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Shamed into an apology

Nick Bryant | 00:35 UK time, Monday, 16 November 2009

The scandal of the child migrants sent to Britain's distant dominions was uncovered over two decades ago by a British social worker, Margaret Humphreys. But no British prime minister has ever delivered an official apology, despite repeated demands from victims' group. Gordon Brown now plans to do so sometime in the new year.

Following a report from a House of Commons Health Committee in 1998, the British government said the child migrant programme, was "wrong" and expressed regret. The Blair government also helped fund family reunions, along with the Child Migrants Trust, which had been set up by Margaret Humphreys in the late1980s to help victims locate their surviving mothers and fathers, or siblings.

In the gardens of the British High Commission in Canberra, I asked the new high commissioner, Baroness Amos, why it had taken so long for the British government to say sorry.

She explained that a number of state governments in Australia had delivered apologies, that the Australian national government was on the verge of doing so, and that the time was now right for Britain to follow suit.

"We've always said that this was an absolutely shocking period in our history," she said. "And there was a lot of thinking that went on in relation to this... it has taken us some time."

She said that the Blair government expressed strong regret after the Health Committee report highlighted the appalling treatment that many child migrants had been exposed to - physical, psychological and, at times, sexual abuse.

"We're now going that one step further and apologising" she said. "And this is the next stage in the process."

But when I asked whether Gordon Brown would have apologised had not his friend and political ally, Australia's Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, decided to do so, she did not really have an answer. She rejected that formulation, but did not come up with a convincing counterpoint.

Many will form the view that the British government has decided to act because the Australian government has decided to say sorry - delivering a national apology to British child migrants at the same time as saying sorry to the so-called Forgotten Australians, tens of thousands of Australians who were abused in institutions and orphanages.

The child migrants that I have spoken to go further: they say that Gordon Brown has been shamed into apologising by the Australian government, which has exhibited what they described as greater "moral leadership".

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  • 1. At 01:32am on 16 Nov 2009, Ian Bourne wrote:

    " ...but no British prime minister has never delivered an apology..", Oh, to be a BBC correspondent.

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  • 2. At 01:48am on 16 Nov 2009, mikeincan wrote:

    The story about the children sent to Australia is a fascinating one. As a Canadian resident I felt grateful that no such story had been reported about those children sent to Canada at the same time. But - memory can be more than Sebald's "darkroom"- and suddenly I remembered a 1987 TV production in Canada called "Heaven on Earth" which told the tale of a boatload of children arriving in Canada. There were some 'horror" stories in that but, overall, the writer gave a glowing report of the Canadian reception for the 'orphans'. I cannot assess - no one can- after this time span which story is the most accurate. I am sure that there was good and bad at both destinations but reality denies a scorecard. Is this not the eternal story of History? Incidentally, I don't expect any apologies from Canada or Great Britain!

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  • 3. At 01:55am on 16 Nov 2009, Whitlamite wrote:

    Blame aside, today was all about healing - and in that sense both the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader were graceful, appropriate, sincere, and united in helping people rehabilitate and come to terms with the horrific situation they found themselves in as children.

    It's appropriate that Gordon Brown apologises, I'm sure many child migrants believe he should have been the first to apologise (perhaps Tony Blair should have been the first). But let's focus on healing and the future rather than blame and the past.

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  • 4. At 02:17am on 16 Nov 2009, newsobserver87 wrote:

    Sad story.

    Though you can’t ask the British people of today to say sorry for something they didn’t do.

    Gordon brown has a lot more to say sorry for, as to all the major parties in the UK.

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  • 5. At 03:53am on 16 Nov 2009, barrie harrop wrote:

    Time for UK compensation.

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  • 6. At 04:49am on 16 Nov 2009, Theo Jones wrote:

    Before we rush to apologise for wrongdoing in the past, perhaps we should stop the terrible abuses being carried out by social work departments and family courts up and down the country.

    http://www.parents4protest.co.uk/ and http://www.fassit.co.uk/ have details of some of the harrowing cases of the abuse of power by vicious and vindictive social workers, right now in the UK.

    An apology for tearing families apart in the past is probably required - but more important is stopping it from still happening.

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  • 7. At 06:04am on 16 Nov 2009, Joe Gare wrote:

    About time too. Mr Rudd and his government are always bringing forward good things.

    To those poor forgotten souls.

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  • 8. At 06:30am on 16 Nov 2009, MIKE ROBINSON wrote:

    Brought up in childrens homes in the 50s&60s in the uk Then working with people who were the abused an apology might help in there healing process.The last paragraph of the blog was a negative statement as the people i have spoken to said an exact opposite.by the way i am in OZ now so have first hand expirience

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  • 9. At 07:14am on 16 Nov 2009, bbcpal wrote:

    No apology can right what was done wrong. However, it is significant what Rudd is doing in Australia since it is raising awareness of what was wrong and may and should help to avoid making that type of mistakes again.
    What is bizarre though is that it's Australia apologising (though the abuses of children sent from UK did happen there), while UK government and establishment does not seem to acknowledge and debate what went wrong there. It took two to tango, but one 'dancer' is still quiet. It's enough to have just one question in mind: What kind of ideology and ethics, not that long ago, in a democratic country, would lead to sending the kids from their place of birth to another side of the Earth and keep them in dark about their origin for so many years.
    Finally, I was for many years mislead that these UK kids were sent during the WW II (Blitz), but now I see that it went for many years after the war. Where the Kingdom used to send prisoners/convicts, it then sent the helpless kids. Sad.

