Australian Apology to the Children Part Two

Between 1618 and 1967, approximately about 150,000 British children were sent abroad.  Most of the children were sent to Australia after 1920.  To program was operated by the British government, children charities, and religious groups.  The intent was to provide these impoverished children with a better life somewhere other than Britain.  A more cynical view is that the children were to be cheap, white labor for various locations throughout the then British Empire.  Also removing them from Britain reduced a potential burden for the British government.  Many suffered from abuse and neglect.  Collectively they are known as the “forgotten Australians.” 

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd issued an apology to the forgotten Australians on November 16, 2009.  Many of the now adult children attended.  Here is a short description and select comments from the announcement:

“At a ceremony in the Australian capital of Canberra attended by tearful former child migrants, Rudd apologized for his country’s role in the migration and extended condolences to the 7,000 survivors of the program who still live in Australia.

‘We are sorry,’ Rudd said. ‘Sorry that as children you were taken from your families and placed in institutions where so often you were abused. Sorry for the physical suffering, the emotional starvation and the cold absence of love, of tenderness, of care. Sorry for the tragedy — the absolute tragedy — of childhoods lost.’”

The UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown offered comments on the topic the night before the Australian announcement.  “On the eve of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s apology to the ‘forgotten Australians’, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced he will also say sorry for his country’s part in shipping thousands of children off to other countries.  The BBC reported Mr Brown says ‘the time is now right’ for his Government to apologise to the child migrants.”

Barry Walker, now 70, was one of the 30 forgotten Australians to attend.  He was taken from his parents by the state after they declared his parents to be unfit.  He then lived in Ballarat Orphanage for 13 years.  Walker commented:

“’It was quite emotional in the beginning because I thought of a lot of other kids I had known in there and felt like it was recognition of all of us,’ he said.

‘It (the orphanage) wasn’t too bad but it’s hard to explain, you never really had a cuddle and everything was done as a group. He (Mr Rudd) was right when he said you were just a number,’ he said.

‘All the kids supported each other but as you get older you realise what you missed out on.

‘It’s when you’re spoiling your grandkids, you realise.’”

In 2008, Prime Minster Rudd apologized to the “Stolen Generation.”  The Stolen Generation were the children of Australian Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders taken from their families by the state and religious organizations from 1869 to 1969 by acts of parliament.  The actions were taken under the guise of child protection and other rationales but did involve taking children from their families, hence, the term stolen being used.  Here are parts of the apology”

“’We apologise for the laws and policies of successive parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians,’ the apology read.

‘We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country.

‘For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.

‘To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry.

‘And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.’”,23599,23206140-2,00.html

A full text of the apology can be read at while a video of Rudd’s apology can be viewed at

Questions to Consider

  1. Why provide the apologies now for actions then extend back 100 to near 400 years ago?
  2. How can the apologies be viewed as a form or reputation management by the government?
  3. How does the apology for the Stolen Generation compare to the points in Chapter 12 about apologies?
  4. Why would the British Prime Minister talk about the forgotten Australians the day before the Australian Prime Minister’s apology?
  5. What do Walker’s comment suggest about how the forgotten Australians felt about the apology?
  6. Why does it matter how the target of an apology reacts?
  7. What is the value of having the victims attend the presentation of the apology?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: