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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2009 Week 14 Hansard (17 November) . . Page.. 5054..


MR STANHOPE (continuing):

That this Assembly:

(1) welcomes the apology to the forgotten Australians and former child migrants by the Prime Minister the Hon Kevin Rudd MP on behalf of the Commonwealth;

(2) expresses regret and sadness at that treatment and at the ongoing distress still experienced by forgotten Australians and former child migrants who experienced abuse or neglect in institutional care as children between the 1920s and 1970s;

(3) notes the historical significance of the Prime Minister's formal apology in the Parliament of Australia which marks the beginning of a significant point in the process of healing for those forgotten Australians and former child migrants who were victims of those policies; and

(4) commends the Australian Parliament for its leadership on this matter.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister issued a national apology to forgotten Australians and former child migrants.

Like his 2008 apology to those affected by policies that tore apart so many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, yesterday's apology by the Prime Minister was an acknowledgment that perhaps the most sacred duty owed by the state is to its youngest and most vulnerable members. He acknowledged that failure in the discharge of this duty can alter the course of a life and can blight the innocent promise that lurks within every child, a promise that is too easily crippled by mistreatment, lack of love or the withholding of opportunity.

I first raised the subject of the forgotten Australians in this parliament back in March 2006, shortly after the release of the two seminal Senate reports into the fortunes of children placed in institutional care in Australia between 1920 and the 1970s. The first of these reports, Forgotten Australians, coined the phrase that this week officially enters into our national vocabulary and our history books, in the same way as the words "stolen generations"have done.

Forgotten Australians was a report that uncovered the reality of institutional care for many thousands of young Australians-care that in many cases was not caring at all. It was a report that also examined the role played by the governments who committed children into the so-called care of these institutions, many of which were operated by churches or charities.

Over the course of the 20th century, half a million young Australians spent a period of their youth-sometimes the entirety of their formative years-in institutional or other forms of out-of-home care. For a period, the ranks of these children were swelled by the 7,000 child migrants who travelled to Australia under schemes that, to our modern sensibilities, would seem almost like latter-day transportation. Many of these 7,000 also ended up in institutional care.


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