Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

National apology to the Forgotten Australians and former child migrants

The Australian Government will formally apologise to the Forgotten Australians and former child migrants at a special remembrance event in Canberra on 16 November 2009.

A formal remembrance ceremony will be held in the Members’ Hall in Parliament House where the Prime Minister will apologise, on behalf of the nation, to more than 500,000 Australians – many of whom suffered abuse and neglect while in out-of-home care last century.

They include more than 7,000 child migrants who arrived under historical child migration schemes and who were often subsequently placed in homes and orphanages.

Following the event, the apology will be tabled in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The apology, which has bipartisan support, will acknowledge the abuse and neglect suffered by many of these children and reflects the Government’s determination that these terrible practices will never be repeated.

Many former child migrants and other children who were in institutions, their families and the wider community have suffered from a system that did not adequately provide for, or protect children in its care.
This is a significant step forward in the healing process for Forgotten Australians and former child migrants.

The apology will acknowledge that what happened in the past was both real and wrong. It will make sure that a largely invisible part of our history is put firmly on the record. And it will remind the community of what happened to many of these children – the loss of family, the loss of identity and, in the case of child migrants, the loss of their country.

The apology follows unanimous calls to start the healing process heard during the three Senate Inquiries: Lost Innocents – Righting the Record (2001), Forgotten Australians: A Report on Australians who experienced institutional or out-of-home care as children (2004) and the recent Lost Innocents and Forgotten Australians Revisited (2009).

An advisory group has been established to assist in developing the apology. It includes representatives from key organisations representing Forgotten Australians and former child migrants as well as Members and Senators from the Government, the Coalition and the Australian Greens.

The advisory group is chaired by former Democrats Senator, Andrew Murray.

The apology will recognise that many Forgotten Australians and former child migrants continue to face a range of complex issues, including mental and physical illness, homelessness, substance abuse, educational and family relationship difficulties, as a result of their experiences in out-of-home care.

We are also consulting with State and Territory Governments and past care providers in the development of the apology.

To register interest in attending the remembrance event please call the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs on 1800 634 147.