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Victorian Indigenous health groups welcome apology for abuse in state institutions

Dechlan Brennan -

The Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation and the Balit Durn Durn Centre have welcomed the Victorian government's formal apology to Victorians who were abused and neglected during their childhood in institutional care.

On Thursday Premier Jacinta Allan formally apologised to the estimated 90,000 Victorian children who were placed into institutions such as orphanages, children's homes and missions run by the state or religious groups between 1928 and 1990.

"To each and every child who was abused, neglected or mistreated – and on behalf of this Parliament, and every Parliament before it – we say sorry," Premier Allan said.

VACCHO chief executive and Gunditjmara woman Jill Gallagher said the apology was a "step in the right direction".

"I'd like to pass on my heartfelt sympathies and condolences to the children, families, and Communities who experienced the devastating and disturbing impacts of these failings," she said.

"The separation from family, Communities, culture, and kin continues to have immeasurable impacts on the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal Communities, and only exacerbates cycles of disadvantage.

Many children were harmed at the hands of protectors in these institutions and a government statement noted: "Some now carry trauma and grief with them as adults, at times leading to poverty or homelessness."

VACCHO and the Balit Durn Durn Centre said these Indigenous children were among the "thousands of young people subjected to abhorrent levels of abuse and neglect while placed in institutional care".

"The trauma inflicted due to this displacement, abuse, and neglect has had severe and lasting impacts, creating additional to cycles of disadvantage and intergenerational trauma," their joint statement said.

"This is yet another example of colonial systems utterly failing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families, leaving Communities with a legacy of grief and trauma that exacerbates mental health and wellbeing challenges."

Colonisation saw many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children forcibly removed from families and communities and placed into institutions.

Balit Durn Durn Centre Executive Director Sheree Lowe said the apology, whilst welcome, would have undoubtedly "triggered many painful memories and emotions for those who endured harm within institutions and their families".

The Gunditjmara, Peek Whurrong, Djab Whurrung, Kirrae Whurrung woman said the "pain, suffering, neglect, and humiliation" young people felt whilst in institutions has contributed to intergenerational trauma, which in turn has led to many growing up without hope and with "limited prospects of a healthy, fulfilling life".

"The atrocities that took place within these institutions serve as a painful reminder of the devastating impacts of the Stolen Generations, the impacts of displacement, the impacts of governments breaking up families and Communities," Ms Lowe said.

"Governments must ensure the mistakes of the past are not repeated by prioritising bolstering Aboriginal organisations to safeguard the resilience of Aboriginal families and support them to be safe and strong."

VACCHO said they are dismayed" Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children continue to be taken into care and away from their families. SNAICC reported last year Indigenous children are 10.5 times more likely to be in out-of-home care than non-Indigenous children.

A government Redress Scheme is under development and will be co-designed with Victorians who grew up in institutional care.

Until the scheme begins, the Victorian Government is providing Advanced Redress payments of $10,000 to people who were physically, psychologically or emotionally abused or neglected as children in institutional care in Victoria before 1990, and who are now critically or terminally ill.

Applications can be made online.

13YARN 13 92 76

Aboriginal Counselling Services 0410 539 905


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