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  • 10. At 08:05am on 16 Nov 2009, Johnross wrote:

    These belated ritual apologies are invariably invalidated by being either half-hearted and too politically cautious, as in the case of Gordon Brown, or politically exploitative, as in the case of Kevin Rudd. Their effectiveness, if indeed they have any at all, is minimised, if not altogether cancelled, by procrastination and prevarication. The so-called, 'emotional closure' they are supposed to assist is a chimera because even after the apology the grievance and its aftermath remain.

    Unless amends are made, compensation offered, and practical steps taken to mitigate the mistakes of the past - which due to the passage of time are usually neither possible, appropriate or adequate - then the whole exercise is doomed to be little more than a futile nod in the direction of political correctness and the new confessionalism. If governments have nothing more than words to offer they had better say nothing.

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  • 11. At 08:18am on 16 Nov 2009, Tony Diamond wrote:

    In 1965 myself along with eight other children were sent to Australia through Dr Barnardos homes. We were the last group to be flown out on our arrival we were all split up and sent in diffrent directions I was sent to a farm in NSW miles from anywhere and couldn,t understand why
    Over the past few years I have researched of what happened to the rest of my group most of there stories are very sad to say the least.
    The boys were sent to farms the girls were put into service. I myself ran away and found my way to Sydney and stowed away on a ship to the uk.
    Ending up in a new zealand jail before being deported back to the uk
    To read more about the last group of 1965 go to my website www.tonydiamond.co.uk read all there stories an apology from both goverments is well overdue

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  • 12. At 08:58am on 16 Nov 2009, Brianofthecam wrote:

    Yet another tragic case of inhumane government. But there's been a spate of apologies from various leaders for historical events. Do we have to wait another sixty years before apologies are made for today's equally damning social services activities?

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  • 13. At 09:12am on 16 Nov 2009, Rex Mundi wrote:

    Another empty statement from an empty suit.

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  • 14. At 09:41am on 16 Nov 2009, Simon wrote:

    I'm all for people trying to atone for their mistakes - it's the sign of a decent human being - but I'm slightly uneasy about politicians apologising for their predecessor's errors. Both Brown and Rudd were small boys when this happened, so it's like me doing something naughty and then my brother apologising to my mum year's later.

    The other thing that I'm uneasy about is that I'm not entirely sure that saying sorry makes it all better. Again using the childhood apology analogy, I tended to force an apology out so I could come down from my room and have some tea.

    And thirdly, whilst there are a lot of people who were hard done by under this policy and rightly deserve an apology, surely there must be people who prospered as a result of this. It's human nature to make the best of a bad job.

    On balance, I guess that an apology is probably right though. But it leaves me wondering - are Gordon Brown's advisors planning to win next year's election by getting the public to pity him? I mean, who says "yes I'll apologise, but next year sometime"?

    After reading Mr Diamond's story though, maybe nothing in life is so simple...

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  • 15. At 09:52am on 16 Nov 2009, Peter_Sym wrote:

    The first thing to remember is that during this period many Brits lived in Dickensian slums.... REAL povery and foul overcrowding made worse by the Blitz and Britain being totally bankrupted by WW2. This was the era of the twenty pound POMS with thousands of Brits going off to get a better life in Australia. The idea in principle of sending these kids out there was good. The people who should REALLY be apologising (and writing cheques) are those who actually carried out the abuse. From this mornings Breakfast interview with a victim it seems to be (suprise, suprise) the church behind the worst of it. The 'Christian Brothers' whoever they are should be in a jail cell.

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  • 16. At 10:00am on 16 Nov 2009, Colin V Alexander wrote:

    As an Australian boy of alcoholic parents I was raised to the age of 16 years (luckily) by the Salvation Army at Gosnells and Nedlands in Western Australia, during the period 1940-1956. Over the years we heard about the mis-treatment of those children shipped out from England. The stories were often frightening and we felt lucky to be with the "Sallies." However I do believe Britain also owes an apology to those children of Australian servicemen killed in action on behalf of Britain. A great number of them also ended up in the same institutions living under the same shameful and frightening conditions. Credit is due to the WA Govt for the Redress Scheme currently under way in which all children, as I have referred to above, are being assessed for compensation payments.

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  • 17. At 10:06am on 16 Nov 2009, JDaven wrote:

    Sadly, I suspect the guess is correct that the British Government is apologising only because the Australian government saw fit to do so. It appears that for all the progressive claims of New Labour, the Labour Party in Australia is showing how it should be done.

