A Child Migrants Story

North Wales man gets apology after Australia ordeal

Nigel Owen (right) with Prime Minister Gordon BrownOn behalf of Britain Gordon Brown said sorry to thousands of children including Nigel Owen, who was beaten and abused alongside his brother and sister after their journey to the other side of the world in 1955.

Mr. Owen, 60, who lives near Rhyl, is still searching for answers why as children the Government decided to send them overseas.

In the post and pre war era, approximately 150,000 children were shipped to Australia while New Zealand, Rhodesia and Canada.

 

The child migration programme sent the youngsters to start new lives in a foreign land always without their families and often after many years of harsh institutional care.

 Mr Owen said: “I was four years old at the time; we were in a Fairbridge Home in Knockholt Kent with my brother Clive and sister Wendy."

“We are still trying to ascertain why it happened."

“But we were shipped out in March 1955 on the ship SS Strathnaver to Melbourne and stayed at Northcote farm school outside Bacchus Marsh.

“There was regular physical and sexual abuse there, the children would be beaten and we would have to get up in the early hours."

“If you had wet the bed then you would be beaten with a strap and made to have a cold bath then wash the sheets, then polish the floor for hours or chop wood at the wood pile behind the cottage."

“There were around 160 kids in the school, I remember I had to peel the potatoes for everyone and my hands were bleeding, this happened regularly."

“I had a teddy with me, "Hector", I hid where I could and that became my comfort blanket, as all toys and personnel belongings were taken from you."

“I still have him today and told the story to Gordon Brown. When I was six I sewed a smile on his face to try and make me happy”

Mr Owen told how in summer farmers would come to take them for what they thought was a holiday but instead used them for slave labour. Nigel’s sister Wendy was raped at the age of 12 by a farmer and son and had three ribs broken.

Eventually after five years the three returned to Britain, but Mr Owen, whose surname was Powell at the time, was placed into another orphanage the British Seaman’s Orphan Boys Home in Brixham for three years.

At the age of 14, Mr Owen’s step dad, who lived in Caernarfon, adopted him.

After a working life in the merchant navy, Mr Owen, a dad of three and granddad of three, is now contemplating the emotional scars of his childhood experience.

“I learned very early on crying did no good and stopped crying, even now I have trouble expressing emotions,” he said.

“At the time I just thought it was the normal way to be brought up, it wasn’t until many years after I realised it was unusual and started making inquiries.

“It’s ironic I got the apology nearly 55 years to the day.

“It made me feel I can get closure and there will be compensation, but what price is there on a stolen childhood. No amount of money can repair the physical and mental scars Child Migrants had to endure.

“My aunty, 85, was devastated when she found out.  If she had known she would have taken us all in.

My real dad died in 1993 aged 79, I had a grandmother who died at the age of 103 in 2003, but I never got to meet either of them.”

 

Rhyl man tells of childhood Australia horror

A DENBIGHSHIRE man who was shipped to Australia at the age of five to suffer years of abuse was offered an apology by the Prime Minister.

 

 

Britain's prime minister apologizes to child migrants

Gordon Brown said the country was sorry for the "shameful" and "misguided" child migrant program of the 1920 to 1960s, in which an estimated 150,000 British children were sent to distant colonies.

The programs were intended to ease pressure on British social services, provide the children with a fresh start and supply the empire with a sturdy supply of white workers. But many children ended up in institutions where they were physically and sexually abused, or were sent to work as farm laborers.

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

Brown's statement came months after Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd issued a similar apology at a November gathering in Canberra attended by tearful former child migrants. About 7,000 survivors of the migration program still live in Australia.

The migrants were sent off when they were as young as 3 to foster homes, state-run orphanages and religious institutions in Australia and Canada. Many were falsely told they were orphans and sent without the consent of their parents, Brown said.

The leader said he would create a 6 million pound ($9.2 million) fund aimed at reuniting families torn apart by the program.

Brown later met with a group of around 60 former child migrants in central London, where he was greeted with cheers and applause.

"Welcome home, you are with friends … We will support you all of your lives," he told the gathering.

Harold Haig, of the International Association of Former Child Migrants and their Families, said many migrants had been waiting for a long time for a formal apology.

"We have all been waiting for this day for a lifetime … for us the apology is a moment in history where there can be reconciliation between the government, the nation and the child migrants," he said.

 

Brown apologises to abused child migrants

Prime Minister Gordon Brown apologised today for the UK's role in sending thousands of its children to former colonies where many ended up in institutions or as labourers on farms.

The Child Migrants Programme, which ended 40 years ago, sent poor children to a "better life" in Australia and elsewhere but many of those sent away said they were physically, emotionally or sexually abused.

