Apology to Former Residents

A message from our founding congregations

Historic black and white photo of the Saint Vincent De Paul's Orphanage in South Melbourne Victoria

Apology to former residents of the founding agencies of MacKillop Family Services

The Sisters of Mercy, the Sisters of St Joseph and the Christian Brothers have been involved with providing care for thousands of children and mothers in Victoria since 1861. Countless Sisters and Brothers have provided this care through their dedication and tireless efforts in institutions established to look after children and mothers.

Through their welfare institutions, the three religious congregations created a nurturing environment that promoted personal and spiritual growth and development. The institutions were places where shelter, food and education were provided. Despite the difficult and, at times, painful circumstances that brought the mothers and children into these institutions, the carers, with few exceptions, laboured in the best interests of those who were entrusted to them. Their work and dedication are reflected in the lives of the many former residents who, despite deprived backgrounds, went on to take their place as successful members of Australian society.

As we listen to the accounts of former residents of our institutions, we hear stories of appreciation for the opportunities they were given to create for themselves meaningful and satisfying future lives.

Sadly, this was not the experience of all. We acknowledge the trauma of mothers separated from their children. We likewise acknowledge the pain experienced by children who were separated from parents and siblings. In hindsight, we have come to understand the bitter legacy for so many who have grown up apart from their family of origin. This is experienced in a loss of identity and sense of belonging. We acknowledge that such pain and dislocation are ongoing.

We apologise unreservedly to those who experienced abuse and neglect while in our care. We express our deep shame and sorrow.

The Sisters of Mercy, the Sisters of St Joseph and the Christian Brothers have responded to residents who have experienced abuse. The congregations will continue to reach out and listen to former residents of our institutions who are still suffering because of their experience in our institutions. In assisting former residents in the process of addressing the pain of past experience, our hope is that each person will come to a level of healing that will allow them to create a brighter future.

We are aware that we cannot change the past or take away the hurt. We do, however, express our heartfelt regret for the failings of the past and our sorrow for the suffering that still endures.

Anyone who has experienced abuse during their residency in any of the welfare institutions conducted by the Sisters of Mercy, the Sisters of St Joseph and the Christian Brothers is encouraged to contact the relevant congregation or Victorian Professional Standards Office on free call number 1800 816 030.