Renewed calls for inquiry into abuse of British children ‘trafficked’ to abusive institutions

New exhibition at V&A Museum of Childhood draws attention to the plight of British child migrants

Andy Burnham MP, Shadow Home Secretary and Former child migrants renewed calls on the Prime Minister for a full judicial inquiry into their treatment as a new exhibition into their plight opens at the V&A Museum of Childhood.

The International Association of former Child Migrants has been campaigning for a judicial inquiry to investigate why they were trafficked as children from the UK to Commonwealth countries without their parents' knowledge or consent. 

The forced deportation of an estimated 100,000 British children, some as young as four years old, continued until 1970. 

Many of the children suffered abuse in UK institutions and were then deported to abusive, understaffed orphanages where they endured further torture, criminal assaults and unspeakable acts of brutality. 

Their call for a full judicial inquiry is supported by the Child Migrants Trust, as further evidence emerges. 

This new exhibition On Their Own: Britain’s child migrants begins at the V&A Museum of Childhood from 24 October 2015 until 12 June 2016.

In June 2015, 150 former students at the Fairbridge Farm school in New South Wales, which was mainly attended by British children, won $(AUS)24m for abuse which took place between 1938 and 1974. The settlement was the largest for survivors of child abuse in Australia’s legal history.

Testimony from former British child migrants has been given to the Australian Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse which is now investigating the response of authorities to allegations of child sexual abuse across Australia. 

In the UK, Parliament launched a Health Select Committee inquiry into Britain’s Child Migrants in 1997. However, the Chairman of the inquiry, former Labour MP for Wakefield, David Hinchliffe, told the Times last year that the inquiry was “grossly under-resourced and ill-prepared for the circumstances we uncovered”.

The British Government made a public apology 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.”

Margaret Humphreys CBE, OAM who founded the Child Migrants Trust, endorsed the call for a full judicial inquiry to establish how children were selected in the UK and sent to Australia to face further abuse, given the clear degree of deception and cover up that has devastated so many British families. 

She said: “It is vitally important that the British Government investigates allegations of childhood abuse in UK institutions, how those children were selected then trafficked to endure further abuse in Australia.

“The Government should now begin a full judicial inquiry into how thousands of our British children, many with families in the UK, were forcibly set abroad without their families to face appalling brutalities on the other side of the world.”

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Fairbridge Anniversary, Vancouver Island, Canada

Former U.K. Child Migrants meet today to mark the 80th Anniversary of the establishment of the Prince of Wales Fairbridge Farm School near Cowichan Station, Vancouver Island.

Margaret Humphreys, International Director of the Child Migrants Trust, recently met in the U.S.A. with Roddy Mackay, President of the Fairbridge Canada Association, to discuss the Family Restoration Fund and other post-apology developments and concerns.

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Breaking News: A Record Settlement At Last

Our readers have been following with interest, anger and sorrow the historic abuse disclosures over years in relation to the Fairbridge Farm Schools. 

Former Child Migrants sent to Fairbridge Molong, Australia from the United Kingdom as part of the discredited child migration polices have been awarded $24million, the highest compensation settlement in Australian history. 

There has been a six year legal battle with many obstacles placed in the way causing more hardship for those already living with a lifetime of injustice. The New South Wales and Federal governments and the Fairbridge Foundation should have resolved this issue at a much earlier stage. 

The British Government apologised to Former Child Migrants and their families in 2010 when the former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, underlined 'this shameful episode...this failure in the first duty of a Nation: to protect its children'. 

Margaret Humphreys said: 'This has been a long time coming. I informed the British and Australian Governments in 1987 of the abuse at Fairbridge in New South Wales.  'Lost Children of The Empire', the book and documentary screened in 1989 also raised the plight of former child migrants and the urgent need for official action.' 

The International Association of former Child Migrants and their Families are restating their call for a judicial inquiry into Britain's child migration schemes, where all roads lead back to Westminster. 

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U.K. Apology to Former Child Migrants - 5th Anniversary

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, said:“Five years ago the nation apologised to the children that were separated from their loved ones and experienced terrible suffering.  Today we remember those children and the nation’s apology.

“Although we cannot undo the wrongs that were done, we can help to repair the damage. That is why we established the Family Restoration Fund, which has helped nearly 800 people to be reunited with their loved ones.  I was pleased to be able to announce this year that the Fund will be extended to 2017, so that many more can be helped.”

Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP said:
It is five years since the historic apology was made by me on behalf of the British people and by Kevin Rudd on behalf of the Australian people. Time, however, does not lessen the pain of former Child Migrants or diminish our sense of injustice—nor will it ever do so to our satisfaction.

