Care Leavers

Care Leavers

A Care Leaver is a person who spent time in care as a child (i.e. under the age of 18). This care could have been foster care, residential care (mainly children’s homes) or another arrangement outside their immediate or extended family. The care may have been provided directly by the state through a court order or voluntarily, or by the private sector.  They have also been called the Forgotten Australians, Former Child Migrants or Stolen Generations. It is estimated that more than 500,000 Australians were institutionalised or in out-of-home ‘care’ during their childhood.

Practice Issues

Aged care has been identified as an area of particular anxiety for Care Leavers given their previous experiences in institutional care. Working with these individuals requires a sympathetic understanding of the mistreatment and loss they experienced during childhood. They are burdened with memories of trauma which create fear and anxiety. If aged care workers can recognise and understand their concerns, their time in aged care can become more positive and engaging.

Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care Caring for Forgotten Australians, Former Child Migrants and Stolen Generations Information Package. Current (freely accessible website)

The Caring for Forgotten Australians, Former Child Migrants and Stolen Generations Information Package shows how early life experiences can affect older people receiving care and help care providers respond to their needs.
Launched in December 2016, the information package for aged care services includes resources:

  • an information booklet covering issues and aged care requirements of Forgotten Australians, Former Child Migrants, and the Stolen Generations
  • a training facilitator guide including case studies on care issues of Forgotten Australians, Former Child Migrants, and Stolen Generations. Carers are encouraged to use this guide to facilitate group discussions and information sessions to other carers.
  • a Presentation for information and training sessions
  • a video to be viewed on YouTube

Alliance for Forgotten Australians. Forgotten Australians: Supporting survivors of childhood institutional care in Australia (284kb pdf). Camberwell (VIC): Alliance for Forgotten Australians; 2014. Current (freely accessible pdf)
This booklet aims to give health and other professionals the background information they need to recognise, relate to and assist people who are experiencing long term trauma because of a childhood spent in orphanages or Homes. This booklet can be used by nurses, mental health professionals, dentists, social workers, counsellors and welfare workers and service delivery organisations.

The Alliance for Forgotten Australians (AFA) Current (freely accessible website)
AFA is a national organisation which promotes the interests of Forgotten Australians, advocates for policies and services to meet their needs, and encourages their inclusion in service planning and delivery. AFA does not itself deliver services. It may be contacted on 0419 854 980 or

Care Leavers Australasia Network (CLAN) Current (freely accessible website)
CLAN is a national, independent, peak membership body which represents, supports and advocates for people who were raised in Australian and New Zealand orphanages, children's homes, foster care and other institutions. CLAN offers free telephone counselling to Care Leavers or family members of a Care Leaver. CLAN also offers face to face counselling for Care Leavers who live in Sydney and Melbourne. CLAN can offer support to members with referral to services plus its library hosts innumerable resources. CLAN can be contacted 1800 008 774 or 0425 204 747 or

You can also contact the national network of Find & Connect Support Services on 1800 161 109 (freecall), which can:

  • provide support and counselling
  • obtain the personal records of Forgotten Australians, trace their history and understand why they were placed into care
  • connect people with other services and support networks
  • where possible, reconnect with family.

Victorian agencies wanting to know more about Forgotten Australians can contact the Community Education Team at Open Place in Victoria on 1800 161 109

The Child Migrants Trust Current (freely accessible website)
The Child Migrants Trust provides support for people who came to Australia as part of the British child migrant schemes after World War II. Services include help with finding records, counselling and support for family reunions.

Real Care the Second Time Around Project Current (freely accessible website)
Helping Hand has worked with Forgotten Australians / Care Leavers across Australia through a co-design process to create a range of resources for aged care. An e-learning program introduces understandings about the impacts of childhood trauma for people now entering aged care. It focuses on the experiences of Forgotten Australians, Stolen Generations, Former Child Migrants, and people affected by forced adoption. Other resources include:

Policy and management considerations

The experiences of Care Leavers have been documented in three separate Senate Community Affairs References Committee inquiries:

All three Senate Inquiries illustrate the struggle that these children face as adults to cope and live a life filled with equal opportunities, as other Australians do.

Associated materials

Fernandez E, Lee J-S, Blunden H, McNamara P, Kovacs S, Cornefert P-A. No Child Should Grow Up Like This: Identifying Long Term Outcomes of Forgotten Australians, Child Migrants and the Stolen Generations (13.23MB pdf). Kensington: University of New South Wales; 2016.
The aim of this study was to explore life experiences of care leavers who have lived in institutions or other forms of out-of-home care as children. Seven hundred Forgotten Australians, members of the Stolen Generations, and Child Migrants participated in surveys, interviews, or focus groups. This the first national research project of its type in Australia and it offers important practical messages to policymakers, service delivery organisations and researchers about supports that these adult cohorts are likely to need, particularly in later life.

O’Neill C. Forgotten Australians in the library: resources relating to Care Leavers in Australian libraries. The Australian Library Journal. 2016;65(3):181-90.
This article provides an overview of the range of library resources documented in the Find & Connect web resource.

Swain S, Sheedy L, O'Neill C. Responding to “Forgotten Australians”: historians and the legacy of out-of-home “care”. J Aust Stud. 2012;36(1):17-28.
This article offers the perspectives of a ‘‘care’’ leaver and two historians on the issues involved in writing a history which is sensitive and responsive to its multiple audiences.

There is limited published research or supports in Australia to inform aged care and palliative care practice in this evolving area.

Page updated 12 July 2022