WHILE some experiences during Molong's Fairbridge Farm School, in NSW's Central West, claim to be "not that unreasonable", David Hill, author and former student of the school himself, has served as a place of safe landing for others, with an abundance of disclosures from children who say otherwise.
After the release of his book The Forgotten Children in 2007 - pages rooted in personal and indirect recounts, child abuse, memoirs and historical facts - Mr Hill thought "that was it".
Though, little did the author know that 15 years later, he would release a subsequent 'Part II' to its predecessor, titled Reckoning: The Forgotten Children and their Quest for Justice.
"It was only after the book, the documentary we made and a host of other things I'd written about - including the enquiry into the Royal Commission, Kevin Rudd's apology, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown's apology, and so on - that people then said 'it happened to me too' ... it was just the tip of the iceberg it turns out," Mr Hill said.
"A lot of people didn't talk about [the abuse at Fairbridge] because they thought it had only happened to them and they also thought nobody would believe them ... now, particularly with the big wins they've had, they've become emboldened."
With what he described as a "prevailing ethos" of the Old Fairbridgians Association, Mr Hill says much of these 'old' ideas have morphed over the years, particularly with consideration to the children who suffered abuse during the school's operational years from 1938 to 1974.
Most of them are filled with shame and guilt and they still feel uncomfortable dealing with it, and there's still a lot of people who feel it's better to just bury it deep and leave it alone. But, I could see the pain in their eyes ... I could see it.- Author and former Fairbridge child, David Hill on the lasting impacts for children who suffered during their time at Molong's Fairbridge Farm School
"They're allowed now to be indignant. They're allowed now to be angry. They're allowed to be upset," he said.
"Most of them are filled with shame and guilt and they still feel uncomfortable dealing with it, and there's still a lot of people who feel it's better to just bury it deep and leave it alone. But, I could see the pain in their eyes ... I could see it."
The author also said that he'd had very little understanding of how "pervasive and permanent" the scars are on the survivors, thinking that being on the receiving end of disclosures may have gotten "easier" over time.
"I would've thought the longer I stayed with this story, the easier it would be ... when the opposite has happened," Mr Hill said, "and the realisation that it was the little kids who were the most vulnerable, the most defenseless and the most abused."
IN OTHER NEWS:
With Reckoning the 10th book that Mr Hill has written, he says it's "without a doubt the most important" one of his to date.
Though, the writing process ignited a state of mental and emotional exhaustion for the author, despite resulting in some form of justice.
"This has been the most confronting thing I've ever done, it's really rocked me," he said.
"I've never seen up close such pain and I feel as if I'm suffering from post traumatic stress now because of it," he said, before reciting the following excerpt from page 314 of his latest book.
'I had no idea when I started to research The Forgotten Children, that it would be such a long and emotionally exhausting journey,' Mr Hill read aloud.
'I'm angry that multiple governments and institutions enabled terrible abuse and allowed it to continue, even when they were aware that the young children were being maltreated, sexually and physically assaulted and neglected.
'I'm angry that for decades after that, officials were prepared to deny what happened and conspire to lie to cover it all up. I'm angry that no one was ever charged with any crime and no one was ever publicly named for the great wrongs they did to the children, but I'm just glad we've now named the major villains.'
Enormously gratifying to have "nailed" five key players - all admitting major fault on behalf of the children - Mr Hill says he doesn't pretend to have changed the system by any means.
"It's very unusual for disempowered, dispossessed and disadvantaged children like Fairbridge kids to take on the might of British and Australian governments, and all of these other institutions, and beat them all," he said.
"It doesn't happen every day, so it's enormously satisfying [but] in some respects ... justice can never be done. Great wrongs cannot be righted. The damage caused by crushing the spirit of a small child is impossible to repair and the wounds inflicted never completely heal."
This has been the most confronting thing I've ever done, it's really rocked me.- David Hill on the emotionally and mentally exhausting research and writing process over the past 15 years
With the abuse and suffering now in the public spotlight and "better understood", Mr Hill says the long quest for recognition and restitution has certainly housed positive impacts on some of the former, now-adult children of Fairbridge.
"The institutions have acknowledged their wrongdoing and have apologised and brought some much needed comfort to many who found strength and power in the truth being known," he said.
"Some good has come out of it, but you can't say that justice has been done, it's just irreparable. It doesn't get more emotionally confronting than this."
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.