Beyond the Gates: An Arts-based Investigation into the `Forgotten Australians?

Ann Horner, Edith Cowan University

Originaly published as: Horner, A. (2016). Beyond the Gates: An Arts-based Investigation into the ‘Forgotten Australians’ (c.1940- 1970). Paper presented at 11th Annual Limina Conference Beyond Boundaries: Recognition, Tolerance, Change in Perth, Western Australia in July 2016.


This paper asserts primacy of creative practice as a key method of enquiry and explores how fictional stories re-imagined from historical events of the mid-twentieth century may provide different ways of viewing a world which was inhabited by once silenced children, now known as the ‘forgotten Australians’. Overwhelming evidence reveals a culture of endemic abuse within Australian child welfare organisations whereby harm was done to children in the context of policies and programmes that were designed to provide care and protection. During this era, ideologies underpinning community beliefs were patriarchal, conservative and insular. It was purported that children were ‘committed’ to imposing, regimentally run institutions ‘for their own good’. Sources cross the boundaries of history, psychology, sociology, philosophy and literary studies. This paper exposes the blurred boundaries which exist between fiction and nonfiction; personal and social memory; official and unofficial narrative; knowing and not-knowing the past. In doing so, it acknowledges that although there can be no single narrative of history, fictional narratives provide another conduit into stories from the past and have the potential to act as agents for social change.