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Forgotten Australian Josephine ‘Jo’ is a Forgotten Australian and one of Helping Hand Aged Care’s Real Care The Second Time Around’s co-design forum members. Members of the project’s co-design forum identify as Forgotten Australians/Care Leavers.    

Jo has been advocating for Forgotten Australians/Care Leavers for many years and has had her artwork and recording of her childhood experiences exhibited through the National Museum of Australia’s Inside: Life in Children’s Homes and Institutions (2011-2014) exhibition. The exhibition was launched on the second anniversary of the 16 November 2009 Australian Government’s National Apology to Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants. 

Jo, age sixty, was one of the 500,000 children who were banished to abusive homes and institutions last century. Over 400,000 of these children were non-Indigenous, 50,000 were Indigenous children from the Stolen Generations, and approximately 10,000 were Former Child Migrants. She says,

It’s important to be recognised. I say I’m a forgotten remembered Australian.

Jo, of Adelaide, grew up in a New South Wales orphanage from about the age of three, before she was “handed back” to her mother at twelve years of age. Her mother, though, was not able to care for Jo because of her own health issues. One of Jo’s fifteen siblings—many of whom she does not know—picked her up months later and drove her to Glenelg, where she was left on the streets to fend for herself. She said,

In the orphanage we were brought up being told `you’re no good’ and `you’ll never achieve anything’. It’s really hard to realise that you are capable and that the things that happen in your childhood are not your fault.

Since leaving care Jo has trained as a chef, undertaking numerous skills courses, and she has raised her own children. 

Jo has three children. The first child was taken away without Jo’s consent, but years later sought out and contacted Jo. She said,

I wanted to break that cycle. I fought hard to bring up my other two children.

Jo said remnants of her childhood—chronic post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder—still have an effect on her life, but she is doing her best to create a better life. She said,

I always think `how can I make this better?’ You’ve got to try to turn a negative into a positive.

Since joining the Real Care The Second Time Around project, Jo said that she finally feels someone is listening and she is excited that Helping Hand Aged Care, through the project, is raising the awareness of Forgotten Australians/Care Leavers and responding to the aged care needs of this group.   

Jo said she was honoured to be part of the Helping Hand project and has developed trust with the project team – Meg and Fran. “This is so important”, said Jo.  

When you’re telling your story, you want to tell it to people you know care. You’re also healing but helping others at the same time.

References

Image provided by Jo