PM to offer Australian apology

By Ian Dunt

The prime minister is preparing to offer an apology to British children forcibly sent to Commonwealth countries for a life of abuse and unpaid labour.

Gordon Brown is understood to have been personally moved by the story of the migrants, at least 150,000 of which were taken to predominantly Australia and Canada between 1920 and 1967.

This morning the prime minister’s spokesman said Mr Brown “feels personally upset” at the situation, and is keen to make a statement apologising on behalf of the government to the survivors.

He will consult with charities representing former child migrants and their families before the new year, but is expected to make the apology early in 2010.

The practise of taking the children, aged between three and 14, was prompted largely by a desire to introduce white, hopefully British, stock, to the territories of the British empire.

Most came from care homes, but all were from deprived backgrounds. They were promised a better life in the Commonwealth but usually met a fate of unpaid labour and, frequently, abuse.

This morning Mr Brown’s Australian counterpart, Kevin Rudd, made a wider apology to the 500,000 children, mostly from overseas, who were held in institutions between 1930 and 1970.

“We are sorry,” he 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 comments mark a distinct ethical agenda to Mr Rudd’s administration. He has already apologised to the ‘stolen generation’ of aboriginal children taken from their parents.