Yet we can do more to help those people who have suffered. This year, I have campaigned for the extension of support to cover the whole decade and beyond.  The Family Restoration Fund was set up in 2010 and has now helped nearly 800 former Child Migrants reunite with their families. With your powerful case to back us up, we have succeeded in securing support until at least 2017.

From the 1920s to the 1960s 150,000 children were torn from their families and sent to former colonies on the promise of a better life.  All too often, these children suffered abuse while their families faced the cruelty of separation from their sons and daughters.  We as a nation must continue to support these families for as long as they wish.  As I said in 2010,"we cannot change history, but I believe that by confronting the failings of the past we can show we are determined to do all we can to heal the wounds".

Former MP and Chair of the Health Select Committee, David Hinchliffe said:
"When I retired from Parliament, nearly ten years ago, justice for the former British child migrants was, for me, very much unfinished business.  I recognised that we had made some progress - particularly with many former migrants being re-united with their families - but fundamental questions about how such a scheme could come into being remained unanswered.

The apology from our Prime Minister five years ago was a significant step forward but the former migrants and their families deserve a great deal more.  How could it be that, at a time when the British state was introducing important legal reforms in the way it looked after children in care, successive British governments were transporting thousands of such children to the other side of the world and abandoning responsibility for them?

This crucial question, as well as numerous more about the abuse, ill treatment and exploitation of many of the former migrants in their host countries must, as a matter of urgency, be addressed through an independent judicial inquiry into the child migrant schemes.  On both sides of the world we are urgently addressing the issue of historic child abuse and the plight of our former child migrants should be a key part of this process."

The video links below show the 2010 statement by Gordon Brown and the response of Harold Haig, Secretary of the International Association of former Child Migrants and their Families:

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Bob Simon, CBS 60 Minutes II

It is with great sadness and sorrow that we learnt of the tragic death in New York yesterday of Bob Simon, the award winning news correspondent for the CBS 60 minutes programme "The Lost Children".

Bob was known, loved and respected by many former Child Migrants for his powerful and sensitive documentary work in 1999, which exposed Britain’s child migration schemes to an American audience. 

Our thoughts are with Bob's family, friends and colleagues at this time.

 

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Former Child Migrants to attend Rededication Service

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.”

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Family Restoration Fund extended until 2017

The Department of Health have announced today that the Family Restoration Fund, which helps to reunite former child migrants with their families, will be extended until 2017. 

The funding, which covers the practical costs of travel, is available to any former child migrant who was sent unaccompanied under school-leaving age from Great Britain and Northern Ireland before 1970 to Commonwealth countries.

The Family Restoration Fund was announced in 2010 at the time of the Government’s formal national apology to former child migrants. 

The Fund is administered by the Child Migrants Trust, the key charity focused on family tracing, social work and counselling services for former child migrants and their families and has so far supported over 700 former child migrants and their families to travel to be reunited. By 2017, the government estimates that the Fund will have helped around one thousand former child migrants, and many thousands of family members. 

Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter said: 
“We can never forget the hardship and heartache experienced by children and their families as a result of misguided child migration schemes.  The Family Restoration Fund has already reunited so many former child migrants with their relatives. We can’t undo the past. But we can help to reunite families that were torn apart so unjustly and completely. I’m pleased to announce the Fund will run until 2017.”

Director of the Child Migrants Trust, Margaret Humphreys said: 
“Former child migrants and their families will welcome this positive step. Restoring a sense of family life is vital after years of separation and the Fund is a lifeline for hundreds of families. It adds real substance to our national apology.”

For further information on how to apply to use the Family Restoration Fund click here.  The full press release by the Department of Health can also be viewed here

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Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry module on child migration commences in Northern Ireland

The Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry will commence its second module of public hearings with an Opening Hearing at 11.00 hours (GMT), 1st September 2014 at Banbridge Courthouse, Banbridge, Co. Down, Northern Ireland. 

Module 2 will focus on a migration programme which involved the transport of children from institutions in Northern Ireland to Australia.  Proceedings will begin with a short opening address from the Inquiry’s Chairman, Sir Anthony Hart followed by an opening address from Senior Counsel to the Inquiry, Christine Smith QC who will provide a general overview of the structure of the module.

Margaret Humphreys CBE OAM will give evidence in the afternoon.

A press release from the International Association of former Child Migrants and their Families can be viewed here.

Click below to read the full press release of the Northern Ireland Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry

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Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry to focus on Child Migration

The Northern Ireland Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry will focus on a migration scheme which involved the transport of children to Australia when it recommences its public hearings at the beginning of September.

Public hearings for the Inquiry’s second module of evidence will commence at 11am on Monday, 1st September at Banbridge Courthouse, Banbridge, Co Down, Northern Ireland.

A team from the Inquiry and its confidential Acknowledgement Forum has already made two trips to Australia, during which a total of 66 applicants, now residing in Australia, were interviewed. All these individuals had applied to participate in the statutory Inquiry and/or Forum processes.