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  • 18. At 10:23am on 16 Nov 2009, mstime4tea wrote:

    It is shameful that children were treated this way as recently as 40 years ago. It is more shameful still that children are still being abused in this country by the Government's policy of detaining the children of migrants and asylum seekers. This is a practice that the Australian government has rejected because it has accepted the physical and mental harm that detention has on children.

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  • 19. At 10:28am on 16 Nov 2009, mittfh wrote:

    Hang on a minute though...

    These migrations stopped 40 years ago. They were started several decades beforehand. None of the current politicians in either the UK or Australia had anything to do with either starting or stopping the migrations.

    So why should they apologise for policies of predecessors? It doesn't make sense - in the same way the apologies earlier this year for the slave trade don't make sense.

    What next? The Americans apologising to the Japanese for Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Russia apologising for the actions of Joseph Stalin? Germany apologising for the actions of the Nazis (against all the ethnic groups they discriminated against)?

    All those events were regrettable, but what's the point in getting people completely unconnected to them to apologise on behalf of those that were but are no longer around (or even alive!)?

    If one of your grandparents committed a heinous crime 50+ years ago, would it be right for you to apologise to the victims / descendents of the victims on their behalf?

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  • 20. At 10:37am on 16 Nov 2009, CG wrote:

    I was educated in the fifties, and was subjected to corpral punishment. This harsh and unreasonable punishment has left me scarred for life; all we were doing was trying to make the teachers' daily lives a misery. I think Gordon Brown should apologise to us thrashed ones - and don't forget the compensation!

    I also think we should have National Apology Day every year, when our PM could apologise to the whole planet for all manner of misdeeds this country has done. Of course, it would have to be a public holiday - we have to get something out of it for ourselves.

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  • 21. At 10:38am on 16 Nov 2009, Rex Mundi wrote:

    Rudd is in electoral trouble over his handling of illegal immigrants. This is one of his "Hey, look over there! A Unicorn!" tactics to divert attention. Tony Blair has nothing on Rudd in the spin department.

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  • 22. At 10:40am on 16 Nov 2009, Salim Tyrewala wrote:

    The British government and the British people have never apologized to us for colonizing our country and running a racist, exploitative government, to which modern Britain owes a great deal of its wealth. A lot of our artistic and cultural heritage still lies in the Queen's possession and in British museums, stolen from our temples and monuments and people's homes.

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  • 23. At 11:03am on 16 Nov 2009, peter robinson wrote:

    As an individual it is pointless apologizing for a wrong committed by an ancestor. However Governments are not individuals and should apologize for policies that caused harm to individuals who are still alive ( I am less certain about the worth of government apologies for events several generations ago). Apologies for events during wars surely have a place in the necessary reconciliation ( otherwise you create the seedbed for the next war). #15 has it about right: prosecute the paedophiles and sadists who dealt out the misery. There is no hiding place for war criminals, there should none for those Australians who brutalized these children.

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  • 24. At 11:13am on 16 Nov 2009, Peter_Sym wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 25. At 11:16am on 16 Nov 2009, Obtuse_Metaphor wrote:

    It happened so long ago that at best it can be used as a caution to policy making and attitudes today at worst an opportunity for people to winge and moan I doubt anyone involved in the decision making is still alive today, so exactly who should be saying sorry, and can they be sure that the life they led was any worse than the one they would have led as orphans in the UK?

    I wouldn't expect my children to apologise for me, so perhaps these people should stop winging and get over it.

    btw Salim Tyrewala, by the fact you've got both the ability and time to post on here shows that you're pretty happy not living in the stone age. So maybe you could stop winging and say thanks. As I always say to my children, emphasis the positive, don't dwell on the negative.

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  • 26. At 11:21am on 16 Nov 2009, johndark wrote:

    I THINK THAT THE FAILURE OF CARE WAS IN AUSTRALIA, NOT IN BRITAIN. I WAS A PRODUCT OF AUSTRALIA IN THE 5O'S AND AUSTRALIA AT THAT TIME DIDN'T DO VERY WELL BY ITS OWN PEOPLE, LET ALONE PEOPLE THEY LET IN FOR A 'BETTER LIFE'

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  • 27. At 11:42am on 16 Nov 2009, Joseph Cronshaw wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 28. At 11:49am on 16 Nov 2009, Nowell Snaith wrote:

    I do not doubt that apologies were and are required here, but I must say I am getting extremely weary of Britain being expected to apologise for past deeds I, my generation, my children and their generation, and in some case my parents and grandparents have had no influence upon. I think it must be time to draw a line under the past and move on, endeavouring to learn from the past, some thing I do believe we can do without hand wringing apologies left right and centre. A greater focus on the present and future, instead of this risible fawning to other countries would be refreshing to say the least.

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  • 29. At 11:59am on 16 Nov 2009, Wynand van Rooyen wrote:

    These unfortunate people were stripped of their British citizenship without their consent, by their ultimate guardian, the British Government...simply because the British Government in terms of its rights as their custodian could act in this fashion without any opposition at that time...because these people were then...only children.Is this not child abuse in its worst form? I wonder how adult British subjects would react if today they were randomly selected based on their perceived lack of value to British society and deported?

    I wonder what Charles Dickens would have written on the subject?

    At the very least these people should have their British citizenship restored in full and compensated for proven further abuse whilst in/on the way to Australia. Talk is cheap.....apologies alone mean very little.

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  • 30. At 12:09pm on 16 Nov 2009, PETER BAUM wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 31. At 12:16pm on 16 Nov 2009, Wicked_Witch_of_the_West_Coast wrote:

    At the very least the Government should fund efforts to track down the relatives of those children who were sent to Australia. It seems the very least they can do.

    As for the Christian Brothers - an Irish friend suffered abuse at their hands in 50s Ireland. The order should be broken up, its possessions sold to benefit their past victims, and any perpetrator of abuse still alive and within the order should be jailed.

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  • 32. At 1:16pm on 16 Nov 2009, David wrote:

    I suspect the children were sent to Australia and other countries because people genuinuely believe they would have a better life in Australia. I also suspect that there are many thousands who did actually have a better life due to this policy, who we are not hearing about.
    I can see little point in Gordon Brown issuing an apology as it has nothing to do with him. If he had to aplogise for everything that someone in the world thought Britain should apologise for, he would do nothing else.

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  • 33. At 1:43pm on 16 Nov 2009, icewombat wrote:

    Well Brown is soo good at apologies..

    He waqs it Brair when he gave his slavery apology
    He apologised for the 10% error (but only after there was going to be a backbencher revolt)
    He apologised for the expenses row (but said it was a proceadual problem)
    He apologised for freeing the lockabie bomber (but said it was a scotish problem)
    He apologised for the banking crises (but said it was a world problem)
    He apologised to Jacqui Janes (but didnt answer her questions about lack of Helicopters or why she had to buy kit for her son)

    So why not bow to preasure and apologise for every thing else?

    How about the lack of WMD, or the fact he sold our gold at rock bottom prices, or why we are still in resession, or why ths month alown he has increased national debt per persion more than the average persions take home paypacket!

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  • 34. At 2:33pm on 16 Nov 2009, Delewar wrote:

    I don't know what Gordon Brown's got to apologise about. Who was in charge at the time? No doubt the PM at the time is now dead but that is no reason why he should not be named. Such wickedness at the top of UK government is only one of ongoing scandals involving the establishment.
    Who is responsible for the army atrocities in Iraq? The response has been, "training of troops has been improved". What kind of animals do we employ in the armed forces that need training to behave like civilised humans?
    The accolades heaped on our 'wonderful' soldiers contrasts badly with pictures of them beating up and torturing Iraqui (and now do doubt Afghani) prisoners. One honour does not cancel a dishonour. These same soldiers return to the UK to be demobilised into future criminals. Is there much to choose between us and the Al Quaeda?



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  • 35. At 3:03pm on 16 Nov 2009, Peter_Sym wrote:

    Perhaps the BBC can explain why my post #24 has been removed. I merely pointed out in response to post #16 that Australia was not FORCED to fight in WW2 by the Brits and that Japan both bombed Australia and that Japanese forces were heading for the Northern Territories fast (no-one would go to Port Moresby in New Guinea for the weather or the local cooking). I also said that while Britian owes great thanks to soldiers from Australia & New Zealand we certainly don't owe them an apology. This breaks absolutely no house rules whatsoever.

    The fact that comments speculating that British soldiers torture their prisoners (#34) or are racist thieves (#22) remain leave me to believe that this whole thread is just a BBC sponsored Brit-bashing session. Please remember it wasn't the british abusing these kids.

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  • 36. At 3:18pm on 16 Nov 2009, Careleaver wrote:

    As someone who'd endured 16 yrs surviving the many different children's homes & so called care during the 60's & 70's in the UK I fully empathise with the child migrants. I would have called them 'disposed of children' since this is what was anticipated. Like them we were split up from our siblings, not told about living parents identities until we left care, we were left to find them ourselves not too far away!!. Imagine having to cross continents, having had your identities destroyed, for who's benefit?,I was told my parent's were dead which was untrue.
    For those who feel an apology is too late ie "they were not responsible" please hold back. Reparation is essential to feel not only we can begin to forgive but for our own children who live the aftermath & stigma of this destructive unthinking social engineering. There is a pattern that whenever politicians want to find a scapegoat it falls on the shoulders of those who cannot defend themselves, or without a voice.
    As for Canada,it was only a decade ago that careleavers were stopped from being sent into Psychiatric institutions, many remain there to this day!.
    Dare i say it, what of the so called charities who rounded up children & who received a bounty? who told lies & perpetuated this inhumane system?, will you give to them still?. Who are they accountable to?.
    To this day in the UK over 80% of siblings in care & adoption are separated. Professor Audrey Mullender has researched & written extensively into the long term resulting damage. Some of us spend our lives trying to make a difference, rarely if ever are we funded to right the wrongs of the present let alone the past.

