Content warning: Please be aware that this page and the documents linked here may contain information about child sexual abuse, neglect, violence, suicide and other trauma, which may be upsetting or triggering for readers.


Children in Institutional Care and the Forgotten Australians Report

In 2003/04, the Senate Community Affairs References Committee held an inquiry known as ‘Children in Institutional Care’. As a result of this inquiry, two reports were tabled in the Senate.

The Forgotten Australians Report estimated that 500,000 Australians experienced care in an orphanage, home or other form of out of home care during the last century. Many children were placed for reasons such as economic stress and social disadvantage, having a single parent (predominantly unmarried women), divorce, domestic violence, parental alcoholism, a death of a parent, or parents separated by hardship or war.

The Victorian Government’s submission to the inquiry estimated that more than 100,000 children were placed in care in Victoria between 1928 and 2003. It is estimated that 59,000 of the 100,000 were state wards.

The Forgotten Australians Report raises significant social justice issues and reveals a litany of neglect, physical and sexual abuse and criminal assaults perpetrated on vulnerable children in care last century. These children did not have the benefit of growing up within their own family and some did not know their family or the existence of other family members (including siblings) until they were adults.

One of the major themes in the Forgotten Australians Report relates to the significant disadvantage faced by many people who grew up in care. As a direct result of this experience, many Forgotten Australians now face numerous social problems including poverty, substance abuse, relationship and parenting problems, premature death (often from suicide) and other mental and physical health problems. Many continue to suffer from loss of identity and family, feelings of abandonment, a fear of authority and a lack of trust and security.

The Forgotten Australians Report deals with 5 main themes:

  • acknowledgement
  • records and information management
  • service provision
  • service coordination

Open Place coordinates and provides direct assistance to address the needs and issues of people who grew up in care in Victoria, helps people deal with the legacy of their childhood experiences, and provides support to improve their health and wellbeing. 


Earlier reports 

The Forgotten Australians Report is the third report concerned with children who were removed from their families prior to 1990 and placed in institutions or out of home care.

The first report to be released was the ‘Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families’ (April 1997), known as the ‘Bringing Them Home Report’.

In April 2001, the Senate Community Affairs Reference Committee reported on Child Migration and this second report is known as the ‘Lost Innocents Report’. A subsequent report ‘Lost Innocents and Forgotten Australians revisited’ was released in June 2009.