However, the farm school at Tardun was established for local youth in care after an epic pioneering struggle in the depth of the Depression. Meanwhile, Canada refused entry to unaccompanied children and Catholic carers in Britain were more responsive to placing some of their children in Australia. As economic conditions improved during the mids, assisted immigration revived. Farm schools were in vogue. The Fairbridge mystique was widely acclaimed.
By this time, the Christian Brothers were managing child care for Catholic boys and young men in four coordinated institutions, at Clontarf and Castledare orphanages in the suburbs of Perth, at the farm school at Tardun and on the new property at Bindoon, one hundred kilometres north of Perth, a property recently donated to the Order by a wealthy benefactor.
It seemed relatively easy to integrate child migrants from Britain within the four orphanages according to their ages and talents. The British, Commonwealth and Western Australian governments were willing to assist with maintenance of the children. In this situation, the Western Australian bishops arranged for Brother A Conlon to proceed to London to negotiate for one hundred child migrants with the British Catholic Rescue Societies in Conlon's task took longer than he anticipated, but over —39 some three groups of boys, in all, sailed for Western Australia to be educated and trained within the Christian Brothers four orphanages, collectively referred to as 'the Scheme'.
While he was in Europe, Brother Conlon explored the possibilities of bringing Maltese children to Western Australia, but negotiations broke down at this stage. There were also tentative arrangements to bring a party of girls to the Nazareth Sisters Home in Geraldton, WA but the outbreak of war in September placed those plans on hold for the duration. As has been mentioned before, during the war a transformation occurred in Australia's immigration policy, and in the new mass migration plans, child migration figured prominently.
Catholic Church leaders — late arrivals on the Australian juvenile migration scene — responded to government policy with the fervour and dedication of recent converts. A few months before Arthur Calwell's August launch of the government's revitalised immigration policy, Bishop Gummer of Geraldton wrote to the Prime Minister requesting permission to renew child migration to the Tardun scheme and to Nazareth House, Geraldton. The Prime Minister's Department advised Gummer to inquire in six months time when the war might be over and the migration scene clarified.
However, the letter mentioned the 'extreme shortage of shipping', the housing problem in Australia and the priority of repatriating ex-Service personnel. The Colonial Office, the Australian government and the Christian Brothers were appalled at the suggestion of such ridiculous figures. However, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference arranged with the Christian Brothers to allow Brother Conlon to accompany Archbishop Simmonds to Europe in April Simmonds to explore the possibilities of bringing large numbers of war orphans from devastated continental Europe to Australia, and Conlon to arrange a lift of British child migrants to the Tardun scheme.
The Immigration Department funded the exercise. Conlon arrived in London months before either the British government or the Catholic agencies were in a position to negotiate seriously. There were no ships available to transport migrants to Australia. A frustrating sixteen months passed during which Simmonds realised there were no appreciable numbers of war orphans from Europe to be obtained, and Conlon arranged the first postwar lift of child migrants to Western Australia. Both men realised that there were relatively few youngsters in a changing Britain suitable for child migration.
During this —47 trip to Europe, both Archbishop Simmonds and Brother Conlon visited Malta to explore the migration possibilities: the Archbishop to explore the overall migration scene and Conlon to arrange juvenile immigration. Eventually some to child migrants were to come to Western Australia from Malta between and Meanwhile the arrival of over child migrants to Western Australia in filled the available spaces in the Catholic homes and for three years few children arrived under Catholic auspices.
However, as the first arrivals graduated to the work force after , the Catholic authorities made exceptional efforts during the years —56 to recruit further youngsters to Catholic orphanages around the country. However, most went to Western Australia. After this exceptional effort and enthusiasm for child migration after World War II, it is ironic that Catholic child migration from Britain terminated quite suddenly in , though children already in the Australian homes stayed until their graduation.
