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Thursday, 1 June 1989
Page: 3226

Senator MAGUIRE —Is the Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs aware of the alleged plight of about 10,000 British immigrants in Australia who were sent here as children during the postwar years under an enforced child migration program for so-called destitute or abandoned children? Has the Minister seen recent United Kingdom reports that many of these British child migrants were the victims of horrific cruelty and sexual abuse in Australia and also that now as adults they have no knowledge of or access to their family backgrounds? Given that the Australian Government apparently was a party to such migration, what action is now being taken to help those still suffering from the effects of the forced separation from close relatives, on some occasions, and from friends?

Senator ROBERT RAY —I did read an abridged article on those United Kingdom reports in one of the Australian newspapers. From initial research, I think many of the allegations happen to be true. It was of course a different time in the 1950s and different standards applied. Quite clearly, it was thought to be a philanthropic thing to take orphans and others and ship them off to Australia and Canada. More serious was the shipping of those children to countries in Africa, et cetera, where apparently the idea was to redress the racial balance, or implant enough of a racial balance for survival. Many of those children who came to Australia went into circumstances where they were abused, where they were exploited and where their life was made a misery which has caused social problems for them later.

I understand that in the 1988 spring conference of the Standing Committee of Social Welfare Administrators, a decision was made that all Australian authorities would assist those people in tracing their parents and in establishing their background. I would hesitate to say that past Australian governments were culpable in this regard. Possibly they could have ensured that there was a better form of supervision, at both State and Federal levels. I do not think they knew the conditions under which these children came out. We were talking about a period of 25-odd years. Anything we can do at a Federal level-I am sure the State governments and the United Kingdom Government feel the same-to assist these people to find out what their origins were, maybe to trace parents, if that is a feasible process, and also to counsel them and give them support services because of the traumas they have been through, will be done.