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What to expect when accessing records about you.
Other Find and Connect resources
Getting help to find records about you
Organisations that provided ‘care’ to children (like children’s homes and orphanages, as well as government departments) created records to help them in their work. If you spent time in an institution as a child, there may be records about your time in ‘care’ that have been kept. You have a right to access these records.
These records can be a valuable source of information about you, your childhood, your family and the story of your time in ‘care’.
Many people have found that the experience of accessing your records has a significant emotional impact, bringing up feelings of anger, hurt, fear, but also sometimes feelings of nostalgia or relief. You can find more information about what to expect here
The search for your records can be complicated and frustrating – but there are many different organisations that can help you find out information about your time in ‘care’, locate and access any personal files that might exist, and give you support throughout the process.
If you are not sure where to start, or you do not want to contact a government agency or past provider directly and would like support from an independent agency, these organisations are there to help. Below are links to their websites with contact information.
Find & Connect Support Service
ACT Find & Connect Support Service is part of the national network delivering support to Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants in the Australian Capital Territory. ACT Find & Connect Support Service will assist and support those people who were in care in Australia from the 1920s to 1989 to:
- Access personalised support and counselling and, where possible, help you to obtain your personal records, trace your history and understand why you were placed into care
- Connect with other services and support networks that may assist you at this time in your life
- Reconnect with family, if this is possible
1800 16 11 09 (free call)
Care Leavers of Australia Network (CLAN)
CLAN offers support to individuals who have been a State Ward, Home child or foster child in Australia, or whose parents or other family members have had this experience. CLAN can help you to obtain your ward file or get information about your Home and you may advertise at no cost in the newsletter to help locate lost family members, or people you remember from your Home and would like to contact.
Telephone: 1800 008 774
Former Child Migrants:
Child Migrants Trust
The Child Migrants Trust has offices in Melbourne and in Perth and provides a range of social work services to child migrants all over Australia, including counselling and support with family reunions. The Child Migrants Trust also provides help with information, advice and family research to former child migrants and their families.
Telephone: (03) 9815 2022 [Melbourne]
Finding your own story
I was a State ward
If you were in ‘care’ as a ward of state, there may be a file, or an index card on you, held by the government department which now operates child and family services in your state.
In the ACT, contact the Freedom of Information Coordinator within the Office for Children Youth and Family Support.
Telephone: (02) 6205 3296
Even if you were a state ward, there may also be records about you held by non-government organisations (if you were placed in a children's home, for example). Getting your state ward records is a good way to start, as they should contain information about all of your placements.
I was not a state ward
Not all children in orphanages, children’s homes, institutions, or foster care were State wards. If you were not a state ward, there probably will not be government records about you. But there may be records in the custody of past providers, or organisations still providing out-of-home care.
Find & Connect Australian Capital Territory can help you find information about Homes, who ran them, what records exist and who you can contact to request access to them. Some of the record-holding organisations have established heritage and information services to help former residents and their families locate and access records.
CLAN’s website contains more information about searching for records if you were not a state ward
To see more organisations that can help, see the Support Groups and Services page.
What if there are no records about me?
Unfortunately, not every person who was in ‘care’ will be able to find and access their records. In the past, records have been lost and even destroyed, meaning that vital and precious information is not available.
Even if you are one of the people whose records no longer exist, there are other historical records that might contain information that helps you to understand your time in ‘care’ – newspaper articles, photographs, books and oral histories can be valuable resources. This Find & Connect website has information from these types of resources relating to particular homes, organisations and events.