Politics, Community & Society > Call for Apology to 500,000 Abused Children

Call for Apology to 500,000 Abused Children

By BARBARA LANE
Published: July 6, 2009

Calls for a federal government apology to 500,000 abused children known as the “Forgotten Australians” and “Lost Innocents” ring out across Australia.

On Thursday, June 25, 2009, a Senate Community Affairs Reference Committee Report was tabled in Parliament house, reviewing recommendations made years ago in regard to these groups.

The “Forgotten Australians” are those who were under the care of the State during the last century, and the “Lost Innocents” were child migrants.

These people report histories of horrific abuse and neglect in institutions and out-of-home placements.

The Senate Review report focuses on the need for an apology from the Federal Government, redress and a whole-of-government approach to the delivery of services and programs to care-leavers.

Approximately 150 care leavers, many being members of CLAN (Care Leavers Australia Network) attended the tabling of the Report and hundreds of thousands of Australians now await the government’s response.

“The Commonwealth Government paid child endowment to the institutions where the abuse occurred”, said one survivor who preferred not to be named, “but the Howard government just seemed to want to shift all the responsibility onto the States. I’m hoping for better from the Rudd government.”

Many expect an apology similar to that given to members of the Stolen Generation.

Jenny Macklin, Minister for Family and Community Services, described the abuse and neglect suffered by survivors of institutional care as a tragedy and said that she would consider the recommendation for an apology.

Some States have already implemented redress schemes which provide ex gratia payments to those who suffered abuse in institutions. For those that haven’t, the Committee “recommends that the Commonwealth Government pursue all available policy and political options to ensure that South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria establish redress schemes for people who suffered neglect and/or abuse in institutional settings or out-of-home care in the last century; and that the remaining States make provision to ensure continued receipt of redress claims.”

Queensland’s Redress Scheme will begin paying Stage 2 payments of “up to $33,000” to eligible claimants after sending letters of offer in August, 2009.

One of the problems with delivery of services is in ascertaining exactly who the forgotten Australians are. It has been previously suggested that a “Gold Card” system would be appropriate.

Recommendation 9 is that “in accordance with recommendation 33 of the Forgotten Australians report, the Commonwealth and States commit, through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), to implementing a whole-of-government approach to the provision of programs and services for care leavers across policy areas such as health, housing and welfare and community services and other relevant policy areas”.

On a local level, Janelle Saffin MP, Federal Member for Page says she has discussed the need for an apology with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Family and Community Services Minister, Jenny Macklin.

She said she intends in the near future to hold a morning tea for Forgotten Australians in the Northern Rivers area so that they can get to know one another and discuss common requirements and directions.

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