Changing styles of child care had made little or no impact on the large Catholic institutions managed by volunteer church workers, none of whom had any social work qualifications. The Home Office was aware of this and urged British carers to move towards fostering for deprived Catholic children. The crisis came in during the visit of the Fact-Finding Mission which was already opposed to child migration in principle and out of sympathy with institutional care. The Mission produced a bland public report, but its more confidential notes were made available to interested parties in Britain, though not to the Australian government.
Australian child care was deemed backward, and Catholic child care unsuitable for British children. Physical and sexual abuse was not the issue.
Good British Stock: Child and Youth Migration to Australia
Institutionalisation and untrained carers were the problem; the answer was foster care, and so during the next few years most deprived Catholic children were fostered, and no more British Catholic children were sent to Australia. In addition, the director of the Federal Catholic Immigration Committee, Monsignor G Crennan, arranged for some young refugees living in Austrian and Italian camps, escapees from Communist-dominated eastern Europe, to settle in Australia. After World War II, child migration under Catholic auspices approached one-half of the total number of children brought to Australia.
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The volume of records in the National Archives reflects this reality and the coverage is comprehensive. However, it does need to be stressed that over the last ten years while there have been searing controversies regarding some Catholic orphanages during the child migration era, there is only a little here which bears on these controversies.
No file contains material on the sexual abuse issue, since the matter was not raised at the time in such a way that comments were recorded in the written records, at the national level. Otherwise, former residents, family historians and specialists will find much relevant material in these files.
There were three principal Catholic orders associated with child migration in Australia. Rice had been born in , apprenticed to his uncle's wholesale provision business as a teenager, and married in his early twenties. His wife died in childbirth leaving him with a mentally-retarded daughter and during the following years his mind turned to establishing a society of religious brothers for the education of poor boys. Rice's first school was established in and by the time of his death in there were one hundred brothers managing schools in the British Isles, Gibraltar and New South Wales.
The Sisters of Mercy were founded in in Dublin, Ireland by Catherine McAuley with the objective of 'a most serious application to the instruction of poor girls, visitation of the sick, and protection of distressed women of good character'. The order grew rapidly and became the largest women's religious order in the English-speaking world, with a substantial presence in Great Britain and Australia, being numbered in the thousands.
The original group of sisters left France to begin work in England at the Cardinal's request. Their objective was care of the aged, together with the care and education of underprivileged infants and children. Their headquarters are at Hammersmith in London. In the s the order numbered — sisters. It noted that 'as a general rule, the Roman Catholic bishops in the UK are opposed to migration'. Father William Nicol, Mullumbimby via Lismore had said the Catholic people of the area could absorb domestics and 'boys'.
The government did not wish to involve the churches in support of assisted migration. However, Britain and Australia were drifting into recession and in view of 'the unsettled condition of employment generally' the plans to recruit young men for work in the Lismore diocese were cancelled, and so was Father Nicol's trip to London.
The Hon. Mulvaney had met with Catholic migration representatives. He wrote:. There were in all about twelve persons, in addition to two boys for farm work who had that morning arrived in Brisbane under an arrangement made between the Catholic Immigration Society of Brisbane and the Catholic Emigration Society of London. The Queensland body has been inactive for some time. However, they had a representative on the New Settlers League. This deals with the abortive plans of the management of Clontarf Orphanage, Perth, WA to bring child migrants to the Tardun scheme in the late s.
Their reply in February was tentative:. The Fairbridge Farm School operates under Agreements with British, Commonwealth and state governments, and any representations to the Commonwealth on the matter should be made… to the Prime Minister's Department, and would then… be passed to the Development and Migration Commission… for consideration. This was the procedure followed. In June , the Commission reported, opposed to Commonwealth subsidy:.
Whilst the scheme is praiseworthy from a humanitarian point of view, the cost is too great to permit of justification of Commonwealth subsidy from the business angle of migration. The request was refused. The approach was renewed via Senator P J Lynch in with a similar result. T O'Neill, Hon. I hereby apply, on behalf of the Queensland State Catholic Immigration Committee, for permission to continue lodging nomination forms for foreign and other migrants.
