IICSA inquiry says UK government should pay Australia child migrants

A teacher reads to a group of children in Stevenage who are about to be sent to the Fairbridge school in MolongImage copyright
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A group of children from a school in Stevenage were among those to be sent to the Fairbridge school in Molong, Australia

Thousands of people from England and Wales who as children were forcibly sent abroad, where many suffered abuse, should be compensated, an inquiry says.

They were sent to Australia and parts of the British Empire from 1945-1970 by charities and the Catholic church.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) said the government should pay all 2,000 former migrants still alive within 12 months.

The Australian and UK governments apologised in 2009 and 2010.

About 4,000 children were sent to Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, between 1945 and 1970.

The inquiry heard from various former migrants who claimed they and others suffered sexual and physical abuse at the hands of those running the schools and orphanages they were sent to.

‘Deeply flawed’

The inquiry’s report said all former child migrants should receive compensation – whether or not they were sexually abused – because all had been put at risk of sexual abuse.

Inquiry chairwoman Professor Alexis Jay said: “Child migration was a deeply flawed government policy that was badly implemented by numerous organisations which sent children as young as five years old abroad.

“The policy was allowed to continue despite evidence over many years showing that children were suffering.”

The inquiry said the government was “primarily responsible” for the scheme managed by the Catholic church and charities, including Barnardo’s and The Fairbridge Society, which is now part of the Prince’s Trust.

The report also said the government:

  • Failed to ensure children were protected
  • Failed to respond to reports of abuse
  • Did not want to jeopardise its relationship with the Australian government
  • Did not want to upset Barnardo’s or the Fairbridge Society

It also found:

  • Many of the organisations “enjoyed patronage from persons of influence and position”
  • The avoidance of “embarrassment and reputational risk was more important” than care of the children
  • Successive governments after 1970 failed to accept full responsibility
  • Other institutions involved in the scheme which have failed to apologise should so do so “as soon as possible”

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