The witnesses being asked to provide evidence to the oral hearings have been chosen because they can describe the events which occurred to them before they left Northern Ireland when they were sent as child migrants to Australia.  The majority of these witnesses will provide their oral evidence via video-link.  The module is scheduled to last three weeks.

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The Times | Calls for a judicial inquiry into abuse of British child migrants in UK and Australian institutions

The founder of the Child Migrants Trust has welcomed calls for a full judicial inquiry following an investigation by The Times newspaper that has uncovered evidence that some of the 6,000 to 7,000 children sent to Australia were sexually and physically abused in British institutions before facing further abuse in Australia.

Margaret Humphreys CBE, OAM who founded the Child Migrants Trust, said a judicial inquiry is now needed to establish how children were selected in the UK to be ‘trafficked’ to Australia to face further abuse and, in some cases, were even abused on the boat over to Australia.

Ms Humphreys said: “It is vitally important that the British Government investigates these allegations of historic childhood abuse in UK institutions and how these children were selected then trafficked to face further abuse in Australia.

“This is beginning to look like the work of an international paedophile ring. New evidence given to the Royal Commission in Australia confirms this disturbing picture.

“We have heard evidence that children were selected in the UK  and allegations that those escorting the children began the abuse on the boat over to Australia.

“The Government should now begin a full judicial inquiry into how thousands of our British children, many with families in the UK, were forcibly repatriated to face appalling brutalities on the other side of the world.”

David Hinchliffe, the chairman of Britain’s inquiry into the forced migration of thousands of children and former Labour MP for Wakefield, told The Times that a full judicial inquiry into child migration was needed to establish the legal basis for the scheme and whether child migrants should be compensated for the harm suffered.

Norman Johnston, chairman of the International Association of Former Child Migrants, told The Times that his organisation suspected that British institutions tried to cover up sexual abuse by forcing abused children abroad.

He said: “We suspect that . . . many of those children were trafficked because of the abuses that happened to them.”

Child migrant Peter Bagshaw (66) who lives in Perth explained how staff in institutions in Lincolnshire and later Cornwall sexually abused him.

“It happened probably once a week. Being so young, there was nothing I could do about it. You got told not to talk about it,”

Mr Bagshaw, 66, told The Times that the sexual abuse continued until he was 14 when he was told he was being sent to Australia. He was overjoyed to be escaping his tormenters.

On arrival at Fairbridge Farm School, in Pinjarra, Western Australia, however, he discovered that child migrants were used as cheap labour. He was put to work from 3 a.m. each day.  A staff member also sexually abused him.

Michael O’Donoghue told The Times that his abuse started when he was five at Nazareth House in Romsey, Hampshire. “It was done by a teacher,” he said. “It was done regularly in the toilets and the dormitory.”

He left for Australia on his 11th birthday. He was taken to a Christian Brothers’ Orphanage, in Western Australia, where the sexual abuse began almost immediately.

He told The Times how he had escaped when he was 15, riding a bicycle 155 miles to Perth.

The plight of those children, some as young as three, who were shipped to Australia from Britain into abusive, substandard institutions during the post-war period.  From 1947 until 1970, also formed part of the testimony at the Australian Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse in Australia at the end of April this year.

The Commission is investigating the allegations against the Christian Brothers who ran the Bindoon, Castledare, Clontarf and Tardun orphanages and the response of Western Australian State authorities to allegations of child sexual abuse at the institutions.

The Times article can be viewed here (subscription required)

-ENDS-

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FORMER CHILD MIGRANTS PLAN VIGIL


Former child migrants are planning a silent vigil outside the Royal Commission public hearing in Perth on 28th April 2014 to mark the first time Britain’s child migrants will give public testimony to the Commission into the sexual abuse they suffered after being ‘trafficked’ to Australia from the United Kingdom.  

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UK Apology to Former Child MIgrants | 4th Anniversary

Prime Minister, David Cameron said:
“The terrible experience of former child migrants will stay with them forever, so it is right that we remember their suffering on the fourth anniversary of the national apology.
Through the Family Restoration Fund, we have been able to help nearly 700 people be reunited with their families and start to heal the wounds created by separation.”

Gordon Brown MP said:
“In the four years since I made an apology in Parliament on behalf of the UK for our unacceptable role in the shameful deportation of thousands of children to former colonies, I have received many letters from migrants and the families of migrants. Each one has moved Sarah and myself and is treasured.
A few months ago, I received a visit from one family who came to my Kirkcaldy constituency office to express their thanks for the apology, but also to tell their own story.  A story of two young fearful children torn from their homeland, never told what was to happen to them, separated as they arrived in Australia and in one case cruelly treated, beaten and abused.  This story brought home to me yet again how deeply unjust the treatment of the child migrants was and how indebted to the Child Migrants Trust we should be for its wonderful, humane work from which hundreds have benefited.
I am pleased to see that many have used the Family Restoration Fund to visit family - often at critical times.   I know the funding for the Trust's work needs to and must continue so that support for the families can be maintained.  All our lives we have a continuing duty to those who suffered so much through no fault of their own.  This is the only way we can honour their lives and build on the apology we have given to all who suffered and were so wrongly robbed of their childhood.”

