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Charlie Walker (circa 1936-2021), advocate for Forgotten Australians, and self-described ‘Charlie the Ratbag’, was in orphanages and children’s homes as a child.

Charlie Walker was only nine days old when he was abandoned at the St Joseph’s Foundling Hospital in Broadmeadows, Victoria. Charlie considered himself lucky to have survived given the rampant diseases in the Hospital at the time.

Charlie later lived in St. Anthony’s Boys Home in Kew, St. Joseph’s in Surry Hills. He was sent to St. Augustine’s Orphanage in Geelong at the age of nine.

Religion was a dominant theme at St Augustine’s:

…every morning we went to mass. Before we started school, we said a prayer. Half past twelve, we said more prayers, after tea, we had benediction, seven days a week. And that was a lot. And when I left the orphanage, I hardly went to church (Charlie Walker Interview).

At age fifteen, Charlie was made to leave St Augustine’s. He and some other boys were taken out of class, given new clothes, and put on a train to Melbourne and collected from Spencer Street Station. In Melbourne, Charlie was assigned to work for a horse trainer where he was badly abused. So he fled and lived in the streets of Melbourne. He was not yet eighteen.

Although I was surviving, I was scavenging, I used to knock off stuff from Victoria Market, fruit on the weekend…people leave the money out for the milk and … I used to pinch the money…We used to knock off the wallets down at Flint Street Station in rush hour. And I had to give that away because…it was too dangerous (Charlie Walker Interview).

Charlie was highly resourceful and worked hard to improve his life. He moved to Kerang in Victoria where he worked on several farms until he was conscripted into the army in 1956. He later became an A-grade jumping jockey and worked various other jobs including as a bird smuggler.

After his wife died, Charles was left to raise his four daughters, aged eight to fifteen, on his own. He was determined to give his daughters the love and protection he never experienced.

Later in life, Charlie became an advocate for Forgotten Australians by raising awareness and exposing the injustices of the ‘care’ system and corruption in certain government agencies. He was a self-titled “government agitator” and would regularly protest at Parliament House.

Charlie also wrote the story of his life, Charlie, the Ratbag orphan: an Orphan Survivor in Australia (2010), which was launched by Senator Claire Moore, Labor Senator for Queensland during the 10th-anniversary celebrations of CLAN (Care Leavers Australasia Network).

Charlie became terminally ill in 2020. He found it difficult to enter hospital due to his mistrust of government institutions. These fears were founded on the lack of compassion and understanding he experienced whilst there.

Charlie Walker was still advocating and agitating until the days before his death. This included speaking to the Aged Care Royal Commission about the lack of knowledge and the need for training of staff to better support the aging Forgotten Australian population in hospitals and aged care facilities. He was particularly concerned about the possible maltreatment of this group, many of whom have no families to be a voice for them.

A funeral service for Charlie ‘the Rat Bag’ Walker was held on Monday 22 February 2021 at the St Pius Catholic Church in West Heidelberg, Victoria.


“Charlie Walker interviewed by Rob Willis in the Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants oral history project (2010).” National Library of Australia, 2010.

“St Anthony’s Children’s Home (1921-1943).” Find & Connect, 2021.

“St Augustine’s Orphanage (1939-1966).” Find & Connect, 2023.

“St Joseph’s Foundling Hospital (1901-1975).” Find & Connect, 2021.

McGeary, Kayt, & Michell, Dee. “CEHM, what’s been and what’s to come.” Find & Connect, 19 April 2021.

The image, supplied, is a photo of Charlie and his grandson.