The real Australian story

23 Feb 2010

Historians, policy makers and people institutionalised as children in Australia have called for a rewriting of history at a special event at UNSW.

A panel discussion on the legacy of out-of-home ‘care' in the 1950s to the 1970s was one of the sessions at the recently held Australasian Social Welfare History Workshop.

"These ‘Forgotten Australians' have received an apology from the Prime Minister but the history of the time does not reflect that they often experienced abuse while in care," said panel member Professor Shurlee Swain, from the Australian Catholic University.

Professor Swain said that historians need to work alongside those who were institutionalised to ensure their views are represented.

"Policy made in a vacuum without understanding history is doomed to fail," said one of the workshop convenors, Associate Professor Anne O'Brien from the School of History and Philosophy at UNSW.

"We are improving links between historians and those making policy.

"We also had a larger component of Indigenous welfare history than at previous workshops," she said.

Other themes addressed at the event included:

* disability and mental illness (including ‘Policies for Participation: A History of Disability in the Australian Social Security System' - Bettina Cass, UNSW and Sarah Parker University of Illinois)
* women and welfare, faith-based welfare and Indigenous child welfare
* contemporary social welfare (including ‘The age pension and social citizenship in Australia' - Myra Hamilton, UNSW).