Sir Kevin Barron MP said:
“As the fourth anniversary of the British Governments apology approaches, we should never forget the tragedy that the child migration schemes caused.  The shameful deportation of children to distant colonies was deplorable and unnecessary. 
Today the Child Migrants Trust continues to carry out its vital work especially through the Family Restoration Fund.  This helps broken families to be reunited and come to terms with what has happened.  This funding must continue and the history of those children should never be forgotten.”

David Hinchliffe said:
"I can think of few issues during my 18 years in the House of Commons which moved me more than learning the plight of our former child migrants.  The experience of meeting, during the Health Committee Inquiry, so many people, who suffered through a Scheme that few people in Britain knew anything about, will always remain with me.
We have made progress in enabling many former child migrants to regain contact with lost relatives and the apology from the British Government was a very important step. But I remain very conscious that there is still much unfinished business.  Exactly what happened to so many of our fellow citizens because of this Scheme should, in my view, be the subject of an independent judicial inquiry. Many questions remain unanswered and the surviving former migrants and their descendants will rightly press for answers until such an inquiry addresses their continuing, understandable grievances."

Click on the video links below to view the 2010 statement by Gordon Brown and the response of Harold Haig, Secretary of the International Association of former Child Migrants and their Families:

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Royal Commission arrives in South Australia

Royal Commission Media Release:

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has arrived in South Australia.  The Royal Commission’s Chief Executive Officer, Ms Janette Dines, announced that face-to-face private sessions with Commissioners start this week in Adelaide and will continue during July.

Private sessions have been running in Sydney and Brisbane over recent weeks and Ms Dines said that the Royal Commission is very happy with the response to date.  “People who have come to a private session tell us that it was a positive and very worthwhile experience.”
Private sessions are conducted in an informal setting in the presence of one or two Commissioners. 

“We understand how difficult it can be for people to come forward and talk about what happened to them.  There are trained counsellors available to provide immediate support to anyone in distress.  We also encourage people to bring a support person with them such as a friend or family member.” 

Ms Dines said that a large number of people are telling their story for the very first time.  “Many people have said that after years of keeping silent, they feel safe to speak out.”  Ms Dines said that people have different reasons for coming forward.  “Some people want the Royal Commission to know what happened to them as a child and the impact it has had on their lives.  Many people are telling us that they want to help make institutions safer for children in the future.”  

“This will not be the only opportunity for South Australians to come forward to tell their story. We will be in Adelaide during July and will return to South Australia as many times as it takes to hear peoples’ stories.”  

The Royal Commission encourages people affected by child sexual abuse in an institution to register to tell their story to the Royal Commission by: 
1) Telephoning 1800 099 340
2) Emailing registerinterest@childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au; or
3) Writing to GPO Box 5283, Sydney NSW 2001

If you need more information, including about support services, visit the Royal Commission’s website at www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au

Media enquiries:     Mr Chris Taylor 0477 708 469

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UK Apology to Former Child Migrants | 3rd Anniversary | 24/02/2013

 

Prime Minister, David Cameron said:
"Three years after the nation apologised to the victims of the child migration schemes it is important that we never forget their suffering.  I am pleased that, through the Family Restoration Fund, we have been able to help repair some of the damage that families suffered."

 


Gordon Brown MP said:
"The work of the Child Migrants Trust over the last 26 years has been instrumental in helping thousands of innocent children come to terms with their ordeal. They were deported, robbed of their childhoods and deprived of contact with their families. As Prime Minister in 2010 I offered an apology on behalf of the nation for the part the UK played in this shameful practice. Today, it remains as important as ever that we are mindful of the mistakes of the past - and that we continue to do all we can to ensure that former child migrants enjoy the same rights and privileges as we all do. I offer my very best wishes and heartfelt thanks to the Trust which continues to carry out its vital work."

Click on the video links below to view the 2010 statement by Gordon Brown and the response of Harold Haig, Secretary of the International Association of former Child Migrants and their Families:


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Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

The federal government announced today the Terms of Reference and appointment of six Royal Commissioners for the inquiry into child sexual abuse in institutional settings. They include professionals working in the fields of law, politics, psychiatry and public policy.

Further information about the Royal Commission, including the Terms of Reference, can be found on its website at: http://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/about-us

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