Speaking on GMTV, Mr Brown said the scheme, which ran from the 1920s to the 1960s, ruined the lives of many people.

"I have to apologise on behalf of a policy that was misguided and it happened right up until the 1960s. You will see when you meet people who have been affected by this, it has ruined many of their lives," he said.

"It has certainly changed their lives in a way they should never have expected."

Under the scheme, an estimated 150,000 poor youngsters aged between three and 14 were sent to Commonwealth countries such as Australia and Canada but many ended up being abused in foster homes, state-run orphanages and religious institutions.

Children were often told their parents were dead, while parents were given very little information about where their offspring were going.

Survivors said that on arrival they were separated from brothers and sisters, and often subjected to brutal physical and sexual abuse by those who were meant to be caring for them.

Mr Brown revealed his intention to apologise for the actions of previous governments in November, shortly before Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd offered his own apology to the thousands of British migrants who were abused or neglected in state care.

In a letter to Keith Barron, the chairman of the health select committee which looked into what happened, Mr Brown said: "It is important that we take the time to listen to the voices of the survivors and victims of these misguided policies."

Britain's High Commissioner to Australia, Baroness Amos, said in a statement last week that the apology would be an "important milestone".

"Over the past few months I have met many whose lives were blighted, and heard their personal stories," she said.

"We want not just to bear witness to the past but to look forward to a future where these terrible events will not be repeated."

Harold Haig, secretary of the International Association of Former Child Migrants and their Families, said: "For many former child migrants and their families, the apology will help to heal a painful past."

The wording of the apology by Mr Brown is believed to have been discussed with charities representing former child migrants and their families.

Forty survivors have flown to London so they can listen to Mr Brown's formal statement at Westminster later today in person.

Mr Brown is also expected to make an announcement about future support for those affected.

Mr Rudd, speaking to a gathering of 1,000 victims known as the "Forgotten Australians" in Canberra in November, said: "We are sorry. 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."

He said the Australian government wanted the national apology to become "a turning point in our nation's story".

Mr Rudd said it was "an ugly story" and a "great evil" had been done.

Apology for UK Child Migrant Scandal

2010 February 24
 
 
Prime minister will express regret over children sent to Commonwealth countries and abused

The prime minister, Gordon Brown, will apologise today for the UK’s role in sending thousands of its children to former colonies where many ended up in institutions or as labourers on farms.

The Child Migrants Programme, which ended 40 years ago, sent poor children to a “better life” in Australia and elsewhere, but many of those sent away said they were physically, emotionally or sexually abused.

The prime minister is due to express the government’s regrets over the programme in a Commons’ statement.

Under the scheme, which ran from the 1920s to the 1960s, an estimated 150,000 youngsters between three and 14 from less privileged backgrounds were sent to Commonwealth countries such as Australia and Canada, but many ended up being abused in foster homes, state-run orphanages and religious institutions.

Children were often told their parents were dead, while parents were given little information about where their offspring were going.

Survivors said that on arrival they were separated from brothers and sisters, and subjected to brutal physical and sexual abuse by those who were meant to be caring for them.

The prime minister’s spokesman said the issue is something he feels strongly about.

Brown revealed his intention to apologise for the actions of previous governments in November, shortly before the Australian prime minister, Kevin Rudd, offered his own apology to the thousands of British migrants who were abused or neglected in state care.

In a letter to Keith Barron, the chairman of the health select committee which looked into what happened, Brown said: “It is important we take the time to listen to the voices of the survivors and victims of these misguided policies.”

Britain’s high commissioner to Australia, Baroness Amos, said in a statement last week that the apology would be an “important milestone”.

“Over the past few months I have met many whose lives were blighted, and heard their personal stories,” she said.

“We want not just to bear witness to the past but to look forward to a future where these terrible events will not be repeated.”

Harold Haig, secretary of the International Association of Former Child Migrants and their Families, said: “For many former child migrants and their families, the apology will help to heal a painful past.”

The wording of the apology by Brown is believed to have been discussed with charities representing former child migrants and their families.

Sixty survivors have flown to London so they can listen to the statement in person.

Brown is also expected to make an announcement about future support for those affected.

Rudd, speaking to a gathering of 1,000 victims known as the “forgotten Australians” in Canberra in November, said: “We are sorry. 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.”

He said the Australian government wanted the national apology to become “a turning point in our nation’s story”.

Rudd said it was “an ugly story” and a “great evil” had been done.

Ian Thwaites from the Child Migrant Trust told GMTV that it was “still very difficult to accept the full extent of what happened”.

When asked about today’s apology, he said: “People say to me all the time: ‘It’s never too late.’ People in their 80s will say to me ‘It’s never too late to do the right thing.’”

He said the issue of compensation was up to the child migrants themselves to consider.

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