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Sharing wisdom through deep listening

Jenny Glare, General Manager of MacKillop’s Heritage & Information Service, was guest speaker at a recent Knowledge Circle hosted by the Healing Foundation in Canberra. The Foundation was eager to hear from Jenny, who shared her insights and learnings from MacKillop’s highly-regarded approach to supported release of records to care leavers.

The Healing Foundation is a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisation that partners with communities to address trauma caused by events such as the forced removal of children. The process of supported release of records that Jenny has established has been recognised as international best practice and she is frequently called upon to advise government and non-government agencies all over the world.

The Healing Foundation was interested to hear more about the work of MacKillop’s Heritage service and its experience in supporting hundreds of former residents and their families to access their records. Jenny and her team work closely and sensitively with those requesting records and engage other organisations and agencies to seek further information where there are gaps. They talk through the records with the record seeker, helping them to piece together their history.

“In 1997, we inherited over 115,000 records dating back to 1857”, said Jenny. “We acknowledged at the time of our founding that we had all these records of babies, children, young people and families who had spent time in our many orphanages and homes across Victoria. We were committed to sorting, archiving and making these records available.

From the time of our foundation, MacKillop has believed that people who were brought up in institutional care and separated from their families had a right to their information. We are merely the custodian of these records, and we believe it is critical that we make it as easy as possible for care leavers to access this information.

– Jenny Glare

Last year, the Healing Foundation worked extensively with Stolen Generations members and organisations to review the actions within the Bringing Them Home report on the 20th anniversary of its publication.

This resulted in the Healing Foundation’s landmark publication Bringing Them Home 20 years on – An Action Plan for Healing. This publication outlined many critical areas for action that had not been realised 20 years on, and called on governments for support to achieve this.

“In re-visiting Bringing Them Home, it was clear there are some organisations who have been slow to implement the recommendations relating to making records available, and some have not committed to the process”, said Jenny.

“It was an honour to be invited to the Knowledge Circle, whose aim is to draw out wisdom underpinned by deep listening. Representatives respected the fact that within six months of its establishment, MacKillop Family Services had acknowledged the critical importance of making records available to the people to whom they belonged, and taken action to make this happen.”

In addition to operating the records release service, Jenny has also established a Heritage centre which displays relics from the orphanages run by MacKillop’s founding congregations and tells the stories of the former residents. The Heritage Centre is based at the former St Vincent’s Boys’ Orphanage which now operates as MacKillop’s Head Office.