Find and Connect is a resource that allows Forgotten Australians, Former Child Migrants and anyone with an interest in the history of child welfare in Australia to access information about the country’s orphanages, children’s homes and other institutions. It provides users with access to personalised support and counselling, their personal information and records, and can help them to reconnect with family members.

Developed by a team of historians, archivists and social workers across every Australian state, the resource is a result of the work of academics and researchers from ACU and the University of Melbourne. The Find and Connect database is part of the larger Department of Social Services program of Find and Connect services and projects, and it receives funding from the Australian government.

Emeritus Professor Shurlee Swain led ACU’s team on the project. One of Australia’s pre-eminent social welfare historians, she was involved in the Who Am I? project, a precursor to Find and Connect, which was funded by an ARC Linkage Grant.

This project involved researching the history of out-of-home care for children in Australia, with a focus on issues surrounding records and memorials relating to Forgotten Australians, which had been highlighted in the Forgotten Australians Report (2004). It brought together historians, social workers, archivists and 15 partner organisations to research and discuss where relevant records were located, how best to provide access and the impact of these issues on people who grew up in out-of-home care.

“Previously, access to full and accurate records was difficult due to there not being a comprehensive or integrated records database within and across Australia’s states and territories,” Professor Swain said.

“I became involved because I had a long history in the area and an association with (University of Melbourne researchers) Cathy Humphreys from social work and Gavan McCarthy, Director E-Scholarship Research Centre, which led to ACU’s participation.

“ACU provided infrastructure and employed local historians in each state to research, collate and update the material that is now available in this online resource. The project is ongoing as the tool develops further to include maps and more detailed records listings.

“The Find and Connect resource now enables care leavers and support services to access records that were previously unavailable. This helps inform counselling and support services, which address the specific issues of trauma experienced by the individual care leaver due to his or her time in care."
Emeritus Professor Shurlee Swain
Fellow of both the Australian Academy of the Humanities and the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia

Impacts of this research


Change that advances cultural and artistic expression and its benefits and protects cultural heritage.

  • Find & Connect has helped care leavers to reclaim their identities.
  • Families have been able to access records of individual family members, through Find & Connect, helping them make connections and assisting with healing their traumas from being separated from children that were placed in care.
  • Accessing photos and records of family members is vital for individuals experiencing intergenerational trauma.


Generating business, investment and intellectual property opportunities enabling support for and access to innovative products and services.

  • Find & Connect administered two rounds of Records Access Documentation Grants which provided organisations with the funds to improve the quality of services and access to historical documents in their own archives.
  • Grants resulted in improved record keeping services, timeliness of delivery and provision of direct access to individual records and records not previously available.


New technology, tools, software and design that improves people's lives.

  • Coordinated historical research across the states has built a national resource. The Find & Connect database is part of the larger Department of Social Services Find & Connect service and projects.
  • The website had almost 500,000 visits over two-and-a-half years.
  • By the end of 2014, the database had 16,000 pages of publicly available archival entries.


Change that improves health and well-being outcomes in society.

  • Records uncovered by the project had a positive effect on users' wellbeing, with access to previously unavailable records, paired with emotional support, improving their mental health.
  • Access to historical sources has allowed many care leavers to reconnect with family members they previously had no way to find.
  • Care leavers now have access to records at the same time as the support needed for the often-traumatic moments that result from their search.


Change in policy, organisational structure and formal processes.

  • Twice-yearly Find & Connect workshops brought together record holders, care leavers and counselling providers to facilitate alliance building across the different sectors involved in providing integrated care support.
  • Easily accessible resources were integral to the delivery of services to care leavers.
  • Find & Connect reported as leading to a more streamlined and client-focused delivery of services.


The person, people or organisations directly impacted by this research.

  • Care leavers.
  • Forgotten Australians.
  • Former child migrants.
  • Support and counselling services for former institutionalised children and their families.
  • Former child migrants to New Zealand and their families.
  • Former child migrants from England and their families.

2018 ARC Engagement and Impact Assessment

ACU submitted this research as an impact study in the 2018 ARC Engagement and Impact Assessment. The research received the rank of 'High', meaning the impact made a highly significant contribution to economy, society, environment, or culture, beyond the contribution to academic research.

Explore our results
Lead researcher

Emeritus Professor Shurlee Swain
Fellow of both the Australian Academy of the Humanities and the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia

View profile

This project was developed in collaboration with the e-Scholarship Centre at the University of Melbourne.

Explore more of our impactful research

Explore our research

You might also like

Research and enterprise

Our research and enterprise activities embrace the full life cycle of research, from knowledge creation to its translation and application towards real-world outcomes.

Learn more

Meet the Research Impact Unit

Our team works with ACU researchers to implement strategies to increase research engagement and impact and help translate ACU research into real-world outcomes.

Meet the team

Our research institutes

Founded on the principles of social justice and the common good, our research institutes make an impact around the world across industries and communities, and in the lives of individuals.

Take a look

Become a research partner with ACU

Partnership and engagement with communities, governments, and industry is essential to create outcomes that are relevant, innovative, and have the greatest impact.

Partner with ACU

Have a


Our contacts

Have a question for a specific
team? Ask the right person.

View all contacts