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PM says sorry to Forgotten Australians -

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SHANE MCLEOD: The Prime Minister has formally apologised to the half a million Australians who grew
up in institutions, orphanages and foster care through the last century.

Kevin Rudd has recognised that many of them were exploited and suffered great pain while they were
supposed to be under the care of the state. The Prime Minister has also extended the nation's
remorse to the 7,000 child migrants, most of whom travelled to Australia from the UK under the
mistaken belief that their parents had died.

Mr Rudd says today's apology should mark a turning point in the nation's history to ensure it's
never repeated and that it is important to acknowledge "great evil has been done".

From Canberra Sabra Lane reports.

SABRA LANE: It's the word so many thought they'd never hear, and today after years of campaigning
the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd finally uttered the word "sorry" in Parliament's Great Hall. It was
met with applause and tears.

KEVIN RUDD: We come together today to deal with an ugly chapter in our nation's history. And we
come together today to offer our nation's apology.

To say to you, the Forgotten Australians, and those who were sent to our shores as children without
their consent, that 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.

SABRA LANE: Nine-hundred people had travelled to Parliament from all over Australia to hear the
formal apology. It was issued on behalf of the nation to the half a million Australians who were
institutionalised or placed in orphanages and foster care during the last century.

While some had positive childhood experiences, thousands did not and the Prime Minister says they
needlessly endured years of psychological and physical abuse and worse.

KEVIN RUDD: And we reflect with you as well, in sad remembrance, on those who simply could not cope
and who took their own lives in absolute despair.

And let us resolve this day that this national apology becomes a turning point in our nation's
story; a turning point for shattered lives; a turning point for governments at all levels and of
every political hue and colour to do all in our power to never allow this to happen again.

SABRA LANE: Many in the crowd were former wards of the state, some were former child migrants, more
than 7,000 of them were sent to Australia from the United Kingdom. Some were clasping photos of
loved ones, others copies of their identity papers and letters they'd written to police and
authorities seeking help to track down the families they'd been torn from.

Mr Rudd revealed he'd met four Forgotten Australians recently in preparation for today.

KEVIN RUDD: Children, it seems, were not to be believed. Only those in authority, it seems, were
the ones to be believed. To apologise for denying you basic life opportunities, including so often
a decent education.

(Applause and cheers)

To apologise also for just how long it has taken for the Australian Government to say sorry.

So many Senate reports, nearly a decade of deliberation and a unanimous recommendation that the
Commonwealth apologise and finally we do so today. The truth is this is an ugly story and its
ugliness must be told without fear or favour if we are to confront fully the demons of our past.
And in so doing animate once again the better angels of our human nature.

I believe we do a disservice to those who have been the victims of abuse if in any way we seek to
gloss things over, because the truth is great evil has been done.

And therefore hard things must be said about how this was all possible in this country of "the fair
go".

SABRA LANE: The apology follows three Senate inquiries in 2001, 2004 and this year. All reports
recommended a formal apology be given to the Forgotten Australians, to start the healing process.

The former Democrats senator Andrew Murray - himself a child migrant to Zimbabwe - was involved in
the inquiries and was on hand to hear a personal thanks.

KEVIN RUDD: Andrew Murray's work has simply been extraordinary.

SABRA LANE: With tears in his eyes, the former senator listened as the Prime Minister read part of
a letter the former Democrat recently penned. He told Mr Rudd it was time to join other
governments, and recognise that wrongs were done.

KEVIN RUDD: Andrew Murray continued, "It is time for the Commonwealth to complete the circle."

SABRA LANE: Mr Rudd's announced the National Library and Museum will collect the Forgotten
Australians' stories and he says a national database will be set up to help people trace their
families.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Prime Minister, thank you for your speech. The motion has the unqualified support
of the Opposition.

SABRA LANE: The Federal Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Today I want you to know we admire you, we believe you, we love you. You
experienced so many horrors it would be natural to bury their memory too painful to recall, but
bravely you have climbed down that dark well of bitter memory and brought back into the light the
stories of your life, stories that must be told and retold and never ever forgotten.

SABRA LANE: The Federal Government's ruled out compensation, saying it's a matter for the states
and institutions involved. Family First Senator Steve Fielding says it should be considered. He
made the comments, while revealing his own bombshell.

STEVE FIELDING: I was sexually abused as a child by a scout master for years and my heart goes out
to anyone who's in this category. It is just horrendous and horrific to think what some of these
kids have been through and certainly the issue of compensation should be discussed. As a person
that has been through something, sorry goes a long way.

SHANE MCLEOD: Steve Fielding from Family First, ending that report by Sabra Lane.