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  • 37. At 3:26pm on 16 Nov 2009, 11pete11 wrote:

    There are many aspects of this whole sordid mess that have me scratching my head in amazement.
    To start with, British children, taken from their parents, or left orphaned and therefore in the care of the British Government, are sent to a far off land for resettlement. ABANDONED. What sor of a person or groups of persons would do that to its people?
    Not in one year, but it seems from before WWII through to the 1960's. How many children where there? Does anyone in the British Government know?
    And what of duty of care of their citizens and offspring? Who was the responsible organisations that took them from Britain to Australia?
    What charges have been laid against Bernardo's or Fairbridge, the Church of England or the Roman Catholics? What charges have been laid against the Tory's or our equivalent United Australia Party, Country Party and later Liberal Party?
    If this matter was uncovered twenty years ago, why wasn't there a royal commission or similar called to have this thoroughly investigated? Whose heads have rolled. What parties, persons etc have been singled out for punishment under the so called leading world justice system?
    AND ALL DONE WITH THE APPROVAL OF THE MONARCH WHO IS OUR HEAD OF STATE.
    What irks me the most, as an Australian, is we are having to wear the blame for those that metred out this criminal neglect on these innocents, and yet we don't know if these 'authorities' were Australian citizens, or British employees, sent over with the children to care for them. Very little is known.
    We do know that we were swamped with ten pound poms during most of this period, and we know they had to be employed somewhere. How many brought over their cruel and vindictive 'class' ideas with them when they got here.
    The sooner we get rid of Britain and its power over us the sooner we can get on with living a sane and humane existence methinks.

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  • 38. At 3:50pm on 16 Nov 2009, Peter_Sym wrote:

    #37 It wasn't Brits behind 'the stolen generation' of Aboriginee kids nor working in your immigration detention centres. You might want to blame us for everything but the sad truth is that without Britain there wouldn't be an Australia. The reason your country is majority white, english speaking and a modern western democracy is because you were settled by Brits.

    Incidentally three of my great uncles were ten-pound poms. All were working class (as were all ten pound poms) so not 'cruel and vindictive' or with strange 'class ideals'. One farms sheep in New South Wales, One was a cop in Brisbane and the other built and maintained the railway lines serving one of the big iron mines in the desert. All 3 were clearly rather useful to the Aussie economy.

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  • 39. At 3:58pm on 16 Nov 2009, ghostofsichuan wrote:

    Governments, all governments, have a record of past misdeeds, some worse than others. The lists of abuses by governments around the world is endless. I guess to say they are sorry may mean something to someone but in the long run these things only occur well beyond any reasonable or meaningful time. People think this is meaningful while abuses go on every day...less as a matter of policy, but still happen. You may have noticed but human beings have yet to figure out how to get along. The wealthy bankers and investors initiated the world financial crisis, assisted by the governments, and robbed people's personal retirement accounts, so I guess in another 60 years we will all receive an apology. No money, but an apology. And governments wonder why citizens may be suspect of their intentions and actions. The only things that have changed are the methods.

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  • 40. At 4:17pm on 16 Nov 2009, 11pete11 wrote:

    38 Peter-Sym if you check Australia' history, you will find the very matters you raise were done by conservative governments loyal to England, and strong anti Republicans. Menzies and Howard especially in the case of the stolen generation and immigration detention centres. It was under both their reigns as PM that we sustained the largest migration of Brits to Australia, so thought they may have had a bit of paper claiming to be Aussie citizens, they were still embedded in the British ideals from whence they came...we made Australia what it is, and therefore Australia is still ours....
    As to your 'without Britain there wouldn't be an Australia', it was the Irish famine that actually got us started, along with the Afghan camel handlers, the Chinese gold panners, the Indian traders and other migrants from other nations who, along with Brits, turned Australia from a penal colony into a stable and sustainable country. It wasn't Britain alone.
    Early pastoralists and settlers generally that came to Australia from Britain, with the blessing of the British government of the time, demanded to be treated as lords and masters over any other nationalities, including the original people. This 'British superiority' deveolped the 'class' principle I referred to, which existed up until around the time Gough Whitlam said 'enough'.

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  • 41. At 4:45pm on 16 Nov 2009, Charentais wrote:

    While Mr Rudd is at the 'apology' game, could he please take the trouble to apologise to the British for the Australian habit of calling us 'whinging Poms'?

    Once that is done, then perhaps we should apologise to the French for Waterloo, Agincourt & Crecy?

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  • 42. At 4:45pm on 16 Nov 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    Theo Jones wrote:
    "Before we rush to apologise for wrongdoing in the past, perhaps we should stop the terrible abuses being carried out by social work departments and family courts up and down the country."

    Until last week, i would have overlooked this comment. For the past week, however, I have been doing pro bono legal work for a disabled family as they have been trying to keep openly malicious social services folks out of their lives. I have witnessed social services bringing actions to separate disabled children from their parents knowing full well that they had no chance of winning the action. They did it just to traumatize the mother, who had dared to speak back to her social worker. And of course, the four lawyers involved all made a nice earn from the taxpayer.

