The power of this project lies within the stories shared by the twenty participants from across our nation, who are just some of our Forgotten Australians. These participants were vulnerable children when they were subjected to child abuse. This abuse was perpetrated by those who were supposed to care for and protect them from harm. Abuse which cannot be forgotten and continues to harm them to this day. Through this project participants have the opportunity to share their stories of violence, in an unquestioning way, and in doing so, make the personal political. Each of the participants courageously shares their experiences to provide a deeply moving testament to its impact on their lives, and the lives of those around them. For each person in the project, there are many more whose stories and lives that are invisible. For them the project provides recognition that they are not isolated in their experiences.
“Why do we want our stories told? Because apologies are simply words which fade away and are forgotten. For us, the abuse will never be forgotten. We will live it our whole life. We don’t want the next generations to suffer lifelong issues as we have. We have suffered financially, medically, mentally and this has impacted our family and friends. It makes it extremely difficult to have trust in anyone or anything. The Royal Commission was a great relief as we were able to tell our stories, but it will be soon swept under the carpet. By continuing to tell our stories, we will keep it in the spotlight. ” – Alby Leffers, Survivor 2018
Participants will be drawn from across a range of ages and who live in urban, regional and remote communities. The diversity of their experiences will include people who identify as part of the stolen generation, people living with a disability, LGBTQI+ and culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Their stories reveal the extent, breadth and complexity of the issues around psychological, sexual physical abuse and physical and emotional neglect. The locations of the abuse are broad: detention centres and prisons, religious and government managed organisations, nursing homes, family, foster and group homes.
The horrors people have experienced cannot be imagined. It has included domestic and cultural violence, forced sterilization, psychological trauma, neglect, human trafficking, workplace violence, cyber bullying, child pornography, sexual abuse, physical and emotional abuse. Victims have been denied access to justice, emergency services, health care and education. Abuse has occurred within families and institutions. Perpetrators may have been men or women, family members, carers, figures of authority or just strangers. Individually or collectively, they all stole the innocence of a child by their actions.
In telling these stories we must not forget those whose voices cannot be heard. Those for whom the abuse is too raw to speak up. Those who chose suicide to escape the pain. Those who are buried in unmarked graves.
We must look to the future. Within the project we ask the participants for an insight to this complex problem. Their story can inform policy to protect future generations.
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