Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Britain apologises to former child migrants

The Australian Government has welcomed the apology made today by the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to former child migrants who were sent overseas from Britain.

For the Australian former child migrants who travelled to London, and gathered together in events across Australia, to hear the British Prime Minister’s apology, this was clearly a moment of great emotion and significance with the potential to heal past hurt.

Through the establishment of a $A10.4 million restoration fund announced by the British Government, former child migrants will now be given more help to trace and find lost family members.

The British Government’s apology follows the apology made by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd last year to the around half a million Forgotten Australians and former child migrants who were placed in institutions and foster homes where many were neglected and abused.

It was a day when Australia acknowledged the physical and emotional suffering they endured and the failure of those with power to protect those who were powerless.

It was also a turning point for many people allowing them to begin to heal.

Of the 150,000 child migrants who left Britain, it is estimated that between 6,000 and 7,500 children were sent to Australia under agreements between the British and Australian Governments.

These children, some as young as three, were shipped to Australia as a source of child labour. Many were brought here without their parents’ consent. Many were told that their parents had died.

To help former child migrants trace and find their lost families the Government is establishing a National Find and Connect service. This new service, due to begin this year, will provide Australia-wide coordinated family tracing and support services to help locate personal and family history and reunite families where possible.

The Government has also amended the Aged Care Principles to recognise Forgotten Australians and former child migrants as a group with special needs in the allocation of aged care places.

Work has also started on two key history projects to properly and permanently place the experiences for Forgotten Australian and child migrants on the nation’s historical record. The Australian Government is supporting the National Library of Australia and the National Museum of Australia to compile an oral history and stage an exhibition.