    Perhaps... I mean, certainly... as a tax lawyer in Switzerland I am not exposed to the grit of how the system works for the disadvantaged in the UK. But even so, I have been utterly shocked at the wanton aggression shown by social services workers. I mean, the people I have been dealing with are just horrible people. Really, really nasty people who thrill at the prospect of dominating their victims and showing who has the power in the relationship.

    I think we need to take a good hard look at the "political economy" of social services in the UK. By that I mean how the system rewards behaviour, and what type of people the system naturally selects. Social services has become an industry for useless lawyers and unskilled folks who like to bully people, for the most part. At least, that is all I can see. God help the children left behind by their families, because the state just grinds them up and spits them out, and the desensitized folks who work the system are only thinking about clocking up the overtime.

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  • 43. At 5:36pm on 16 Nov 2009, Bren54 wrote:

    I know one of these children. He lives in a homeless hostel in the UK where my friends, social workers, look after him.
    He weeps whenever he sees these reports - not because he was abused, but because he had been happy in Australia, misses it terribly and hates seeing the people who looked after him, not able to answer back now, being demonised.

    He came back to the UK when some "helpful" person located him, went to see remaining family members, who rejected him - again - and ended up living rough in the UK. I guess he is not typical - for one he seems to have psychiatric problems - but I always try to relate news reports to real life observations - the disconnection is bizarre at times. Like the BBC plea for "different" stories after the one who wrote in turned out to be positive about his experience

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  • 44. At 11:23pm on 16 Nov 2009, Bill wrote:

    The mistreatment and abuse meted out by carers in Australia, regardless of their nationality is disgusting, criminal and immoral, and the authorities should pursue them and prosecute them to the full extent of the law. That said, should an entire nation be vilified because of the actions of these criminals?

    However, the actions of the British government in shipping these children off to a foreign ountry on the other side of the world, and abandoning them to their fate, is reprehensible. They should not only apologise, they should re-instate their citizenship and repatriate them with adequate compensation.

    As for Mr Rudd's apology; Is there anything the British don't blame us for?

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  • 45. At 00:07am on 17 Nov 2009, Lynn Whittaker wrote:

    This is what Britain did to its OWN children & citizens, shipping them over to Australia - thousands of children over a 40 year period! There have been a few different PM's over that timescale, all turning a blind eye to what any predecssors had 'accomplished'. These migrants are still victims & not all elderly, some with terrible memories. Many were sent to Canada & South Africa, too. (To Mittfh: Therefore, difficult to compare with Germany apologising for the Holocaust or US apologising to Japan, eh?) Yes, British & Aus Governments need to show compassion & apologise - it's never too late!

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  • 46. At 00:42am on 17 Nov 2009, oioioi2 wrote:

    The british orphan situation puts things into perspective the extents to which australia's anglophille politicians stooped to keep this anglo enclave as anglo as possible, of course all hand in glove with the UK government. In fact over the last 200 years the bulk of UK immigrants to Oz have been low class, low skilled and of low desirability on the part of the UK government, they were better of becoming economic migrants and at the same time boosting anglo numbers in the dominions as far as the UK government was concerned.

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  • 47. At 02:13am on 17 Nov 2009, Camo wrote:

    I wasn't going to comment until I read all the collosally moronic "I didn't do it why should I apologise" posts.
    The governments of the respective countries are who we're discussing, and yes the governments put in place these measures and yes the governments should recognise and offer solutions to the problems that resulted. The temporary custodians of the governments cannot hide behind "i didn't do it" like so many howardesque deniers of old.

    And for you who say "40 years ago" - the scars on a close relative's face are as fresh as every ****-ing morning when he shaves.

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  • 48. At 07:31am on 17 Nov 2009, shkeens wrote:

    G'day Nick, long time reader, first time... Commenter?
    Anyways, after reading some comments wondering why should Gordon Brown apologise for the sins of his predecessors, I had a thought:
    Why doesn't the Queen apologise?
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't she in reign for a good 18 years before all this ended?
    As monarch and head of state of both Australia and the United Kingdom, I'm surprised as to why no one has yet mentioned her.
    After all, she isn't just some old lady living on benefits...

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  • 49. At 09:00am on 17 Nov 2009, Amin_bin_Adam wrote:

    How appropriate! The subject concerns British Government and the name "Rudd". I recommend a visit to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudd_Concession. It will reveal another of many issues for which apologies would be welcome.

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  • 50. At 10:05am on 17 Nov 2009, hackerjack wrote:

    What a pointless gesture. Was anyone who apologised or is beign asked to apologised actually involved? No of course not.

    The only apology worth anythign would come from those responsible, that won't happen so why can't the idiots whop keep calling for it just shut up and let the governemnts deal with more present day issues.

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  • 51. At 10:07am on 17 Nov 2009, hackerjack wrote:

    The temporary custodians of the governments cannot hide behind "i didn't do it" like so many howardesque deniers of old.

    ----------

    It's not hiding, would you feel genuine apologising for something your great grandfather did, as a temporary custodian of your family line?