In mid, a Conference of Commonwealth and State Immigration Ministers recommended that a survey be conducted of the voluntary organisations in each state capable of assisting with youth migration. The survey did not go far, but youth migration was discussed at the Premiers Conference in December The information relates to the post-World War II period, —50, with the exception of two items, one giving conditions governing child migration from Malta to Christian Brothers institutions in Western Australia, the other a related letter.
Some of the material concerns child migration generally and is not limited to the Maltese situation. He asked Calwell for a passage to the UK as quickly as possible so that he could commence recruiting. The government of Malta would favour the emigration of children… for RC institutions in Western Australia…. There is a copy of the agreement between the Christian Brothers and the government of Malta, but the agreement had never been implemented. Most of the remaining correspondence concerns plans to bring Maltese children to Western Australia which involved policy as well as practical issues.
The material includes a copy of an inspection at St Mary's Agricultural School, Tardun, and some newspaper cuttings regarding Maltese child migration. There are lists throughout of children who arrived in Western Australia under Catholic auspices from onwards, their dates of birth, age, ships on which groups travelled and the British institution from which they were sent. He asked for 'early remittance' of the monies, 'as all institutions have been subjected to heavy initial expenses'. However, the Catholic Episcopal Migration and Welfare Association procedures were astray and the equipment allowance was not paid for months.
It was thought that the details of the scheme were known to Brother Conlon. He added that the equipment allowance could only be paid 'after you have verified the ages of the children against the documents sent with them from London'. However, some documentation had gone astray or had never been sent. Three months later, Father Stinson was trying to arrange payment and hackles were rising all around.
Most of the material covers the period —50, but there is some correspondence relating to migrant children and their admission to Catholic institutions in Western Australia immediately before World War II. Appendix III sets out the course of training for the boys at the institutions.
There is some correspondence concerning Maltese child migration and the problems of escorting the children to Australia. The recommencement of child migration was in the offing. Unfortunately the Group Nominations for WA were approved and scheduled to London before they were referred to the office of the UK High Commission… now we find that some of them [institutions] are quite unsatisfactory in their present condition. The first Maltese child migrants arrived in Perth, boys to be spread around the four Christian Brothers orphanages. The children were of good physique, very neatly attired and well-mannered… it appeared obvious that much care had been taken in selecting these migrants.
There are applications for the equipment allowance, lists of Maltese children arriving, correspondence regarding the various forms required to support applications for the equipment allowance, and a useful two-page summary of 'General Policy' under the Guardianship Act.
Much of the correspondence is completely routine, concerned with recruiting Maltese children to fill nominations. However, few Maltese child migrants arrived. On questions of financial assistance, Wheeler indicated that there was considerable tightening up and new grants were unlikely.
With regard to Bindoon and the other homes, the irregular procedure had been the chief cause of the hold-up in payments. Father Stinson recognised that details, plans and specifications should be made available at the outset. Later, Father Nicol's report on a visit to Malta, 1—6 May is appended. Nicol spoke of opposition in Malta to allowing child migrants to proceed to Western Australia: a there was an unfortunate letter written by a child to its relatives regarding treatment received in WA — allowing capital to be made out of a very small matter by political opponents to migration; b apathy of the orphanage authorities in sponsoring candidates for transfer overseas; c past instability of the government without sympathetic Ministers in Cabinet.
Early correspondence includes Father Lombard's application for financial assistance to renovate the YCW hostel at Hawthorn, the acceptance of the YCW as 'an approved organisation' to bring youth migrants to Australia' and its plans to place the young men in employment and private accommodation after a three-months settling-in period at the Hawthorn hostel. Father Lombard was optimistic that the movement could recruit and bring 'up to youths' per year.
Thirty-eight British youths were selected and of these, 16 arrived in September, and a further 18 prior to Christmas, In May , Father Lombard submitted a brief report in the context of a request for urgent release of the Commonwealth and state funds promised for the hostel renovations.
