into
admittance forms in a whole range of places, including mental health
Broken Rites also argued that data needs to be
collected about care leavers:
Perhaps we can start to capture data from simple questions on
Centrelink forms, Medicare, court and prison documents, such as: were you
raised in institutional care? Tick. Over time, you will download a huge amount
of information that can then be interrelated to the use of health services,
housing services et cetera...they are very simple things.
A view was strongly put that if people are identified
as care leavers this could 'stigmatise them'. Many care leavers expressed the
view that they already feel stigmatised. However,
Broken Rites made the point that such an initiative would have to be done on a
The collection of data across a range of areas has
obvious worth in assisting policymakers develop an understanding as to what
services and assistance are required for care leavers and the Commonwealth is
well placed to take a lead in collecting such data.
Evidence also suggested that the Commonwealth and the
States, in preparing publications and other material on services and programs
need to include reference to specific initiatives for care leavers. Evidence
suggests that care leavers are disproportionately high users of a range of
social services but little reference is ever made to them in the literature
about these programs and services.
That the Commonwealth, in conjunction with the States,
develop procedures for the collection of data on people who have been in care
on forms that are already used to elicit client information such as Medicare
and Centrelink forms and admission forms to prisons, mental health care
facilities and aged care facilities.
That Commonwealth and State programs across a range of
social policy areas, including health and aged care and social welfare services
generally, explicitly recognise care leavers as a sub-group with specific
requirements in the publications and other material disseminated about
Conclusion - improving service provision
Evidence to the Committee indicates that the level and
range of services provided by State Governments and the Churches and agencies
for care leavers is inadequate. The services that are available vary between States
and between agencies and services that are available are generally limited and
poorly coordinated. Available services are largely a 'lottery' dependent on the
State in which the care leaver resides or the type and range of services
provided by the Church or agency. Use of these services is further dependent on
whether or not the care leaver feels able to access the particular service given
the past negative experiences many have had whilst in institutions operated by
Evidence called for more services to be provided and
that there be greater coordination in the delivery of services between State
funded services and those provided by the Churches and agencies. CBERSS
...[a problem] is the number of organizations now providing
assistance in diverse ways and to different groups of children formerly in
institutional care. Different funding sources and organizational mandates have
meant that it is often confusing for people to know how to access services.
Lengthy and unresolved legal issues, limited channels for support and
assistance; fragmentation of services and hostility between some services have
added to their distress.
As the needs of care leavers encompass a broad range of
areas including health, housing, education, advocacy and support services and
welfare services, evidence called for a greater whole of government approach in
the delivery of these services, recognising that care leavers have particular
needs and requirements. The
Committee believes that a national strategy needs to be developed involving all
levels of government - and involving the Churches and agencies - to ensure that
programs and services are delivered to care leavers in a coordinated and
systematic manner. Such an approach would provide for the development of a set
of integrated policies covering a range of areas including income support,
health, housing, aged care services and support services. As these policy areas
cross a number of jurisdictional responsibilities the Committee considers that
the Council of Australian Governments is the appropriate forum to advance these
That the Commonwealth and the States commit, through
the Council of Australian Governments, to implementing a whole of government
approach to the provision of programs and services for care leavers across
policy areas such as health, housing and welfare and community services and
other relevant policy areas.