#UniResearchChangesLives – Find and Connect web resource
The Find & Connect web resource is a part of a nationwide program. It is the most comprehensive resource of child welfare in Australia, and the only one of its type in the world. State and Territory based support services rely on the resource to assist those who spent time in care locate and access the records that were created about them.
Over 500,000 Australians spent time in out of home care between 1920 and 1990, many of them in large institutions like orphanages or reformatories. Many became isolated from their families, were moved between institutions with no way of remembering who they were or where they had been, and some had their names changed (or were referred to by numbers).
Institutions at the time created records which could contain important details of the children’s everyday lives – where they lived, the names of a parent or sibling, medical information, photographs – information essential to identity.
In 2009 The Australian Government apologised to those who had been placed in institutions, where abuse and deprivation was rampant, and from there Find and Connect was established to provide support to those who had became known as Forgotten Australians or Care Leavers.
The Find & Connect web resource team joined the Faculty of Arts in September 2020, moving on from the Escholarship Resource Centre which was disestablished in mid-2020. Our team is located with the Digital Studio, and we have links to Social Work MDHS through Professor Cathy Humphries, our Chief Investigator (CI). (Emeritus Professor Shurlee Swain from the Australian Catholic University and Associate Professor Gavan McCarthy from the Faculty of Arts are also CI’s on this project).
Those who were in care use it to track down records independently, to discover the history of institutions they lived in, to use the map to determine which institutions they were in based on their memories of place, and to see photos and images, where they exist.
Engagement with academics, community organisations and individuals affected by the history of child care in Australia has been an important tool in the development of the site, and it has been used extensively as a resource in the recent Royal Commission; been cited in a number of academic and non-academic publications; and is used by public policymakers.
Find & Connect is by no means a purely academic venture, and our research is enriched and shaped by our focus outward into the community, and their engagement with us. We work in collaboration with those the site was developed for – Care Leavers, to ensure our information is useful, accessible and respectful.
Our collaborative approach to using research to provide a community service was recently recognised by Universities Australia in their Keep It Clever #UniResearchChangesLives campaign. The video below features Greg Baker, a Care Leaver and valued contributor to Find & Connect, and Professor Cathy Humphreys explaining the importance of records for people who spent time in care, and how we work with Care Leavers and researchers to help fill in some of the gaps that opened up when children were removed from their family.