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  • 52. At 1:03pm on 17 Nov 2009, hackerjack wrote:

    These unfortunate people were stripped of their British citizenship without their consent, by their ultimate guardian, the British Government...simply because the British Government in terms of its rights as their custodian could act in this fashion without any opposition at that time...because these people were then...only children.Is this not child abuse in its worst form?
    --------------

    You think that stripping someone of it's citizenship before they are old enough to even appreciate what it means is a worse child abuse than beating them, raping them, forcing them to sleep in damp cellars, prostituting themand so on?

    Get a grip of reality and get some perspective.

    The child abusers here are the australians/brits who actually carried out the abuses and those who knew they wer going on but looked the other way. NOT the government.

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  • 53. At 11:26pm on 17 Nov 2009, 11pete11 wrote:

    I think hackerjack 50, 51, 52 is missing the point completely. Under the Westminister system used in both Australia and Britain, Governments instituted and sanctioned these attrocities. Most of the children were wards of the State in Britain it seems, and they were sent to Australia where they were transferred to Australian law...therefore under Australian the Government Government. In the process of transfer the British Government took little to no responsibility to what happened to their children once they reached Australia. The Australian Government handed the responsibility over to the individual States within Australia and, like Britain, wiped their hands of these children.
    The institutions, both Government and private, would have been selected by these selected State's, and possibly with Federal assistance. They would have been run with State and Federal Government grants to assistance and care for the kids.
    The fact that NOT ONE OF THESE GOVERNMENT INSTITUTIONS bothered to check how the taxpayer's money was being spent on these children, lied to the public concerning how they children were being cared fore and turned a blind eye to what we now know was criminal, make it very much a Government responsibility.
    As to what financial assistance the British Goverment gave Australia to assist with the care of these children, I don't know if that information has ever been disclosed.

    Under the Westminister system, the Government is neither considered Liberal or Labor, Tory or Labour...it is considered Government. The Government is neither past, present or future, the Government is Government. Hence why Rudd has apologised, as he did for the Stolen Generation.

    Had an apology not been given, the door would remain open for such atrocities to continue into the future... The Westminister system again....because the past action sets a precident....that is, it was done before, no official objection has been put into Hansard, and so it can happen again.

    The mindset of those in Government at the time in Australia...as I have previously said...was very conservative, with a very strong bend to Britain and the Monarchy. The attitude was that if it helps mother England then we will pull out all stops to do so. It is still a very strong feeling in the minds of the conservative side of politics here in Australia even today.
    It is why I strongly dislike the Westminister System and want our Country run as a Republic, completely removed from the possibility of such a scenaro happening again.

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  • 54. At 02:32am on 18 Nov 2009, 11pete11 wrote:

    A sobering reflection for those that claim the 'past perpertrators should be held responsible for past atrocities'. Aren't we currently the past of the future? Aren't we currently, with our head in the sand, willfully following the very actions of our past generations?
    You may well say we don't have the institutions of yesteryear, that we don't 'import' children from Britian any more. This is true. But as an example, what of mental health policies, and the mentally ill. Do we really know what is happening to these very sick people? Aren't we just as liable as the people of past generations who let atrocities happen with out a clue as to what was happening?
    Isn't it our responsibility, as a people, to ensure our Governments carry out the responsibilities we hand over to them. After all, it is Australia, and Britain of today that is paying the price of the actions of those country's governments today. Will our kids and grand kids hold their heads in shame, accusing our generation for our callousness and non caring attitude of the mentally ill?
    Will they applaud our throwing people out of institutions in the 80's to have them live in the streets, survive with the minimalist, if any, support? Will they applaud the psychiatrists' claim that 'they must first want help before we can help them' knowing the capacity for these ill people to make informed choice, even when medicated, is poor?
    How many meltally ill people will the police be forced to kill before someone says 'enough'?
    And of course, assuming a goverment of the future will put out an apology for what our generation is doing to the mentally ill, will we see blog posts like this one, full of comments such as: "Why do we have to apologise for what was done by our parents and grandparents' generation."...as is being done here today in relation to the 'Stolen Generation' and the 'Forgotten Children'?
    When are we the people going to take back control of our country, so that 'never again' will we have to have apologies raised in our name?

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  • 55. At 04:54am on 18 Nov 2009, bbcpal wrote:

    I must admit that I have to change the emphasis I had in the comment I wrote before (under number '9'). While I accepted that it takes two to tango I also felt that the 'Kingdom' had more responsibility, being the one who sent their own children rather then Australia that participated in the scheme. However, since, I picked up the shattering story that "children and babies in institutions were used for medical experiments and research in Victoria until as recently as the 1970s, in the race to beat debilitating diseases such as whooping cough and polio, following World War II.". Well that does not have anything to do with the Kingdom, and it was strictly Australian matter. The other party surelly continued to tango. http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/1134522/Forgotten-Australians-'used-in-research'
    Many of us love, and mostly rightly, to criticise the Private Enterprise excesses or the Authoritarian Regimes, under the veils of democracy ugly things happen too. There's hardly any country that can claim the high moral ground. The differences is excesses out of control vs. managing excesses and hopefully not repeating them.