I visited Britain to organise a scheme for obtaining nominations… a total of 49 nominated British migrants have arrived. Already 15 boys have left the hostel, five are working with farmers; nine apprenticed; nine others working with the PMG; ten are in private homes in the suburbs. However, the financial burden is a heavy one. This was the rub. With staff costs the Hawthorn hostel was running at a loss and much of the material concerns financial affairs and the problems associated with recruiting suitable boys from Britain.
Fewer than had arrived. Crennan investigated and reported to Canberra: the problem was the heavy loss in managing the Hawthorn hostel; many of the boys were apprentices who could not afford much money for their board and lodging; and the YCW wanted to withdraw as quickly as possible from youth migration. This came as a 'bombshell'. Monsignor Crennan interviewed Immigration Department officials but the financial problem was insurmountable.
The remainder of this large file concerns the termination of YCW involvement with youth migration, the disposal of the Hawthorn hostel, and the repayment of a substantial part of the original government grant. This contains a range of reports on the institution by various departmental officials over the four years covered. The critical issues discussed were: provision of suitable furniture and educational facilities; female staff; lockers; medical review of all boys and wages for the older trainees.
Key documents can turn up in more than one file since many government departments were concerned with child and youth immigration, including Child Welfare, Health, Immigration Commonwealth , Immigration State and Transport.
It appears that, at last, action is being taken to place the majority of the older boys out in positions [in the community]. There is also correspondence concerning the application for financial assistance from State and Commonwealth for the Bindoon building program and concerning the so-called 'Apprenticeship Scheme' which St Joseph's claimed to be implementing. This contains a number of inspection reports and associated correspondence.
Most of the comment was positive; the homes were running smoothly. The manner in which the immigrant children have settled down is worthy of special mention, this being a notable feature of every class… The general atmosphere of the school leaves nothing to be desired. There is discussion of the poor health record of some children and their general educational retardation, for reasons associated with their institutional upbringing during the war years in Britain. In , there is correspondence regarding the possible arrival of Maltese child migrants.
They found two establishments sharing the one block, catering for girls and some very young boys , staffed by 28 Mercy Sisters, 'one of the finest orphanages in the state'. They recommended 'Approved' status for Maltese child migrants. In fact, there were delays in gaining recognition. This matter has been shelved for a long time by the Nationalist government Malta because they were unable to agree on a clear cut policy towards child migration.
Months passed before formal approval was granted in December, but this did not bring Maltese girls to Leederville. The Immigration Department advised almost a year later:. The Maltese authorities did not process the [requested] applications for twenty girls aged 5 to 10 years old for this institution.
The latest information to hand concerning Maltese child migration mentions that the response has been poor. This contains inspection reports and related correspondence. He reported along the following lines:. Mr J Mather Immigration wrote:. There is correspondence around the issues of renovations of sub-standard facilities, building permits and possible government financial assistance. One felt 'a sense of improvement' but the institution faced many problems, one of which was the boys' education.
Brother Keaney hopes that the Technical class room will be equipped and completed for use within six months. He has had difficulty in obtaining machinery and tools. He added that wages for the trainees had to be arranged.
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After Mather's report, there is no further inspection evident from this file until the Inspector of Schools, Mr C Radbourn, arrived fifteen months later. The boys are very backward, practically all have been in institutions in the UK all their lives… war… dislocation… Educationally, practically all of these boys are retarded, some very badly. The issues appeared to be possible overcrowding when 30 anticipated Maltese child migrants arrived and government financial assistance for renovations and floor coverings in the dormitories.
The last item has Mr E R Denny, Immigration Department, explaining to his superiors in Canberra that in the Tardun climate 'floor coverings are not essential' and the overall position at the institution 'may be considered satisfactory'. A good deal of work has been done on this Home and many of the objections to it have been removed. The Recreation Hall is used as classrooms. This must be considered a very unsatisfactory arrangement… permits are required for building… The general appearance of the children is quite satisfactory.
They were free, open and cheerful. However, there was need to improve the ablutions and fly-proof the kitchen. Moss reported in another letter to the High Commission around the same time:. There is correspondence over Castledare's acceptance as a suitable place for Maltese child migrants. There is little correspondence after However, in there were further problems in the wake of the visit of the UK Fact-Finding Mission of the previous year. Specifically it was the lack of female staff which mattered.
