UNFINISHED BUSINESS: Reckoning with the Un-Named
“…Unless we are now transparent about what has been done in our nation’s name, our apology can never be complete…[these children were] .regarded not as innocent children but regarded instead as a source of child labour.” ” Kevin Rudd, Australian Prime Minister, 2009
In 2009, Kevin Rudd apologized to the children abused, lied to and exploited in Australian institutions during the twentieth century.
As gratifying as Rudd’s apparently sincere admission was to those wronged, it left the efficient economic exploitation of children by church-and-state collaboration unexamined. In so doing, the government ducked full responsibility by placing the malfeasance in the historic past, diverting attention away from the many results of this wrong-doing continuing to manifest into the present day.
The Convent of the Good Shepherd, who ran Magdalene Laundries in 46 countries including Australia, (where the author was an inmate in the late 1960’s, ) has made no such admission of wrongdoing. Although it exploited the labor of orphans, and of the Stolen Generation, unlike The Salvation Army whose international leader issued a national apology to former residents of the “homes” in December, 2010, the Good Shepherds’, having re-branded their order as agents of compassionate reconciliation, all the while continuing to withhold records from those young
In 1967 Australia, a child had no rights. It was a crime to be bold or beautiful or both. But the real crimes lay with the adults wanting to bury their own secret delinquency. By locking us away and out of sight, they often hoped to hide evidence of neglect or abuse and retain some little respectability. The Catholic Church was only too pleased to have unpaid labor for their commercial laundriy--slaves who they could convince themselves they were redeeming in the 'next life.' Oh Charity!
A poster by Rachael Romero depicting a thirteen-year-old while her parents were arranging to send her off to work in a Magdalene Laundry. The child is being "viewed" through the skewed lense of a nun casting shame and blame.
Anima Sola in the Magdalene Laundry by Rachael Romero