    Humbly and sadly, thanks for reading

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  • 56. At 10:25am on 18 Nov 2009, dcarmichael wrote:

    I think upon reading some of the comments here it's clear some people are missing a key word to describe happenstance of the Australian government apology, and that it was (due no doubt to much coercion of those involved), to try to show COMPASSION for the poor people who were physically and mentally abused, raped and isolated from their families for the simple unfortunate act of being born poor. The complicity of the Australian and UK governments is undisputed, the relevance of WHO should shoulder the blame and compensate these people is irrelevant beyond ANY government, Australian and/or UK, doing something RIGHT NOW to make up for their past and ongoing suffering.
    Upon watching the heartbreaking documentary Fairbridge Farm School on tv last night it doesn't take a genius to realise that many of the abused from these institutions didn't recieve the education they were promised, many are no doubt poor due to not having access to things some of us take for granted, like having the ability to work to afford a decent superannuation upon retirement and owning their own home. With Australia now on record as having the second lowest pension rate (with Ireland being the lowest) in the developed world, i think these people need a bit more than a few free sessions of councelling to help them move on from the past.
    For those of you who think, "why the hell should i or my government apologise or compensate for the wrongs of the past? They have nothing to do with me or my children", please consider that for the victim the past is always alive and present, as thecamo posted previously that the past is present every time their relative looks in the mirror. The past is only the past when you pass away, and even then the effects of abuse has a way of insidiously working it's way down the generations to affect the families and loved one's of the victims. By the way, i am a 29 year old Australian woman who had happy childhood, and i still shed a bucketload of tears when watching the doco, not just for the victims but at the thought of my beloved nieces and nephews suffering a similar fate, as i'm sure many Australians did last night. Last but not least (and trust me i could go on for pages) when was the last time you ever felt worse when someone said "SORRY" to you, i think i can guess, NEVER! It may be just a word to some but for others a word can mean so much. Many of the victims have not even uttered a single word about their abuses to a single soul until being interviewed for the documentary. If saying SORRY can open the floodgates to discussion and healing then bring it on! And from me to all of the victims, i am truly sorry for everything that happened to you. I hope the rest of your lives are filled with as much happiness as possible........

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  • 57. At 11:08am on 18 Nov 2009, hackerjack wrote:

    Had an apology not been given, the door would remain open for such atrocities to continue into the future

    ---------

    Ansolute rubbish. The apology has changed no laws and will change no future actions, it has thus closed no doors that hadn't already been shut years ago by the original investigations.

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  • 58. At 12:49pm on 18 Nov 2009, FormerlyOldHermit wrote:

    Hackerjack is right. The apology doesn't shut the door and the lack of one wouldn't have left the door open either. All the rubbish about the Westminster system too is wrong; no Parliament binds itself EVER. The laws and precedents of a previous Parliament can always be overturned by a new Parliament. And that's just not a Westminster rule either. Apart from the Constitution, the same applies to the Washington model.

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  • 59. At 12:59pm on 18 Nov 2009, 11pete11 wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 60. At 1:49pm on 18 Nov 2009, 11pete11 wrote:

    Oh dear the ignorance of some is stunning.

    The Government never changes, it stays as a recorded and historical fact. The make up of the Government does however change, whether within the same political party or when there is a change of party altogether.
    What gets put into law, regulation or accepted in debate in both houses of Parliament stay that way till changed. At a specific time the members of that Government face the people for an election as to who will continue the Government. Rules, laws, regulartions, accepted norms remain active, till further debate, discussion etc brings forward the particular change.
    Because the 'sorry' statement for both aboriginal people and those treated apaulingly in care has now been officially entered into the Parliament of Australia, and therefore entered into Hansard, a precident had been set. If any attempt in the future to try and impose similar draconian laws, the Hansard record can be brought before the Parliament and stimulation of a debated will have it's basis....both sides of Parliament have agreed to the 'sorry' declarations.... Had the apology not been made, the argument of the opposing side would be very weak.

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  • 61. At 11:27pm on 18 Nov 2009, 11pete11 wrote:

    A very interesting aspect of this apology is that suggestions of compensation to the children who were institutionalised so badly damaged by their treatment hasn't caused a ripple of concern from the mainstream media. Yet even though most Aboriginal people who were taken from their families and suffered a similar fate, who didn't even ask for compensation, copped a huge uproar in the some circles of the media.
    So much for there NOT being racism in Australia.

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  • 62. At 07:52am on 19 Nov 2009, iwillreturn wrote:

    Get a grip! Worse things are, do and will continue to happen .... It is the responsibility of elected Governments to act in the present and on behalf of the population and electors, not to reflect upon the acts of past governments and parliaments. A continued litany of apologies only serves to weaken the act itself and reflects upon the maudlin self interest of the present generation.

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  • 63. At 5:03pm on 20 Nov 2009, Bren54 wrote:

    11pete11, perhaps there is no outcry against the compensation suggestions because a lot of compensation has been paid out already since this issue became publicised, over ten years ago, and the apology changes nothing in that regard. Not that I'm suggesting it changed anything in the case of indigenous people

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