Castledare was dropped from the list of 'approved institutions' recognised for the care of British child migrants. Nuns were promised, but a community proved impossible to find. A matron was engaged and eventually after protracted negotiations Castledare recovered its approved status. This concerns the tortuous negotiations around the request for, and processing of, the application for government financial assistance under the two-thirds building grant for approved homes taking child migrants. The Catholic Episcopal Migration and Welfare Association did not submit this application prior to completing the work.
However, the renovations were 'essential' and 'WA was willing to pay its one-third' after assessment of costs. A year passed and routine correspondence accumulated. Future contracts in which Commonwealth and State monies are involved must be prepared by a competent architect and the [Housing] Commission notified before commencement of work. More than , individual records of care leavers are now noted on an electronic database. Other organisations have also established similar services. However, other agencies still will not provide any assistance to care leavers seeking information about their care and family history.
Care-leavers who have searched for identity get pot-luck; sympathy, help and access from some, the reverse from others. It depends on the church, charity, agency or department, or even just on the individual they meet. When records are found, often after being shunted between government and non-government past providers, with little understanding of their intense need for information; they can find confronting and distressing remarks in their files; misspelled or incorrect names and incorrect dates birth; or of finding their entire childhoods meriting only one or two lines in a dusty register.
One case that comes to mind is one care leaver opening her file only to discover it contained letters to her from her father that were never passed on, and letters she had written that had not even been posted. Counselling is occasionally available for the often traumatic and re-abusive experience of reading information in their files. Care leavers have suffered breakdowns after reading their files. Some have even been hospitalised. Past receiving agencies claim there are no records because they were lost in a fire or went missing when the home or institution closed down, or have been destroyed.
The Forgotten Australians: Identity, records and their search for the past
Sometimes they have the records but they are either inaccessible or access is refused. The destruction of records has been an enormous problem. In Western Australia, the relevant department indicated to the Committee that the first record of destruction of files dated back to July when 12 files were destroyed. After a system of selection of files for retention in WA was established and in it was agreed that:.
With the benefit of hindsight, the Department now holds client files permanently, but this has not assisted older care leavers and their descendants, who cannot get answers to their identity questions, including information on essential identity documents like birth certificates. The Department now helpfully publishes Signposts , which is a comprehensive volume containing information and contact details for more than facilities that provided some form of out-of-home care in WA from Former state wards are generally more successful in locating records than non-wards who were privately admitted, who face bigger hurdles as there was no legislative requirement for records to be made or kept for them.
To address the many problems associated with care leavers searching their past through records held by both government and non-government agencies, numerous recommendations were made in both the Child Migrant and Forgotten Australians reports; a total of 19 in all. Citizenship proved to be a big issue for child migrants. Most former child migrants thought that as they were brought here as children, they automatically became Australian citizens. Not so. This was yet another part of identity denied them. Similarly, obtaining passports for overseas travel had proved a nightmare for former child migrants.
One told of how the experience caused a great deal of angst and tears as she was forced to fill out many forms from many places. She stated:. Although Freedom of Information legislation and a greater willingness of some organisations to make records available have improved access, problems still include the destruction and fragmentation of records, poor record keeping, and privacy restrictions. Privacy restrictions can mean that people finally access their records only to discover that substantial information has been withheld, especially when attempting to access records of other family members.
Under privacy legislation, family information is considered information about a third party and is treated differently to the personal information of the searcher. Such restrictions have had far-reaching consequences for care leavers attempting to piece together their fractured lives. One submission stated:. Some care leavers have even been denied information about their biological parents. One angrily stated:.
Privacy restrictions have hindered care leavers gaining information about babies they gave birth to and were coerced into giving away or giving up for adoption. This situation happened not just to girls in out-of-home care, but also to single working girls placed in an institution during the term of their pregnancy. Overall, third-party privacy restrictions pose a frustrating barrier to care leavers. The searcher can be denied the very information required to identify family members and to re-establish family links. While some progress has undoubtedly been made since the inquiry, overcoming privacy restrictions remains a significant hurdle for care leavers.
