Australia to apologise to British child migrants

Sydney, Aug 30 (DPA) Australia plans to apologise to thousands of British children admitted to orphanages where brutality and sexual abuse were everyday occurrences, a cabinet minister said Sunday.

“This is a significant national step in the healing process for forgotten Australians and former child migrants,” Families Minister Jenny Macklin said.

As many as 10,000 poor children that Britain didn’t want were sent out to Australia between 1947-67. Often falsely labelled orphans and treated abominably when they arrived on ships, they became known collectively as the Orphans of the Empire.

Also covered by the apology, expected to be made in parliament later in the year, will be the thousands of local children who also suffered abuse and neglect when they were placed in government institutions or foster homes.

Macklin ruled out a compensation scheme for affected children.

A government report five years ago estimated that 500,000 children had been placed in orphanages or foster homes because they were born to single mothers or into poor families. The inquiry found a “litany of emotional, physical and sexual abuse, and often criminal physical and sexual assault”.

Last year Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologised in parliament to Aborigines for misguided assimilation practices that took children from their families, to be raised up by Caucasians.

At that time, there was a demand that the Orphans of Empire also received an official apology.

The British Parliament has also inquired into the child migrants, declaring that the half-secret scheme was shot through with “cruelty, lies and deceit”.

Alan Gill, author of the expose Orphans of Empire, has demanded compensation for those badly treated in orphanages.

He claimed that neither the sending country, Britain, nor the receiving countries, which included Australia, had shown compassion.

“You’re having buck-passing all round, which is extremely demoralising for those who came out as child migrants,” Gill said.