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Monday, 16 November 2009
Page: 11665

Mr CRAIG THOMSON (2:12 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. Will the minister update the House on today’s national apology to the forgotten Australians and former child migrants?

Ms MACKLIN (Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs) —I thank the member for Dobell for his question. I want to take this opportunity to say a few thankyous to all the people who have made today’s very, very moving occasion possible. First and foremost, I thank all those members of the forgotten Australians. As the Prime Minister has said to everyone today, we need to now start to describe the people who were part of this generation as the remembered Australians. But I want to thank all of those people: the former child migrants, their families, all of the people who came to support them here in Canberra and all of the people who participated right around Australia. We had events in each of the capital cities and many of our regional towns. To each and every one of you, for being prepared to participate in what was, and I think will continue to be for some time, a very emotional day, we thank you very, very deeply.

To the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, I say thank you. If everyone else does not mind, I will say on behalf of the whole parliament: thank you to both of you for the way in which you contributed today. You have made it the special day that half a million Australians had been hoping for. We all thank you very much for that.

None of this would have been possible without a lot of guidance. I asked Andrew Murray a few months ago if he would head an advisory committee to the government to help us make sure that we had a very serious occasion that recognised the importance of what we did today. He was joined by a number of people: Ian Thwaites from the Child Migrants Trust, Harold Haig from the International Association of Former Child Migrants and Their Families, Caroline Carroll from the Alliance of Forgotten Australians, and Leonie Sheedy and Joanna Penglase from the Care Leavers Australia Network. These are people with enormous hearts who are from what can only be described as advocacy groups, people who have done so much over such a long time, listening to and caring for people who are in many, many cases extremely damaged from their terrible lives in institutions, orphanages and foster care.

Andrew did a wonderful job as a senator heading various inquiries into these issues, along with all the senators who helped him on those inquiries, and we do thank him and them. As for the advocacy groups, we would not have got it right without them. We would not have been able to express ourselves in the way that we all have today without their guidance, and I sincerely thank them all.

I do particularly want to thank the members for Corio and Blaxland—who have in some ways been first-class pests!—for making sure that today happened. If you want something done and you want something done passionately, those two know how to make sure it happens. You have been wonderful advocates for and wonderful friends to the forgotten Australians and the former child migrants.

I also want to single out the member for Swan, who I think might have gone to join the people out the front. He spoke very movingly here just half an hour or so ago, partly about his own personal experience—and it was wonderful to know that his brother was able to be here with him today. He has a very deep understanding of many of these people, whose suffering he shared. I am sure he is representing us all very well out on the lawns in front of Parliament House now, as people listen to music, share stories and, we hope, together begin the healing process.