Apologising to the forgotten australians

Nicholas Kostyn (pictured) said he felt “numb” and “shock” when he found out the federal government would make an apology to the 500,000 people that have become known as the Forgotten Australians by the end of the year.

Nicholas is part of that group of people who were placed in orphanages and children's homes between 1930 and 1980 and suffered a litany of emotional, physical and sexual abuse. He has been lobbying for the government to implement the 39 recommendations of a Senate inquiry into their plight, the first of which was a formal apology.

But he had been told by political insiders not to expect it to happen within this term of government.

“This is something I didn't expect to happen in my lifetime, but it will make a huge difference to our lives,” he said. “This is the first of 39 recommendations and probably the most significant step, but without the others it runs a risk of being hollow rhetoric.”

Jenny Macklin, the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs said, “the abuse and neglect suffered by many children in institutional or other out-of-home care during the last century was unacceptable” and the federal government accepts it is time to apologise on behalf of the nation.

She said the government would work with the opposition to develop a remembrance event.

“We will also be consulting broadly with state and territory governments, past care providers and those affected by these practices to develop the apology and the path ahead,” Ms Macklin said. “To further help the healing process, the Government is also providing $300,000 each to both the Alliance for Forgotten Australians (AFA) and the Care Leavers Australia Network (CLAN), over the next two years. We will work with these organisations to make sure that care leavers can get the practical support and information they need.

“We will work with the National Library of Australia, the National Museum of Australia and those who have suffered in the past on how to best to record, for the historical record, the experiences of the Forgotten Australians, former child migrants, and women and children affected by past adoption practices.”

Nicholas Kostyn is hoping that locally, a contact point can be established for individuals or families affected to make contact and find out what services and assistance are available to them. He will also keep lobbying for compensation and for other services such as specialised counselling and programs that tackle health and housing issues, as well as numeracy, literacy and other education services to be adopted as recommended by the 2004 Senate inquiry.

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