Apology to the Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants

The Australian Government delivered a National Apology to the Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants at a special remembrance event in Canberra on 16 November 2009.

A moving ceremony was held in the Great Hall in Parliament House where the Prime Minister apologised, on behalf of the nation, to more than 500,000 Australians - many of whom suffered abuse and neglect while in out-of-home care during the last century.

Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants are:

  • An estimated 500,000 children, who may now identify as Forgotten Australians and were placed into institutional or other out-of-home care (children’s homes and orphanages) up until the end of 1989.
  • An estimated 7,000 children known as Former Child Migrants and who arrived in Australia through historical child migration schemes until 1970 were also subsequently placed in institutional or other out-of-home care.  

The heartfelt speeches acknowledged that the treatment of these children was unacceptable and conveyed a sincere hope that the national acknowledgement of the trauma experienced by these people would help to begin the healing process.  The Apology acknowledged that what happened in the past was both real and wrong.  The Apology has helped to ensure that a largely invisible part of our history is put firmly on the record and serves as a reminder of what happened to many children - the loss of family, the loss of identity and, in the case of Former Child Migrants, the loss of their country.

Around 900 people who spent time in out-of-home care as children, travelled from across Australia to attend the event at Parliament House with state and territory government Ministers, Senators, Members of Parliament and the general public.  The event was an emotional reunification for some.

The Apology recognised that many Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants continue to face a range of complex issues, including mental and physical illness, homelessness, substance abuse, educational and family relationship difficulties, as a result of their experiences in out-of-home care. A number of initiatives developed by the Australian Government seek to meet the needs of these Australians.

For information about support services for Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants go to the Find and Connect Service and projects.  Further information about Care Leavers is also available on the DSS website.

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