PEOPLE who spent their childhoods in institutional care are campaigning to get a missing memorial back on display after it was removed from the Northbridge Cultural Centre without consultation.
Judith Forrest’s artwork “Unfolding Lives” holds special significance to care leavers. Styled after a child’s “chatterbox” folded paper toy, the sculpture is inscribed with words by author Terri-ann White reflecting care leavers’ experiences, and came about after the 2009 national apology to forgotten Australians.
Not-for-profit organisation Tuart Place represents care leavers; former child migrants, foster children, people who grew up in residential camps like the notorious Bindoon Boys Town, and Stolen Generation members and their descendants.
“It’s really significant,” Tuart Place director Philippa White says of the memorial. People were distressed to find it had been removed without a word.
“Care leavers are a population who’ve been marginalised and given second class treatment throughout their lives.
“This memorial was placed in a really prominent position,” a pleasant surprise to care leavers when it was unveiled in 2010, “and a lot of people were very upset when they found out it wasn’t going to be put back where it was originally located.”
The memorial was removed and put into storage in 2016 as part of the museum upgrades.
Last year care leaver and advocate Mark Farmer began campaigning for the memorial’s reinstatement.
It led to a meeting in March at Tuart Place, attended by care leavers and the commissioner for victims of crime Kati Kraszlan. The commissioner offered an apology for the lack of information provided when it was removed, and noted the memorial had been damaged when it was removed from the plinth. Funding had been made available to repair it.
“The renovation and replacement does lend itself to a really good opportunity for there to be more signage – interactive links so people can find out more information right there on their phones, and also an opportunity for all the institutions in WA to be listed,” Ms White said.
“That emerged as quite important to people, and we actually heard recently the artist would have been quite happy to do that.”
The area it stood on opposite the museum has been extensively changed so a new location is needed, with Kings Park mentioned by some care leavers as a favoured spot.
“It needs to be prominent. People don’t want to see it hidden away as a token thing. They want it to have at least the prominence that it previously had,” she said.
The Voice contacted the office of the commissioner for victims of crime and haven’t heard back yet, but after the March meeting the commissioner’s plan was to relay the care leavers’ feedback to the state government and come back to discuss reinstallation options.
by DAVID BELL