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Leaders apologised for shipping children from Cornwall to Australia

By West Briton  |  Posted: April 04, 2013

  • Gordon Brown, who apologised for the UK Government's role in sending children to Australia. : HM Government from National Archives

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PRIME Minister Gordon Brown apologised in February 2010 for the UK's role in sending thousands of children to Australia.

He said the Child Migrant Programme was "misguided" and told the House of Commons he was "truly sorry" as he announced a £6 million fund to reunite families that were torn apart.

The scheme was in place from the 1920s to 1960s.

Mr Brown said: "To all those former child migrants and their families ... we are truly sorry. They were let down.

"We are sorry they were allowed to be sent away at the time when they were most vulnerable. We are sorry that instead of caring for them, this country turned its back.

"And we are sorry that the voices of these children were not always heard, their cries for help not always heeded. And we are sorry that it has taken so long for this important day to come and for the full and unconditional apology that is justly deserved."

The then Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologised for his government's part in the scandal in a speech in November 2009. He addressed his speech to the "Forgotten Australians" and said: "Sorry – that as children you were taken from your families and placed in institutions where so often you were abused.

"Sorry – for the physical suffering, the emotional starvation and the cold absence of love, of tenderness, of care.

"Sorry – for the tragedy, the absolute tragedy, of childhoods lost,- childhoods spent instead in austere and authoritarian places, where names were replaced by numbers, spontaneous play by regimented routine, the joy of learning by the repetitive drudgery of menial work."

Neil Burden, the Cornwall Council Cabinet member for children, offered a personal apology in September 2010.

He said: "Many children were living in very difficult conditions in the 1950s and 60s and being sent to an orphanage was often their only alternative to a life of poverty. I am in no doubt that those in charge were doing what they thought was in the best interests of these children – Australia was seen as a land of hope, space and opportunity – a great place of adventure.

"I know that many of these are still haunted by what happened to them and I would, I am sure, be joined by many people in Cornwall in offering sincere apologies for the hurt caused."

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