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‘There's More to be Done; “Sorry” is Just a Word’: Legacies of Out-of-Home Care in the 20th Century

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 September 2017

Elizabeth Fernandez*
School of Social Sciences, UNSW, G56 Morven Brown Building, UNSW Australia, High Street, Randwick, NSW, 2052, Australia
Jung-Sook Lee
School of Social Sciences, UNSW
Wendy Foote
Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Association of Children's Welfare Agencies
Hazel Blunden
School of Social Sciences, UNSW
Patricia McNamara
School of Social Sciences, UNSW
Szilvia Kovacs
School of Social Sciences, UNSW
Paul-Auguste Cornefert
School of Social Sciences, UNSW
address for correspondence: Professor Elizabeth Fernandez, School of Social Sciences, UNSW, G56 Morven Brown Building, UNSW Australia, High Street, Randwick, NSW 2052, Australia. E-mail:


This research explored the experiences of care leavers, who lived in institutions (such as Children's Homes and orphanages) or other forms of out-of-home care between 1930 and 1989. Participants included representatives of three sub-cohorts: Forgotten Australians, members of the Stolen Generations and Child Migrants. Employing mixed methods, this research used three forms of data collection: surveys (n = 669), interviews (n = 92) and focus groups (n = 77). This research concentrated on participants’ experiences in care, leaving care, life outcomes after care (education, employment, health, wellbeing and relationships), coping strategies and resilience, current service needs and usage and participation in organisations as well as the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Most participants experienced extreme neglect and abuse while in care. Leaving care, often after years of institutionalisation, was generally a frightening and demoralising process. Despite these challenges, a number of participants demonstrated remarkable resilience. For many, however, these experiences had negative consequences in adulthood including serious physical and mental health problems. This often made adult learning, paid employment and positive relationships virtually impossible. Most survivors carry high levels of trauma and complex unmet needs. Implications for policy, practice and services are drawn from key findings.

PART B: Issue 3 papers: Articles
Copyright © The Author(s) 2017 

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