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Western Australia - Archival Item

Leonie Sheedy interviewed by Daniel Connell in the Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants oral history project (2010)

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[From the National Library of Australia's Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants oral history project]

Leonie Sheedy, born in 1954 has no memory of family before being made a ward of the state. Leonie and her two older sisters were placed into St. Catherine's Orphanage and was later joined by her younger brother. She talks about the daily routine at St Catherine's; the dormitory; treatment for bed wetters; arrangements around clothes and washing days; space to keep clothes and possessions; changes in government approaches to housing children in institutions; memories of being cold, hungry and bored; the morning routine; meals at the home; early work experience; reading newspapers; runaways; holidays; schooling; inequality; the name changes of St Catherine's; her brother coming to stay at the orphanage; her complaint to the Catholic Church in the 1990s; the damaging impact of treatment by nuns; there perceptions of the outside world; her hopes for life after leaving the home (1969); her relationship with the Catholic Church; her love of reading and attending school; leaving the orphanage; finding a job; returning to Saint Catherine's and being taken in by Sister Genevieve; staying with Sister Genevieve's family.

Sheedy discusses meeting her future husband at age seventeen; relationships with sisters; the lack of public awareness of the experience of children in orphanages; Julia Gillard; speaking publicly about personal experiences; her efforts to find brother; the birth of her first child; establishing groups to recognise the experiences of children in orphanages; Care Leavers Australia Network (CLAN); the recovery process; circumstances leading to the creation of CLAN; the first public meeting of state wards and home children; efforts to establish a national inquiry, which took place in 2003; Senator Andrew Murray; efforts to achieve recommendations; the apology made to the Forgotten Australians; the impact of the treatment on children in orphanages in later life, cruel and sadistic punishment; services and support offered by CLAN; the support of husband, her three children; the children's reaction to their mother's experiences; Donor Conception Support group (1993); ABC's 7:30 report; Joanna Penglase; the factors in her childhood that may have strengthened her passion for social justice.

Prepared by: Debra Rosser