British migrants reunited in Sydney

Former British child migrants Michael Tubbs, 75, (left) and Mick Snell, 74, reunited in Sydney after once sharing the same British orphanage.

Some wiped away tears, a wife clutched her ailing husband’s hand, a pensioner adjusted his hearing aid to ensure he caught every word – but if there was one point they were all agreed on as they listened to Gordon Brown’s historic apology it was simply: ‘About time.’

They came from around New South Wales to gather in Sydney and hear the Prime Minister’s recorded speech in which he expressed his sorrow that Britain had let down thousands of young children by packing them off to Australia between the 1920s and the 1960s as part of the Child Migrants Programme.
‘We are truly sorry,’ said Mr Brown, his words echoing around the elderly group of 30 or so who had gathered in Sydney. ‘We are sorry they were allowed to be sent away at the time when they were most vulnerable…sorry the country turned its back.’
Many of those who spent the six weeks voyage to the other side of the world ended up in institutions where they were physically and sexually abused. They were times that those who suffered in this way have tried hard to forget, but like a recurring nightmare they admit the horrors will remain with them for the rest of their years.
Ask Ron Grant, 73 now, what it was like in the Sydney institution he found himself in and he shakes his head. ‘No more – I can’t talk about it any more. I will only say that it wasn’t good. The worst part was that I felt completely alone, abandoned.’
Alone…abandoned…they were words on everyone’s lips today/yesterday (Thurs), more than the memories of any beatings or sexual abuse they might have endured at the hands of adult strangers.
After he made a life for himself in Australia and raised a family, Ron Grant still found it difficult to cuddle his children. He told an Australian senate committee inquiring earlier into the child migrant scheme that when he was reunited with his long-lost sister she asked him: ‘Ron, hold me properly.’
He replied: ‘I don’t know how’. He added: ‘To my sister – it hurts to this day.’
Mr Grant arrived in Australia when he was 13 but, he recalled, nobody ever sat him down and asked him how he was feeling. He could count on his fingers the number of people, including his wife, who had thought to put their arms around him.
Mick Snell, 74, was 14 when he arrived in Australia. His mother died of TB when he was young and he had been placed in an orphanage in Gloucestershire before he was eventually shipped off to Australia. He never knew anything of his father.
Memories of the children’s home in Sydney still haunt him. ‘The place was over-run with rats and I had to work from dawn to darkness for six days a week. The loneliness was the worst part – I didn’t have anyone I could turn to.’
Paedophiles lurked among the adults who had charge of the youngsters but none of the children wanted to talk about it at the time – just as they don’t wish to today, said Mr Snell.
Eric Leonard, 83, admits that the first eight years of his life are ‘blanked out’ because he had no family to make any impression on him. ‘I think my mother was 15, which was why I ended up with foster parents and later Dr Barnardos homes were sending people out to Australia, the boys to become farmers, the girls as domestic servants.’
Mr Leonard arrived in Australia in December 1937 and found himself under a tough superintendent at a farm training institute but he admits that the severe days did him no harm and served him in good stead for work that he found later on sheep and cattle stations before he eventually joined the police force.
Alf Jones, 72, was born in London, but his true identity did not emerge until many years later when an official in Australia showed him his birth certificate. ‘That’s not me,’ he recalls saying, ‘that’s not my name – I’m Alf Jones.’
He remains convinced that his name and that of other boys were changed when they were youngsters so that they would not, in time, be able to trace their families and learn the truth – that they were not orphans and that they had brothers and sisters.
Taken away from his family when he was four and told that he had no parents, Mr Jones was placed in a boys home in the UK before being shipped to another home in Melbourne. ‘We were known as the waifs and strays,’ he remembers, but he knows now that he and the thousands of others like him were sent across the world to beef up the white population.
He was a teenager when he first saw the home he was to be placed in – and ran away on the first day. ‘I didn’t know where I was going – I just didn’t want to be institutionalised again – but the police caught up with me. My punishment was to be locked in a small tin building for a couple of days. There was a bed, a toilet and the temperature was 100 degrees.’
At the Sydney gathering, the migrants and their spouses were unanimous in agreeing that Mr Brown’s gesture in setting up a fund to help former child migrants trace their families was a step in the right direction.
‘For some, it’s come too late,’ says Mick Snell. ‘But it might also help to bring happiness to those who have spent a lifetime feeling as though they had no beginning.’
* SEE Daily Mail version of my story (above) at this link

Rudd says sorry to forgotten Australians
AAP
November 16, 2009 11:18am
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KEVIN Rudd has apologised to forgotten Australians saying the nation is sorry for their physical suffering, emotional starvation and the cold absence of love and tenderness during their forced care.
“Sorry that as children you were taken from your families and placed in institutions where often you were abused,” he said.
Hundreds of people, many of them forgotten Australians, have gathered in parliament’s Great Hall to hear both the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull offer an apology.
They welcomed the Prime Minister with rapturous applause and hooting.
The audience included former child migrants separated from their families in Britain.
They and others were placed with foster parents or in orphanages run by the states and churches up until the late 1970s.
Many suffered ill-treatment and some sexual abuse.
Mr Rudd told those gathered that Australia was “Sorry for the physical suffering, emotional starvation and the cold absence of love, of tenderness, of care.”
He said that part of Australia’s history was filled with shame.
“As a nation we must now reflect on those who did not receive proper care.
“We look back with shame that so many of you were left cold, hungry and alone and with nowhere to hide and nobody, absolutely nobody, to whom to turn.
Mr Rudd acknowledged the pain of children shipped to Australia as migrants.
“Robbed of your families, robbed of your homeland, regarded not as innocent children, but regarded instead as a source of child labour.
“To those of you who were told you were orphans, brought here without your parents’ knowledge or consent, we acknowledge the lies you were told, the lies told to your mothers, fathers and the pain these lies have caused for a lifetime.”
—-
Thousands of British children forced to make the long sea journey to Australia in the belief that their parents had died finally received an official apology today (Mon) for the abuse they suffered in their new country.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has shown the way to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown into apologising to the abused and neglected child migrants by uttering a word the former migrants had waited years to hear:
‘Sorry’.
Mr Rudd went further, to say that he was ‘deeply sorry’ for the pain caused to not only the British migrants but to hundreds of thousands of Australian children who were placed into state care where they were sexually abused, beaten and humiliated.
‘We look back with shame that so many of you were left cold, hungry and alone and with nowhere to hide and nobody, absolutely nobody, to whom to turn,’ said Mr Rudd.
Mr Rudd said the nation was sorry for the physical suffering, emotional starvation and the cold absence of love and tenderness during the forced care suffered by the children who arrived on ships or who were already in Australia.
He said he was ‘sorry that as children you were taken from your families and placed in institutions where often they were abused.’
Hundreds of those children, now in their 50s and beyond gathered in parliament’s Great hall in Canberra to hear the apology, not only from Labour Prime Minister Mr Rudd but from the Liberal (conservative) leader, Malcolm Turnbull.
As youngsters, they were placed with foster parents or put into orphanages in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, where they suffered ill-treatment and in some cases sexual abuse.
Part of Australia’s history, said Mr Rudd, was filled with shame and ‘as a nation we must now reflect on those who did not receive proper care.’
Speaking of the British child migrants, he said: ‘Robbed of your families, robbed of your homeland, regarded not as innocent children, but regarded instead as a source of child labour.
‘To those who you who were told you were orphans, brought here without your parents’ knowledge or consent, we acknowledge the lies you were told, the lies told to your mothers, fathers and the pain these lies have caused for a lifetime.’
Mr Rudd’s apology comes after an announcement by the British government that Mr Brown would apologise for the forced migration policy next year.
The policy saw many children, who were shipped to Australia to increase the white population and build up the work force, educated only for farm work.
The founder of the Child Migrants Trust, Margaret Humphreys, travelled from England to Australia to hear the apology today.
For more than 20 years, she said, the trust had campaigned for recognition of what had happened to children.
‘This is a moment – a significant moment – in the history of child migration. The recognition is vital if people are to recover,’ she said.
Up to 10,000 children were forced to go to Australia, among them Harold Haig, now a spokesman for the International Association of Former Child Migrants and Their Families.
He said the apology should be followed by compensation from governments.
‘Federal governments played a direct role in the migration scheme,’ he said.
‘We were told we were orphans and we found out in our 40s, 50s and 60s that was all a lie. We see the national apology as the first step, but our struggle for compensation will not end.’
Eight years ago a Senate inquiry held in Australia into child migrants heard from people like Cliff Walsh, who was deported from the UK in 1954 without the knowledge of his parents, and Margaret Gallagher who was wrongly told she was an orphan with no family in England.
They and others told the inquiry of physical and sexual abuse, deprived of food and education and healthcare and often forced to work as slave labour.
Child Migrants

