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Inside: Life in Children's Homes and Institutions Exhibition

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by Slang (subscribe)
Graphic designer and cyclist who enjoys the world of words...
Challenging, confronting, and beautifully honest
exhibition, photography, history
Children waiting to be immunised

"Get the dinosaurs out of the museum, and dedicate it to the orphanages and children".
Care Leavers Australia Network (CLAN)

Inside: Life in Children's Homes and Institutions is an exhibition that was promised to the nation in the National Apology to the Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants delivered by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on 16 November 2009 in Canberra.

The timing of this exhibition is incredibly pertinent, particularly given the amount of press coverage and the overwhelming weight of so many dark, unanswered questions. We are invited to observe, for only a fraction of the time what children had to endure, a life that seems so far apart from what should have happened - the genuine care of children in this country.

exhibition, photography, history
Girls at the Havilah Little Children's Home, Wahroonga, New South Wales

To quote from the exhibition website, because it cannot be worded any more aptly: "Inside: Life in Children's Homes and Institutions is an exhibition based on personal histories of ... all those who who experienced institutional care as children. It is a voice for those who were inside and a chance for others to understand."

The exhibition started its life over two years ago - the only object in the museums' collection at the time was a fundraising button. Most of the objects now on display have been donated or lent by people who have spent time in homes. Photos, precious objects and stories - the exhibition has been made by the people who endured time inside institutions. There are no staff or family contributions - only the children's voices are heard here.

It is alarming to note that many of the people who's personal belongings and images are on display, have taken their own lives, or their lives were taken from them, and for this reason there is a warning that this exhibition contains confronting and disturbing content, and names and images of deceased people. It may not be suitable for children under 15 years.

Approximately 500,000 children were placed in about 800 homes, orphanages, training schools, reformatories and other "care" institutions over the course of the twentieth century. Of the staggering half a million souls, about a tenth were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander peoples. A smaller number, about 7000, were British and Maltese child migrants. Startlingly, only a tiny minority were actually orphans. Some children spent a relatively short time in these places while others spent their entire childhood 'inside'.

history, exhibition, photography
Children at Montrose Infants Home, Burwood, New South Wales, 1949

An extraordinarily important exhibition, it faces things previously denied and buried. Viewed by some as "the black arm band of history", the stories embraced here are gutsy and game, and shed light on each and every experience featured, helping us to understand our past, and our future. Because what happened to these children must never happen again - the lack of love, warmth and affection is both heart breaking and heart rending.

history, exhibition, photography
Mittagong Boys Home, New South Wales

To coincide with Inside, a Find & Connect service has gone live, to help family tracing right across Australia:

Jenny Macklin, Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affair, described the exhibition during her opening speech in Canberra as "difficult, very difficult..."

The actor and poet, Jack Thompson says more starkly, "let us look this thing in the face". And that is what we should do.

Inside: Life in Children's Homes and Institutions is a travelling exhibition developed and presented by the National Museum of Australia and supported by the Australian Government Department of Social Services.
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Why? Let our histories be visible
When: 9:30am-5:00pm, Fri 14 Mar 2014 through to Sun 29 Jun 2014
Phone: (08) 9431 8334
Where: Western Australian Maritime Museum, Victoria Quay, Fremantle
Cost: Free
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