For the first 79 years of his life, David Weger knew nothing about his birth family, or why he spent his childhood in care.
80 year-old David, who now lives in Longreach Queensland, knew he had come into care at six months of age and spent his early years in the care of the Sisters of St. Joseph before moving to St. Vincent’s Boys’ Home aged eight. But until his daughter-in-law, Irene, contacted MacKillop’s Heritage and Information Centre to see if they could shed any light on his early years, he did not know why.
“I hadn’t really thought much about my early life until I started reading “Holding on to Hope”, the history of the founding agencies of MacKillop Family Services, which brought it all back to me. That started me wondering if there was any information about my childhood. I’m really glad we got in touch with Jenny at MacKillop. She has helped me fill in the blanks,” David said.
On researching David’s records, the Heritage team learned that David was classed as a ‘sickly’ baby. One year he spent more than 300 days in hospital. David’s medical history shows he was ill with diphtheria and had his tonsils removed. The records also showed that David’s mother was also in ill health, which meant it would have been difficult for her to look after him.
“Learning about my mother’s situation was a revelation to me. She was very young when she had me and I found out she had also grown up in care. It helped me understand that she could not have coped with a young baby. I suppose she tried for that first six months and realised it wasn’t going to be possible. When I look back now,” David added, “I’m glad she put me into care. I would probably not have survived as I needed all that medical attention when I was very young. I now know she was doing the right thing for me at the time.”
David fondly remembers being cared for by the Sisters of St. Joseph.
“I’ve always had a deep respect for women and I think this came from all the kindness and care I received from the nuns. They were good to us and I was happy there,” David remembers.
At St. Vincent’s Orphanage for Boys, David discovered a talent for leatherwork, and he still enjoys making miniature saddles in his spare time.
When I look back now, I realise they were preparing us for life outside the orphanage, and the emphasis was on getting an education or learning a trade.
“I started working in the shoe repairs shop, which led to me getting an apprenticeship as a boot maker in a factory in Collingwood. But that wasn’t to be the life for me, I yearned for the open road and the outback; I love open spaces.”
David became a sheep shearer and spent most of his working life travelling throughout Australia.
Philosophical about how being in care influenced his life, David says finding out about his past has filled in the gaps.
“It’s so good to learn about where I came from and why I went into care. That ’sickly’ baby turned out to be pretty resilient and he’s still giving it his best go and enjoying life to the full.”