This paper will discuss the development and ongoing work of the Find & Connect web resource (www.findandconnect.gov.au), an online information resource detailing the history of out-of-home ‘care’ in Australia in the 20th century.
Funded by the Commonwealth Government as part of its response to the 2009 Apology to Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants, the web resource connects the histories of institutions to archival records created by those institutions, and key events impacting on the history of out-of-home ‘care’ in Australia. This innovative project illuminates the crucial importance of making connections between people and the records about them, to help form identity, play a role in restorative justice and facilitate links with affected communities.
Find & Connect came out of the Who Am I? project, an action research project working with Care Leavers, support services, record holders and researchers. This action research methodology has underpinned the work of Find & Connect, ensuring that community perspectives are represented and visible.
Therefore, this paper will reflect on the benefits of forming and maintaining relationships with relevant communities and people, particularly those who spent time in out of home ‘care’ as children. It will also consider the challenge of maintaining trust with people who were in ‘care’, as well as with the organisations who manage the records today.
The paper will also discuss the importance of official records for those who grew up in out of home ‘care’, in creating and challenging the stories of their childhoods. For many Care Leavers, the usual records of childhood (for example, school reports or family photographs) do not exist. Instead, people are reliant on organisational records maintained about them. People who grew up in ‘care’ must use these to make sense of their childhoods and construct narratives about their lives.
The paper will also reflect on Find & Connect as a data source which can be analysed. We will discuss and show examples of the outputs of this data which include visualisations, sonifications, mapping, and use of the data to analyse the site and do quality control. The data have not only been used to produce visually appealing outputs, but also to inform government programs, including the recently established National Redress Scheme. We will also comment on the changing and ongoing relevance of the web resource, which could not have been predicted when it was first developed.
Finally, the paper will consider the challenges inherent in developing a sustainable and resilient public knowledge-base about a complex and contested history.