Former child migrant accepts PM apology
AUSTRALIA: Man sent away aged eight accepts Prime Minister’s apology
IPSWICH: A man who was transported to Australia at the age of eight through a national child migrant scheme has accepted an apology from Gordon Brown.
The Prime Minister followed the Australian government, which offered an apology last year, in saying sorry for the policy that saw thousands of children, some as young as four, taken from orphanages and underprivileged parents and sent to Australia, New Zealand, Zimbabwe and Canada.
Ray Tate, 71, of Bell Lane, Kesgrave, was shipped out to the Fairbridge Farm School in Molong, New South Wales, in 1947 after being born out of wedlock and spending the first years of his life in a Kent orphanage.
He said that Mr Brown’s apology, given both in the House of Commons this week and to a Westminster reception with former child migrants afterwards, was a welcome move.
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Mr Tate, one of only four “Old Fairbridgians” to attend the apology meeting, said: “I met some of my colleagues from New South Wales – one I hadn’t seen for 50 years.
“There were 200 children at Fairbridge and we were there until we were 15. At 15 we left school with whatever qualifications we had then we did two years of hard training work – scrubbing decks, milking cows, that sort of thing. Then we were found jobs in the outside world.”
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Mr Tate, who returned to the UK in his mid-20s, said many of the children that were sent away did have parents, although some had been rejected or were shipped out to save money while also helping to boost populations of the far-off countries.
He said: “Every day it’s in my mind. I think some people were pleased with it (the apology) and I thought it was good. Whether it brings any closure, I don’t know.
During his apology, Mr Brown said he, on behalf of the nation, was “truly sorry” that all former child migrants and their families had been “let down”.
He said: “We are sorry that you were allowed to be sent away when you were at your most vulnerable.”
Mr Brown also announced that a �6 million Family Restoration Fund would be set up to support costs for former child migrants who wish to be reunited with their families.