[JURIST] Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd [official profile] on Monday issued an apology [speech transcript] to poor and underprivileged British children who were sent to Australia and other former British colonies over the last century with the supposed intention of giving them a better life, but were instead subjected to childhood of abuse and hard labor. It is believed that there are currently around 7,000 people living in Australia who survived the Child Migrants Program [Australia Parliament backgrounder], which is believed to have begun [Guardian report] in the 1920s and lasted until 1967. At the ceremony in the capital city of Canberra, which was attended by about 900 of the "Lost Innocents" [Australia Parliament backgrounder], Rudd expressed the country's regret:
Today, the Government of Australia will move the following motion of apology in the Parliament of Australia. We come together today to deal with an ugly chapter in our nation's history. And we come together today to offer our nation's apology.In his speech, Rudd also addressed his apology to the larger group of around 500,000 Australian children, called the "Forgotten Australians" [Australia Parliament backgrounder], who suffered physical and emotional abuse and neglect in the state-run orphanages and foster care system during approximately the same time period. Despite recognition of the past problems, the Australian government has said it will not provide compensation [UKPA report] to the victims.
We acknowledge the particular pain of children shipped to Australia as child migrants - robbed of your families, robbed of your homeland, regarded not as innocent children but regarded instead as a source of child labour.
The Child Migrant Program was initially begun in the 1920s with the idea of providing British colonies with a supply of white workers and to establish certain religious denominations. It has been estimated that over 150,000 children were forcibly emigrated to former colonies including areas in Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. It is believed that between 7,000 and 10,000 were shipped to Australia alone between 1947 and 1967. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown [official website] is expected to make a similar apology [RNW report] in the coming year.