Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Forgotten Australians and former child migrants – Doorstop, Melbourne

*** E & OE – Proof only ***

JENNY MACKLIN: By the end of 2009, the Australian Government will issue a formal statement of acknowledgement and apology to the Forgotten Australians and to former child migrants.

In the spirit of bipartisanship, we will make this statement with the Opposition and with other parties in the Parliament and we’ll work with care leavers, those who’ve suffered in institutional care in Australia in the last century. We’ll make sure that we do it in a way that involves people who were affected so as it does help the healing process for them.

This is a very significant statement for those who’ve suffered so much over many, many years. We do recognise that many people have been involved in getting to this point and I would like to take this opportunity to thank everybody who’s been involved.

Of course the care leavers themselves, those who’ve suffered from abuse in institutions, those who were previously child migrants. I’d also like to thank my senatorial colleagues, many of whom are no longer in the Parliament but people who have really brought this issue to the fore over a long period of time.

These are people from across the political spectrum who care deeply about the need for acknowledgement of the terrible wrongs that have been done to so many children in institutions and child migrants over a long period of time.

I’d also recognise those past care providers including church providers who’ve already made their own acknowledgement and apology; the states and territories who have done the same. We’ll involve all of these people, the care leavers themselves, the former child migrants, of course those involved in the Senate inquiries, the states and territories, those providers who’ve been involved and who’ve been making their own form of acknowledgement over a long period of time.

It’s a very significant period for people to start healing and that’s exactly what we intend to do.

QUESTION: Will this open the floodgates to litigation, do you think?

JENNY MACKLIN: I don’t expect so. You’ve seen the states and territories and previous care providers already issue their apologies and their statements of acknowledgement of the terrible abuse that did take place in these institutions, over a long period of time.

What’s important is for us to make this acknowledgement, join with the churches and with other care providers, join with the states and territories and join with the – those who have suffered so much to acknowledge what has taken place and to issue an apology on behalf of the nation.

QUESTION: Compensation was recommended in the 2004 Senate report, why won’t you act on that?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, many of the previous care providers are in fact acting on that and some of the states have also started to act on it. So where that’s a decision that they take, of course that’s entirely a matter for them.

QUESTION: How many people are affecting by this apology?

JENNY MACKLIN: We anticipate around 500,000 have been affected and of course it would be more than that if you count the impact on their families. It’s a very significant number of Australians who’ve been affected by abuse, whether it’s in institutions or whether it’s people who are previously child migrants.

QUESTION: Can you be more specific as to when the apology will be delivered?

JENNY MACKLIN: We think it’s important to spend a little bit of time going through the nature of the event that the care leavers themselves would like. It needs to be something that they really see as theirs and I want to spend the time working with them to design the event so that it really delivers the healing process that they’ve been looking for for so long.

QUESTION: But it will definitely be before the end of this year?

JENNY MACKLIN: Yes, it will. Okay? Thank you.