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)


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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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