Australia apologises for ‘great evil done’ to kids, Britain to follow suit


London : British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is to follow the example set by his Australian counterpart who has formally apologised for his countrymen’s physical and mental abuse of half a million children, including thousands of foreigners, for over four decades.

Support TwoCircles

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd Sunday apologised to the so-called Forgotten Australians – some 500,000 children who were subjected to emotional and physical abuse in Australian orphanages and care homes, including more than 150,000 children from Britain.

Gordon Brown’s office said he will make a similar apology in the New Year for Britain’s role in the affair.

The children from Britain and Malta – all from deprived backgrounds, and many who were orphans or with single parents – were shipped to Australia, Canada and southern Africa under a programme that began in the 1920s and did not end until as recently as 1967.

The children, who were as young as two, were even falsely informed that they were orphans. A key aim of the programme was to supply Commonwealth countries with sufficient ‘white stock’.

Though they were promised a better life, once in Australia many were forced into a life of unpaid farm labour, neglect and abuse in a sordid, yet little known, chapter in Commonwealth history.

According to the Alliance for Forgotten Australians, the children suffered from abandonment, loss of family, neglect and exploitation, brutality, sexual assaults, poor healthcare and education, and loss of identity.

“We are sorry,” Rudd said to survivors, who number around 7,000.

“Sorry that as children you were taken from your families and placed in institutions where so often you were abused. Sorry for the physical suffering, the emotional starvation and the cold absence of love, of tenderness, of care. Sorry for the tragedy, the absolute tragedy of childhoods lost.”

“Such systematic abuse should never happen again,” Rudd said at a remembrance ceremony at Parliament House in Canberra. “Great evil has been done.”

Sandra Anker, who was sent from Britain in 1950 at the age of six, told the BBC she remained deeply angry at what had happened.

“We’ve suffered all our lives. For the government of England to say sorry to us, it makes it right. Even if it’s late, it’s better than not at all,” she said.

Andrew Murray, an Australian Senator and himself a child migrant sent from Britain to Zimbabwe in 1951 at the age of four, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation he will continue demanding compensation for victims – as recommended by an official Australian report.

“The recommendation” was for a national reparations fund, subscribed to by all governments and by churches, charities and agencies, obviously capped and limited,” he said.