‘You can’t choose your family,’ the 89-year-old man said to his five-year-old great grandson.

We left him to rest, or so we thought.

In the hospital lobby I realized my youngest was missing and upon retracing our steps to my grandfather’s room we spied a memorable picture; an 89 year old man chatting to his five-year-old great grandson.

Noticing me at the door, Charlie quickly whispered in his great-grandson’s ear, ‘you can’t choose your family’.

That message is the driver to write Charlie’s story, one that my five year old questioned, ‘why can’t you choose your family? Why couldn’t he choose his family? What happened to him?’

In 1924, at the age of six, Charlie was abandoned in Melbourne along with his six siblings. The children became wards of the State of Victoria and were sent to separate orphanages, living in an unaccountable and unrecorded system of care.

Approximately half a million children experienced care in institutions or ‘out of home’ during the early twentieth century. They were called ‘Forgotten Australians’ and lived in an unsupervised system, often neglected and exploited for the benefit of their carers. Many of the children suffered psychological and physical abuse, and most weren’t orphans, but were told their parents and siblings were dead.

An excerpt from ‘Abandoned’ by Kendrea Rhodes, sign up to Kendreart’s blog to follow on …


©Kendrea Rhodes 2023

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