Only legislative and administrative reform can address this. Privacy provisions need to be changed so that all nine federal state and territory Australian governments can fulfil their obligations to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Australia is a signatory. Article 8 of this Treaty States:. This aim can be achieved. For example, the directory of child care agencies produced for Anglicare notes that:. Only when all government and non-government agencies agree and commit to a flexible liberal and compassionate interpretation of privacy legislation to allow care leavers to identify their family and background, will these problems be properly addressed for care leavers.
What is needed now is for the Senate Community Affairs Committee to audit responses to and progress on the implementation of these and indeed all recommendations of the Bringing them Home , Child Migrant and Forgotten Australian s reports. The Committee and political public and private advocates must apply pressure to the federal government and to the Council of Australian Governments. Then the progress made to date will be given the renewed impetus it needs.
In , again with ALP support, he initiated an inquiry into those Australians who were not child migrants but who also experienced institutional care as children. He retired from the Senate on 30 June Recommendation 5: That the Commonwealth Government continue to provide funding for at least three years directly to the Child Migrants Trust to ensure that the specialised services of tracing and counselling are provided or accessible to former child migrants living throughout Australia.
Recommendation That the Commonwealth Government provide at least three year funding to those agencies engaged in dedicated tracing in the United Kingdom to assist former child migrants to locate their families, based on applications by agencies undertaking that work. Recommendation 7: That the Commonwealth Government urge all State Governments to establish a comprehensive signposting index similar to that established by the Western Australian Government.
Recommendation 8: That the Commonwealth Government urge all State Governments to co-operate to establish a national index of child migrants.
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Recommendation That the National Archives of Australia be provided with sufficient funding to ensure continuation of the program of digitising its records relating to child migration. Recommendation The Committee recommends that a national group of all receiving agencies, other relevant bodies and Commonwealth and State Governments be established to develop uniform protocols for accessing records and sharing information relevant to former child migrants, their families and descendents and to coordinate services for former child migrants.
Recommendation That the National Archives of Australia liaise with the Genealogy and Personnel Records Section of the National Archives of Canada in relation to the technology, protocols, processes and procedures the Canadians have implemented to facilitate access to their records for former child migrants and their descendants. Recommendation That all organisations holding records pertaining to former child migrants make these records available to former child migrants or their authorised representative immediately and unconditionally.
Recommendation That where any organisation holds primary documents, including birth certificates, relating to any living former child migrant without their express permission, former child migrants be entitled to recover that document from the holding organisation. Recommendation That that all sending and receiving agencies be required to extend access to their records for descendants of former child migrants.
The Forgotten Australians report also made some similar recommendations to improve access to records, most of which were deferred by the then Government to the states on constitutional grounds. These were:. Recommendation That government and non-government agencies holding records relating to care leavers, implement and fund, as a matter of priority, programs to find, identify and preserve records including photographs and other memorabilia.
Recommendation That all government and non-government agencies immediately cease the practice of destroying records relating to those who have been in care. Recommendation That all State governments and non-government agencies, which have not already done so. Recommendation That a dedicated information and search service be established in each State and Territory to:.
Recommendation That all government and non-government agencies agree on access guidelines for the records of all care leavers and that the guidelines incorporate the following:. Recommendation That all agencies, both government and non-government, which provide access to records for care leavers, ensure adequate support and counselling services are provided at the time of viewing records, and if required, subsequent to the viewing of records; and that funding for independent counselling services be provided for those care leavers who do not wish to access services provided by a former care agency.
Recommendation That the Commonwealth request the Council of Australian Governments to review all Federal and State and Territory Freedom of Information regimes to ensure that they do not hinder access by care leavers to information about their childhoods and families. Issue 8, September Andrew Murray. This address was given as the keynote speech at The Fourth International Conference on the History of Records and Archives, organised in conjunction with the Institute of Advanced Studies, at The University of Western Australia Delegates and distinguished guests - I am pleased to have been asked to present this public lecture for the Fourth International Conference on the History of Records and Archives.
I was advised by the organisers that: the general theme of this conference is to explore issues relating to the history of recordkeeping by and about Indigenous peoples, migrant communities, minority communities, forgotten and disappeared communities. Why forgotten? Because they were; and in significant respects, still are. The number in-care is still high. Around 28 children are currently in-care in Australia. This is what David Hill had to say in his well-written study of Fairbridge in Australia: There are many cases where children have spent years, even decades, trying to find their parents, with a lack of cooperation and occasionally some resistance from Fairbridge.
She says: Attachment remains fundamental for children in the development of a secure personality and confidence in relationship with others That identity is complex is true, but the need for it can be expressed simply and with great clarity, as with this quote from a witness that opens Chapter 9 of the Forgotten Australians report: All he wants is to know who he is. He is entitled to know his heritage.
Our children and our grandchildren are missing their heritage. The Child Migrant report states that these stories: …provide an account of systemic criminal sexual assault and predatory behaviour by a large number of the Brothers over a considerable period of time. So he was hurt very much emotionally. The Child Migrant report had this to say: For many former child migrants the greatest hardship was loss of identity. Many witnesses told the Committee that not knowing who they were was the hardest for them to bear, harder than all the abuses.
The sense of dislocation and not belonging, of loss of family and of emptiness has had a profound impact on their lives and on the lives of their partners and children. There are no siblings to share birthdays or anniversaries. There are no photographs, no medical histories, no school reports or personal mementos. In a House of Commons Health Committee in the United Kingdom reported that: The level of deception, the deliberate giving of wrong information or withholding of information, the policies of separating siblings, all make it very hard to accept that everything was done simply for the benefit of the children.
It indicates an abuse of power and a disregard for the feelings of the mothers and children, and it was certainly felt as such by many former child migrants. No one ever told me where I came from or what. I was just an individual person that knew no one. I never ever knew how old I was. I never knew my birthday … I just think this whole thing has had a profound effect on me. I used to wait for somebody to come and see me, just as I saw parents come in and see their kids. I was always waiting for somebody. From my own point of view I have lived my life with a hole at the centre of my being.
In its submission to the Child Migrant inquiry, the Trust noted: Child migrants who present to the Trust describe an increase in their desperation to find their families as the years advance, linked to their own ageing and the dwindling possibilities that their parents may yet be found alive. Sometimes there is no information at all, just their name in a register of inmates. After a system of selection of files for retention in WA was established and in it was agreed that: adoption files would be destroyed after five years from the date of the order; child migrant files would be destroyed five years after expiry of term or date of final action; and ward files would be destroyed 10 years after expiry of term or final action date.
For instance, the Manager of the Heritage and Information Service of the MacKillop Family Services told the Committee: We release records according to the privacy legislation, which would mean that we could not release information about a person to somebody else unless that person has given permission for them to receive it or unless that person was deceased. When I started the search I thought the ache in the corner of my heart would be erased only to find that it has got larger. These records will help me to understand her life as well as my own.
However, state wards often only have the state ward file to go back to for family information. Why should the Department staff get to read the file about my parents and then relate it to me? How dare the Department decide that I cannot read about MY parents. When I was an eighteen-year old adolescent she was abducted from me when I delivered her in a government licensed [institution].
Article 8 of this Treaty States: States Parties undertake to respect the right of the child to preserve his or her identity, including nationality, name and family relations as recognized by law without unlawful interference. Where a child is illegally deprived of some or all of the elements of his or her identity, States Parties shall provide appropriate assistance and protection with a view to re-establishing his or her identity. Attached are recommendations pertinent to this paper. Second report on the inquiry into children in institutional or out-of-home care, March Chapter 11 p August Forgotten Australians , p.
Margaret Humphries deserves much credit for her pioneering work in exposing the child migrant scandal. That her book was one of the first in this genre indicates how recent interest in this field is. Submission , CICI. Submission No.