Questions and Answers

Apology

1. Who was the apology made to?

Following the recent Senate Inquiry - Lost Innocents and Forgotten Australians Revisited, which recommended that the Commonwealth issue a formal statement of acknowledgement, regret and apology, the apology was offered to children who were subjected to harm while in institutional and other out of home care through the last century, including:

  • Forgotten Australians - children who suffered hurt and distress, or abuse and assault, in institutional and out of home care in the last century; and
  • Lost Innocents - former child migrants.

Forgotten Australians

The people who identify as Forgotten Australians are the survivors of the around 500,000 children who found themselves in orphanages or Homes in the 20th century

Lost Innocents

Lost Innocents: Righting the Record was the Senate Committee's 2001 report on child migration to Australia under approved schemes during the twentieth century. Under these schemes, the British and Australian Governments entered into agreements for the migration of children to Australia. The schemes also included child migrants from Malta and South Africa. Many of these children were placed in institutions.

2. Who made the apology?

The apology was made by the Prime Minister, the Hon Kevin Rudd MP, on behalf of the nation. The Opposition and other parties also participated.

3. When was the apology made?

The Government offered a formal apology at a special remembrance event in Canberra from 11.00am (AEDST) on 16 November 2009.

4. Where was the apology made?

The Australian Government engaged with those who are the focus of the apology, other parties, State and Territory governments and past care providers, including church groups, to ensure a suitable apology event was planned to best facilitate healing.

It was intended that the apology be a national apology and as such the Government formally apologised to the Forgotten Australians and former child migrants at a special remembrance event in the Great Hall in Parliament House, Canberra.

Following the event, the apology was tabled in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

5. Why did the Australian Government apologise?

The Forgotten Australians and Lost Innocents inquiries illustrate the consequences of inflicting emotional and physical deprivation and shocking levels of neglect and abuse on children.  Children lost family connections and, without those connections, lost their identity, culture and in the case of child migrants, their country.  These reports highlight the struggle these children face as adults to cope and to live fruitful and constructive lives.

The Australian Government recognises that many past care providers and State and Territory governments have apologised for, or acknowledged the experiences of some of these groups.

Despite this, the Australian Government believes that a formal national acknowledgement of the trauma experienced by these people will assist in the healing process.

Many Forgotten Australians and former child migrants have highlighted that the apology has made a genuine difference in their lives, and the lives of their families, and will allow the victims to feel that their pain and suffering has been recognised and acknowledged on a national stage.

Consultation

6. What is the role for key stakeholders groups such as Care Leavers Australia Network, the Alliance for Forgotten Australians, the Child Migrants Trust and the International Association for Former Child Migrants and Their Families?

There is no one better placed to facilitate solutions than those that lived through these experiences.  An advisory group was established to assist in developing the apology, including representatives from these key organisations as well as Members and Senators from the Government, the Coalition and the Australian Greens.

The Australian Government also consulted with the broader community to ensure appropriate recognition and remembrance of what has happened.

Key stakeholder groups will have an ongoing role in the healing process following the apology and remembrance event, including providing information and support to those who are the focus of the apology.

7. What is the role for State and Territory governments?

The Australian Government has engaged with State and Territory governments in the development of the apology event. Some State and Territory governments hosted concurrent events and screened the national event.

8.What services and supports will the Australian Government provide?

The Australian Government has announced the following new initiatives aimed at meeting the service and support needs of care leavers:

  • Projects with both the National Library and the National Museum which will provide future generations with a solemn reminder of the past; to ensure not only that the experiences of care leavers are heard, but also that they will never ever be forgotten.

  • The Government has identified care leavers as a special-needs group for aged-care purposes, to ensure that providers are assisted to provide care that is appropriate and responsive, and provide a range of further counselling and support services.

  • A National Find and Connect Service that will provide Australia-wide coordinated family tracing and support services for care leavers to locate personal and family history files and the reunite with members of their families, where that is possible.  The service will provide a national database that will collate and index existing state identified records into a national searchable data base, accessible to state and other care leaver services and also directly to care leavers themselves. The Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs announced funding of $26.5 million for the service in the 2010-11 Budget.

  • Continued funding to advocacy groups such as the Child Migrants Trust, the Alliance for Forgotten Australians (AFA) and Care Leavers of Australia Network (CLAN).

9. Will the Australian Government provide redress?

The Australian Government is committed to a healing process for former child migrants, Forgotten Australians. A healing process will require public awareness and education, supporting affected families and real engagement from the community services and health sectors.

Redress is a matter for individual State governments and past care providers. The governments of Western Australia, Tasmania and Queensland have had specific schemes to provide redress and acknowledge victims of abuse or neglect while in out-of-home care.

Documenting the history

10. How will the history of what has happened be documented as a permanent reminder?

It is important that the histories of Australians who were placed in care during the 20th century are documented. This history should be shared in the public arena.

As announced by the Prime Minister on 16 November 2009, the Department of Families and Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) has funded the National Library of Australia (NLA) and the National Museum of Australia (NMA) for history projects (inclusive of an oral history project, material culture collecting and a smaller touring exhibition) representing the experiences of people in care in Australia; more specifically those people covered by the 2001 Lost Innocents and 2004 Forgotten Australians reports.

Both projects have commenced, with feedback on the direction and inclusions in the projects being provided through a consultative forum involving relevant stakeholders. The projects are overseen by a steering committee comprising officers of the Library, Museum and FaHCSIA.

11. How do I get involved?

The Museum and the Library have set up a website detailing the projects, Forgotten Australians - Our History.

The website enables people to indicate their interest in the projects and allow for further follow up by the relevant institution.

More information

Apology to the Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants
Care Leavers

Content Updated: 27 June 2012