Victims of historical abuse and neglect in Victoria's institutional care system will receive a long-overdue apology and compensation, as the state grapples with its painful past.
The Victorian government is investing $2.9 million to create a redress scheme for people who suffered abuse or neglect while at Victorian orphanages, children's homes and missions over six decades.
The scheme will cover the period from 1928 to 1990, when 90,000 children were placed in state care, and includes urgent hardship payments of up to $10,000 for eligible care leavers.
Premier Daniel Andrews has promised to offer a formal apology next year if Labor is re-elected.
Former premier Steve Bracks issued a formal apology to the cohort dubbed "Forgotten Australians" in 2006, while a national apology recognised institutional sex abuse victims and survivors in 2018 following a royal commission.
The Victorian government was unwilling to wait any longer for a national scheme to cover care leavers, labelling it overdue.
"We had hoped that might happen. It's clear to me now that I don't think that will, or if it did it's still some way off," Mr Andrews told reporters at Victorian parliament on Wednesday.
Care Leavers Australasia Network (CLAN) co-founder Leonie Sheedy was one of seven children in her family who were farmed out to 26 Victorian orphanages and children's homes.
She was hit many times and said not enough focus was put on nuns who hurt children.
"It's time the spotlight was put on the churches and charities who used us to make money out of our labour," she said.
"Every day we lived with fear that we were going to get a punch in the back or our elbows knocked on the table."
The advocacy group has met with 11 ministers over the years lobbying for the redress scheme.
Many care leavers have died without ever getting redress, their records, respect, or reunited with their families, Ms Sheedy said.
Frank Golding, CLAN's vice president, said he and his two older brothers were also kept from their parents when their relationship broke down.
After bouncing around foster families he was moved to a Ballarat orphanage, where he spent 11 painful years, living in fear that he would be sexually abused after his brother was.
"It was a violent place. It was physically violent. It was a place where you were treated with no respect," he said.
The scheme could cover deceased care victims similar to others being created for forced adoptees and firefighters who went through the Fiskville CFA Training College.
The scheme will be co-designed with victims and finalised by the end of 2023.
Its estimated cost to taxpayers won't be known until the scheme's design is settled.
Church groups, charities and others involved in the system before it shut down in 1990 will be asked to provide records and make a financial contribution to the scheme.
Australian Associated Press
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.