Former child migrants will attend a memorial service on the banks of the River Trent in Nottingham on Tuesday 7th October as Nottinghamshire County Council rededicate a national memorial to Britain's child migrants.
Several former child migrants who have travelled from Australia to visit the United Kingdom to rebuild their relationship with the families will attend the event, which will include a tree planting ceremony.
From 1947, thousands of child migrants, some as young as three, were shipped to Australia from Britain into abusive, substandard institutions described as more like concentration camps than children's homes.
Most child migrants deported during the post war years were sent to Australia without their parents' knowledge or consent.
Nottinghamshire County Council played a vital role in supporting specialist independent services for child migrants during the early years of the Child Migrants Trust, when central government was slow to recognise the needs of former child migrants.
Their initiative ensured that hundreds of child migrants were able to reclaim their identities and find their families. The Child Migrants Trust continues to be based in Nottingham.
John Hennessey, a former child migrant sent to Australia in 1947 who will be at the ceremony, described Nottinghamshire County Council as 'the conscience of the world on child migration.'
Norman Johnston, President of the International Association of former Child Migrants and their Families said:
“Child migrants and our families across the world owe a great debt of gratitude to Nottinghamshire. Without their support, we would not have had the lifeline of the Child Migrants Trust. When no government was prepared to face up to their responsibilities, Nottinghamshire carried the torch on the scandal of child migration.”
The role of Nottinghamshire County Council and former social worker, Margaret Humphreys, in exposing the truth around child migration, was portrayed in the film Oranges and Sunshine released in 2011 starring Emily Watson.
The film also featured Hugo Weaving as a former child migrant finding out about his past. His character Jack was partly based on Harold Haig.
Mr Haig died in 2012 and his son and granddaughters are bringing his ashes from Australia to be scattered on the banks of the Trent after the ceremony.
The British Government formally apologised to child migrants and their families in 2010. Speaking at that time, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said:
“Children as young as three were sent alone to the farthest corners of the world. The names and birthdays of some were deliberately changed so that it would be impossible for families to reunite. Some were dispatched without the consent of their mother or father.
“Indeed many parents did not know their children had been sent to foreign shores at all – they had no idea where you were, no way of bringing you home. And this cruel and unnatural practice was, not so much transportation as deportation – deportation from your mother country.”