Museum recognises care leavers

CLAN chief executive office Leonie Sheedy and president Robert House with the keys to the new home of the Australian Orphanage Museum.

By Luke Voogt

A year-long search for a permanent home for the Australian Orphanage Museum has ended with Care Leavers Australasian Network (CLAN) announcing a new central Geelong site.

A house at 351 Ryrie Street will be the home for the museum, which CLAN chief executive officer Leonie Sheedy described as deeply important for care leavers and their families.

“It will trigger a lot of emotions but there’s also a wonderful sense of belonging,” Ms Sheedy said.

“Most importantly, it acknowledges care leavers’ history, which is extremely important to all of us and should also be recognised by the whole Australian community.

“What happened to us – the sexual violence, institutionalised abuse, the emotional cruelty, the separation of our families, the child labour and the loneliness and isolation – must never be swept under the carpet again.

“We were just children and we had no-one to turn to.”

The museum features an extensive collection of artefacts, memorabilia and photographs from orphanages around the country or donated by care leavers.

“Many clannies have given large financial donations to the museum,” Ms Sheedy said.

“That shows the value they place in the orphanage museum.”

The Australian Orphanage Museum was established in Sydney in 2000 and relocated to a temporary site on McKillop Street in central Geelong in 2019.

The museum moved recently to the permanent site on Ryrie Street, where it will pay homage to the history of Geelong’s 13 orphanages, the most outside any Australian capital city.

The relocation has been years in the making for CLAN, which for two decades has advocated for people abused sexually, physically and emotionally in orphanages and other care institutions.

“CLAN would like to thank the federal government for $2 million in funding toward the museum and everyone else who contributed,” Ms Sheedy said.

“We look forward to opening the Australian Orphanage Museum at its new site in 2021.”

She thanked Kevin Roache, and Brendan O’Loan from St Quentin Consulting for their pro bono assistance, along with MPs Richard Marles and John Eren, and Geelong council for their support.