Routes to the past

Exploring the identity and well-being of care leavers through genealogical lifestory work.

Routes to the Past was an exciting interdisciplinary project, bringing together social work and history academics with external collaborators to explore improving well-being of Care Leavers and addressing marginalisation and disadvantage resulting from a childhood in institutional ‘care’. Through research, consultations and action research workshops, the project broke new ground, exploring new ways to support and empower adult Care Leavers. The project found that a synthesis of narrative practice, family history, storytelling and lifestory work had the potential for a new methodology that enables Care Leavers to ‘re-author’ their life stories and connect to their past, present and futures.


Cathy Humphreys [Department of Social Work, Faculty of Medicine, Dental and Health Sciences, UoM]

Joy Damousi [Historical and Philosophical Studies, Faculty of Arts, UoM]

Cate O'Neill [eScholarship Research Centre, UoM]

David Denborough [Dulwich Centre]

Frank Golding [Care Leavers of Australasia Network]


Blog posts

Conference presentations

Cate O’Neill, ‘Disrupting the archive with counter narratives’, as part of the panel ‘Rights, responsibilities, records and representations: the role of reimagining archives’, INASA Conference 2016, 8 December 2016.

Reports and papers

  • David Denborough, ‘Sparkling ideas that emerged during the Routes to the Past workshop held at Nunkuwarrin Yunti, Adelaide, 30 November 2016’
  • Kristina Lainson (with input from the project team), Discussion Paper for Routes to the Past Workshop 1, July 2016


The project was cited in Frank Golding’s submission (30 September 2016) to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse’s Consultation Paper on Records and Recordkeeping Practices. Golding wrote: ‘I commend to the Commission the work of the University of Melbourne’s Routes to the Past project which it is pursuing in partnership with CLAN and the Dulwich Centre Foundation in South Australia’. Golding recommended that future training of staff in institutions be conducted along the lines of the ‘Knowledge Diamond’ model developed by Cathy Humphreys and used for the Routes to the Past project.