Stories from Ballarat Orphanage told in new exhibition

Fundraising collection box, Ballarat Orphanage
Fundraising collection box, Ballarat Orphanage, Ballarat, Victoria
Image: National Museum of Australia
Source: National Museum of Australia

Media contact: Alex Dook

A new exhibition featuring untold stories from 20th-century children’s institutions, such as the Ballarat Orphanage, has opened at Melbourne Museum.

Inside: Life in Children’s Homes and Institutions tells the poignant stories of some of the 500,000 Australians who have lived in Children’s Homes or Institutions, including Frank Golding, who lived with his two brothers in the Ballarat Orphanage from 1943 to 1953. In 2005, Mr Golding published a book about his experiences called An Orphan’s Escape.

‘I arrived at the Ballarat Orphanage when I was four, but my brothers and I weren’t actually orphans,’ said Mr Golding. ‘Ninety percent of the kids weren’t orphans; their parents were just not able to after them because of poverty, alcoholism or what we now know as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.’

While many children from Homes and institutions grow up to lead fulfilling and successful lives as adults, others become stuck in a generational cycle of institutional care.

‘It was difficult for children in these institutions to get a proper education, so many of them entered the work force in low paying, labour-intensive jobs. A lot of children also never learnt how a loving family functions, which sometimes caused the disintegration of the families they went on to have as adults. Their own children were then put into state care,’ said Mr Golding.

‘Five generations of the children in my family were in state care. At last we have broken that cycle.’

For Dr Jay Arthur, the curator of Inside, the exhibition is an opportunity to share many difficult, untold stories.

‘Although these individuals may have left the Homes years ago, the Homes do not leave them. The effects of institutionalisation can be life-changing and life-long,’ said Dr Arthur.

‘Visitors to the exhibition can hear from people whose histories have been hidden until very recently, but who have had the courage to tell their often painful personal stories in order to bring that history to national attention.’

The experience of living in an institution as a child is told in Inside through childhood objects, moving artworks, and some of the rare fragments left from these Homes, such as a sign requesting visitors to not touch the babies.

Featuring the words, voices and objects of the Forgotten Australians, former Child Migrants and all those who experienced institutional care as children, Inside provides a chance for all Australians to understand something of a history that has affected so many of us and was hidden for so long.

Inside is a travelling exhibition developed and presented by the National Museum of Australia and supported by the Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.

Museum Victoria Public Relations contact:
Alex Dook, 8341 7141 / 0478 348 880,

For all general public enquiries, contact the museum's Discovery Centre

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Sign from the Methodist Babies Home, Melbourne Stuffed bear