Child Migrants in the 1940s

Half a million Australian children and thousands more from Britain forced to make the long sea journey to Australia in the belief that their parents had died have finally received an official apology for the abuse they suffered in state ‘care’.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has shown the way to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown into apologising to the abused and neglected child migrants and ‘stolen’ Australian children by uttering a word they had waited more than half a century to hear: ‘Sorry’.

Mr Rudd went further, to say that he was in fact ‘deeply sorry’ for the pain caused to not only the British migrants but to hundreds of thousands of Australian children who were placed into state care where they were sexually abused, beaten and humiliated.

‘We look back with shame that so many of you were left cold, hungry and alone and with nowhere to hide and nobody, absolutely nobody, to whom to turn,’ said Mr Rudd.

Mr Rudd said the nation was sorry for the physical suffering, emotional starvation and the cold absence of love and tenderness during the forced care suffered by the children who arrived on ships or who were already in Australia.

He said he was ‘sorry that as children you were taken from your families and placed in institutions where often they were abused.’

Hundreds of those children, now in their 50s and beyond gathered in parliament’s Great hall in Canberra to hear the apology, not only from Labour Prime Minister Mr Rudd but from the Liberal (conservative) leader, Malcolm Turnbull.

As youngsters, they were placed with foster parents or put into orphanages in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, where they suffered ill-treatment and in some cases sexual abuse.

Part of Australia’s history, said Mr Rudd, was filled with shame and ‘as a nation we must now reflect on those who did not receive proper care.’

Speaking of the British child migrants, he said: ‘Robbed of your families, robbed of your homeland, regarded not as innocent children, but regarded instead as a source of child labour.

‘To those who you who were told you were orphans, brought here without your parents’ knowledge or consent, we acknowledge the lies you were told, the lies told to your mothers, fathers and the pain these lies have caused for a lifetime.’

Mr Rudd’s apology comes after an announcement by the British government that Mr Brown would apologise for the forced migration policy next year.

The policy saw many children, who were shipped to Australia to increase the white population and build up the work force, educated only for farm work.

The founder of the Child Migrants Trust, Margaret Humphreys, travelled from England to Australia to hear the apology today.

For more than 20 years, she said, the trust had campaigned for recognition of what had happened to children.

‘This is a moment – a significant moment – in the history of child migration. The recognition is vital if people are to recover,’ she said.

Up to 10,000 children were forced to go to Australia, among them Harold Haig, now a spokesman for the International Association of Former Child Migrants and Their Families.

He said the apology should be followed by compensation from governments.

‘Federal governments played a direct role in the migration scheme,’ he said.

‘We were told we were orphans and we found out in our 40s, 50s and 60s that was all a lie. We see the national apology as the first step, but our struggle for compensation will not end.’

Eight years ago a Senate inquiry held in Australia into child migrants heard from people like Cliff Walsh, who was deported from the UK in 1954 without the knowledge of his parents, and Margaret Gallagher who was wrongly told she was an orphan with no family in England.

They and others told the inquiry of physical and sexual abuse, deprived of food and education and healthcare and often forced to work as slave labour.

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