Australia to apologise for child abuse under state care

August 30, 2009 / Times of India

MELBOURNE: Australia on Sunday said it would formally say sorry to the hundreds of thousands of children who were abused and neglected while in state care, in a gesture similar to last year's acknowledgement of past injustices inflicted upon Aborigines.

The Australian Government's apology would help address terrible wrongs inflicted on the so-called "Forgotten Australians" and child migrants who suffered physical, emotional, and sexual abuse while in the care of government institutions, Australian Families Minister Jenny Macklin has said.

Macklin said, "the level of abuse and neglect had been unacceptable and it was now time to issue a formal apology", 'The Age' reported.

A 2004 Senate report estimated that at least 500,000 children had been placed in more than 500 orphanages, homes or other forms of care during the last century.

In February 2008, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had apologised to Aboriginal people for centuries of injustice, including the "stolen generations" of indigenous children taken from their families and placed in foster care with white families or institutions.



More has been written about the formal apology being sent to so many.

Meanwhile, little is being written about what is being done so history does not keep repeating itself.

Thousands of British children who suffered abuse in Australian institutions after being sent there by UK authorities are to receive an official apology, it emerged today.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will publicly say sorry after his government said their treatment in care homes was ‘unacceptable’.

Up to 10,000 youngsters, including orphans and children forcibly taken from unmarried mothers and impoverished families, were sent to Australia between 1922 and 1967.

With the encouragement of organisations like the Salvation Army and Barnardos they were sent as migrants to boost the country’s population with “good white stock”.

But many of those who made the 10,000-mile journey went on to lead to a life of starvation, slave labour and sexual abuse.

Mr Rudd’s apology will come eight years after a 2001 Senate report on child immigration recommended his predecessor John Howard to express his government’s regret for the misery endured by half a million children who lived in horrific institutions and apalling foster homes.

It follows his historic apology to Aborigines who taken from their mothers placed in state care during the last century.

Jenny Macklin, the Families and Indigenous Affairs Minister, today said a formal apology would probably take place before the end of the year.

She added: 'Many former child migrants and other children who were in institutions, their families and the wider community have suffered from a system that did not adequately provide for, or protect children in its care.

‘This is a significant national step in the healing process for forgotten Australians and former child migrants.’

TMany of the he British victims, whose average age was eight, often developed drug and alcohol addictions found it impossible to hold down jobs or marriages.

As soon as they arrived at an insitution they were given a number which replaced their name, and dressed in rags – with shoes becoming a luxury.

They were uniformly fed rotting food - ‘maggoty, mouldy, weevilly,’ a former child migrant described it in a submission to the 2001 inquiry.

Another said: ‘The freshest part of the food actually moved.’

They faced regular beatings with straps, canes and even cricket bats were common as was sexual assault.

In some Christian Brothers institutes, small boys were forced into bestial acts.

Many of the institutions farmed the children out to industrial laundries and local farms as slave labour.

And, even into the 1970s, hundreds of children and babies as young as seven months old were used as guinea pigs for new vaccines that did not work or failed to pass safety tests in animals.

The announcement of the apology has been welcomed by the Alliance for Forgotten Australians, which represents those who suffered in state care.

Caroline Carrol, chairwoman of the AFA, said: ‘As children, many of us experienced horrors in the places that were supposed to care for us,’ she said.

‘As adult survivors, we need acknowledgment of and an apology for the harm that was done to us.

‘The apology is an excellent beginning to what we hope will be a comprehensive government response.’

The apology, which may be delivered jointly by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull.

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Apologies are just words....

Thankfully, I was never in any kind of holding therapy or maltreatment by the state say past placing me in 9 foster homes and suffering sexual abuse in those foster homes.  I feel for these children/adults that have had to suffer these things. 

  Regardless of that..something that popped out to me "As adult survivors, we need acknowledgment of and an apology for the harm that was done to us."

  Really? Do you?

  I feel as though if my kidnapper, my abusers and the people that hurt me came to me and said "We are sorry for what we have done for you" would be shallow. What I have learned in my recovery, actions and positive change are far more powerful catalyst's then a hollow "apology".

  The best part of recovery is accepting what has happened to you and moving forward with your life to educate others. Apologies given or not.


What does a government owe its people?

While personal growth and victory are often the cornerstones of a productive life, I do believe each government involved in child placement schemes DO owe a blanket apology for past sins/mistakes and owe ALL people a promise to do much better so no more children are treated like those who were forced to suffer in-care. 

Problem is, how often are empty promises part of a very heart-moving campaign speech? 

Some of the comments related to the second-mentioned article do reflect a sense of  frustration towards a government that does "too little too late"... for "certain people".  This sentiment exists because so many DO know how certain members of church, family services, and state politics are protected from criminal investigation. 

  • The whole generation of kids that were abused in homes both in Australia, England and Ireland and it seems the Channel Islands will never be allowed to tell their stories. Sexual and phyisical abuse was rife and mores the pity very little done about it. Even today a lot has been hidden. Compensation may have eased their pain but the mental scars will remain for ever. Lets hope all the abusers.. are or will....rot in hell.
  • Why does it take these adults so long to say sorry?  Of course it is the actual adults who committed the crimes who should be on TV saying sorry from their prison cells.  Justice has to be seen, to be done.
  • This is actually big news, wow, will this remain as a small acrticle or make some serious headlines? nope. it's already gone. Shame.
  • if they think this apology invokes absolution for evil deeds they are deluded it's too late for that, the perpetrators are all dead as they well know 
    same as visiting the grave of your murder victim and saying sorry to make yourself feel better

"Educate others".  <nodding>  I agree.  I also believe some of the best teachers around are the very children who were put in "less than safe" situations.  Who else can help educate those who have no idea what it's like to be "sent away"?

As for myself, I like to help educate others... I like showing the many ways women and children have been "touched" by those claiming to know how certain people/certain "behaviors" ought to be treated.  [See:History of Child Placement].
Truth be told, there are many who are just like me who would really like others to know what was done, (whilst in "better care"), so certain practices can be radically changed, if not stopped altogether.  But then, time will tell just how long words from people like "us" will be taken very seriously.

Taken seriously is tough!

Dear Kerry,

  Great post. Sorry, I have been away in the woods teaching people survival skills the last few days. It's been hot, sticky and yucky. Not a drop of rain here, which I was hoping for..LOL. Great reply, I really like this post. When I am not resting up for the next hike I am hip deep in emails and new mailer campaigns. 

  Anyways, for survivors to be taken seriously takes a tremendous amount of fortitude from survivors to galvanize and become a BODY of survivors rather then an arguing, pragmatic and fractured group of people talking on the internet.

  Once again, I agree with your post but before anyone actually is willing to listen to us as a group of survivors it's our job to galvanize, organize and promote that message both offline and online as beacon of hope and change.

  Inspiring change and uttering the words are two different things.


" The very survival mechanics RAD Adult's use to survive slowly kill them" M.S.

Pound Pup Legacy