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Walter Jacobsen (b. 1918) was left as a baby with his maternal grandparents in South Melbourne. Three years later, he was made a ward of the state of Victoria by the Children’s Court when his grandparents rejected him. Walter had fond memories of his initial placement at the Royal Park Depot. This was followed by a series of unsatisfactory foster placements.  

Walter, or ‘Jake’ as he was called, lived with the Werners in country Victoria for eleven years. His previous experiences in foster homes made Jake reluctant to leave Royal Park to live with the Werners. His unhappiness only increased over time due to physical and emotional abuse at the hands of his foster mother. Walter was also stigmatised by children at school and the other foster children in the home, who were given the surname Werner. At age fourteen, Walter ran away and returned to Royal Park. 

At age sixteen, Walter learned the names of his parents after he applied for a copy of his birth certificate for proof of age. This gave him “some slight sense of identity” (Jacobsen). He also learned that he had three sisters who were all in foster care. Then at the age of eighteen, Walter successfully gained custody of his youngest sister, twelve-year-old Joan. This arrangement meant that although Joan would remain a ward of the state, Walter would be consulted before the child could be moved. 

As a young man, Walter went on to work on a farm and then in a factory in inner Melbourne. Walter was determined to make a better life for himself and  decided to improve his education. In September 1939, he took up a job at the University of Melbourne as a technical assistant in the Chemistry Department. He later joined the Royal Australian Air Force during World War II. 

Jacobsen wrote of his childhood experiences in his 1994 book, Dussa and The Maiden’s Prayer. 


Jacobsen, Walter. Dussa and The Maiden’s Prayer. Melbourne, The Law Printer, 1994. 

“Royal Park Depot (1880 – 1955).” Find & Connect, 2019.