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Justice for child migrants -

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LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: The terrible cruelty suffered by child migrants who were sent here from
England has been back in the headlines lately with the release of the movie 'Oranges And Sunshine'.

Both the British and Australia governments have apologised, but the Fairbridge Foundation involved
in the scheme has refused to agree to a settlement with their former charges

Today 65 former students of the Fairbridge Farm School began unprecedented court action. They're
suing the organisation and both the Federal and State governments, claiming they turned a blind eye
to years of abuse.

Deborah Cornwall reports.

FORMER FAIRBRIDGE WARD: I never had a childhood. Like so many here, it was taken from me.

KEN FOWLIE, SLATER AND GORDON LAWYERS: So today we start in earnest a fight for justice.

Many have suffered terribly. Their lives have been really ruined by what happened to them at these,
at this school.

DEBORAH CORNWALL, REPORTER: Once home to 900 British children, it's almost four decades since
Fairbridge Farm School closed its doors.

But it's only now, well into middle age, many of those children are starting to give up their
terrible secrets.

Launching a class action today against Fairbridge and the State in the hope that finally they'll be
heard.

LENNIE MAGEE, FORMER FAIRBRIDGE WARD: I cried till I felt I was going to break inside. I'd curl up
in a foetal position. I can remember curling up in the corner and just wanting to die as a child.

VIVIAN BINGHAM, FORMER FAIRBRIDGE WARD (2007, 7.30 REPORT): He molested me when I was five years
old. And I do remember sitting on the steps, and at night time when I went to bed, rocking
backwards and forwards... in my bed.

RON SIMPOSN, FORMER FAIRBRIDGE WARD ('Long Journey Home', 2009): And he tore my pants off and he
sodomised me (cries). I was about 13. I don't know how they can do it to people.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: Based in central New South Wales, Fairbridge Farm School was sponsored by the
grace and favour of British royalty, held up at the time as a shining beacon of the child migrant
scheme.

(Start contemporaneous news footage of child migrants on boat to Australia)

REPORTER: They are soon on their way to Fairbridge Farm at Molong. One of a series of farm schools
founded by the late Kingsley Fairbridge, a Rhodes Scholar, who conceived the idea whilst at Oxford
40 years ago.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: British waifs as young as four were sent across the globe, sacrificed by their
parents on the promise of a better life for their children.

DAVID HILL, AUTHOR, 'THE FORGOTTEN CHILDREN': The idea was to take these miserable wretches from
the underclass and the underbelly of British society and make them long limbed and healthy, toiling
in the sun.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: Former Fairbrige ward and high profile public administrator, David Hill has often
been touted by Fairbridge as one of its greatest success stories.

His memories of Fairbridge were Dickensian dormitories, fly blown food and relentless chores.

DAVID HILL: See I was one of the lucky ones. I didn't get there, I was 12 nearly 13, I had a twin
and an older brother. I was only three years. I had a mum.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: It wasn't until 2006, after teaming up with an old classmate Ian Bayliff to
produce a book and documentary on Fairbridge, he learned of the horrific abuses many of the
children had endured and the magnitude of their betrayal by the authorities.

IAN BAYLIFF, FORMER FAIRBRIDGE WARD: When I first came here I would have been probably about that
high. (Indicates a spot on the wall)

DEBORAH CORNWALL: Ian Bayliff says his experience was typical of many of the Fairbridge children.

Terrorised by the cottage mothers who were supposed to protect them, he says most grew up believing
their parents were dead, or had abandoned them, only to discover, decades later, efforts by parents
to get them back had been blocked by Fairbridge, insisting the children were happier without them.

IAN BAYLIFF (7.30 Report 2009): Why would I be happy? They used to flog the living daylights out of
us.

LENNIE MAGEE: I had no mother no father I could complain to and we were being brutalised by this,
this awful woman.

We were always demeaned. We were constantly told that we were there because we were guttersnipes,
we were slum children. We would never ever make anything of ourselves.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: In fact Fairbridge Farm only ever accepted children with IQ's above 90.

But once at Fairbridge, the children's grades dropped so dramatically more than 40 per cent of them
would later be deemed, in the language of the day, 'educationally retarded'.

And most of the children forced to leave school early anyway because Fairbridge relied almost
entirely, on child labour.

DAVID HILL: These people were cheated. These people, even aside from the cases of abuse and
neglect, these people were denied the opportunities that were promised to them.

Half these people can't even read or write properly, they are semiliterate. They were never even
given a decent education.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: Former children's institutions have since admitted what they did to the child
migrants was wrong, even barbaric.

And both British and Australian governments have apologised for the damage done.

But the Fairbridge Foundation alone, it seems, has continued to deny it was aware of any illegal or
unsafe treatment of the children in its care.

KEN FOWLIE: And we're talking about children who were four, five, six, seven years of age.

Complaints were coming out of the farm and up through the system and yet nothing was done to
rectify this situation for these children.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: Lawyers for Fairbridge and the State have declined to comment during the
proceedings, and have called on the former wards to produce evidence of their allegations.

The Fairbridge children now have their day in court. But, says David Hill, any compensation will
almost certainly be too little, too late.

DAVID HILL: Every childhood lasts a lifetime. You maim a child and you will end up with a maimed
adult.