Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologized Monday to thousands of British orphans and migrant children, transported to the country over centuries with the promise of a better life, but only to suffer physical abuse, and to be deprived of "love and tenderness" during their forced care.
He said Australia was "sorry for the physical suffering, emotional starvation and the cold absence of love, of tenderness, of care."
"Sorry that, as children, you were taken from your families and placed in institutions where often you were abused," Rudd said in an historic speech in Canberra, witnessed in person by more than 40 of the 7,000 child migrants from Britain sent to Australia from the 1920s-1970s.
He said he apologized on behalf of the nation for the "ugly chapter" in the country's history which snatched thousands of young persons from their families only to be left with scars from years of emotional, physical and sexual abuse at the hands of their "carers."
"We come together today to offer our nation's apology. To say to you, the Forgotten Australians, and those who were sent to our shores as children without their consent, that we are sorry," Rudd said.
"Sorry for the tragedy, the absolute tragedy, of childhoods lost...childhoods spent, instead, in austere and authoritarian places where names were replaced by numbers, spontaneous play by regimented routine, the joy of learning by the repetitive drudgery of menial work," he added.
People in large numbers, many of them the "Forgotten Australians," turned up at Parliament's Great Hall in Canberra to hear both the Prime Minister and opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull tendering the apology.
As Rudd stepped off the stage, he comforted weeping victims overcome with the enormity of the apology. Turnbull was seen fighting back tears, as he narrated stories of some of those who were left "abandoned and betrayed."
The "Forgotten Australians," many of whom suffered ill-treatment and some even sexual abuse, included half a million children raised in institutions, orphanages and foster care homes through the last century, and about 7,000 child migrants.
The apology came a day after the British government said Prime Minister Gordon Brown would offer a similar apology for the child migrant programs that saw as many as 150,000 impoverished British children, some of them as young as three years old, shipped to Australia, Canada and other former colonies over three-and-a-half centuries.
by RTT Staff Writer
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