Monday, November 16, 2009

Should Gordon Brown Copy Kevin Rudd?

I must admit to having known very little about the forced shipment of thousands of British children to Australia, but from news reports today, it does seem shameful that our government could do this over a number of decades without anyone really questioning it. It is even worse to find out that children were told in many cases that their parents had died and they were orphans. When they got to Australia they were often used as child labour and sometimes suffered both physical and sexual abuse. Over the years, more than 120,000 children were sent to Australia under this scheme, which was axed in the 1960s.

Today, Australian PM Kevin Rudd has said sorry for the way the children were treated. It is expected that Gordon Brown will issue a similar apology sometime soon for the part the British government played in shipping the children to Australia.

I am usually very sceptical about the value of historical apologies. How can a current day British Prime Minister take responsibility for something that happened decades ago? Except... Many of the children are still alive. This is not the same as when Tony Blair apologised for the slave trade. I can quite see the argument that some sort of apology from both the British and Australian governments may give some sort of closure to those who were taken from their home country and shipped Down Under, so purely from that viewpoint, perhaps it is something which should be given.

Of course one corollary of this is that those affected may decide to take legal action and sue both governments for damages, now that culpability has been admitted. And you have to say, who could blame them?

21 comments:

Donal Blaney said...

When will the Egyptians apologise to Moses?

Dungeekin said...

I hear the Queen's Speech is to feature a list of historical events for which the PM is to apologise . . .

D

Plenty said...

THIS is a big problem for all governments that are in power. They are quite happy to apologise for previous ill-judged mistakes of former governments, but will they apologise for the mistakes they have made now? I would like to see Brown apologise for taking Britain into a War with Iraq and Afghanistan. No doubt years down the line, someone else will be apologising for the current mess. Regardless of whether it was illegal or not, I bet he won't. And he was the one after all who signed the cheques, so it's as much his blame as Blairs......

titus-aduxas said...

"Mr Rodd, citizens of Austria......"

Slim Jim said...

If it brings some comfort to those affected, then it is a good thing. However, the cynical amongst us will still see this as futile gesture politics. As many others have commented on the blogosphere - it would be better if the Traitor apologised for HIS mistakes, but we know that will never happen!

Pogo said...

Just one little point... They wouldn't be suing the Government, they'd be suing the poor old bloody taxpayer - who is even less responsible for what happened.

sarah said...

Whatever the merits of an apology, when it comes from the mouth of Brown it is devalued.

Where is HIS apology to all of us for imposing himself on this country as an unelected PM?

Mike Rouse said...

Rather than decades more like hundreds of years. I too know little about it, so did some reading last night and it turns out we've been shipping youngsters since the 1700s. It looks like it was at its worse period from 1947 before a Conservative government started to quietly dismantle the practice, a process finally finished under Labour in the 1960s.

More here:
http://www.mikerouse.com/2009/11/15/help-1952-document-britain-on-the-spree/

ianbeag said...

Will the apology extend to the earlier deportees who were put ashore at Botany Bay?

titus-aduxas said...

Brown would do well to copy Harold Holt, rather than Kevin Rudd.

Holt, for those who may not remember, was the PM, who went swimming and, presumably, ended up as lunch for a great white shark.

Glyn H said...

As good an example as one can get of using today’s values applied to something done in another time. Some of these children, mainly progeny of single mothers unable to care for them, in an age when this activity was not regarded by the state as a splendid device to increase its client base, were probably were abused – but far from all.

It is the pygmyisation of politicians that sees them hastening to apologise for that for which they were not responsible. Rudd is hardly of the stature of past Australian premiers but does Mr Brown really want to make himself look even more of an inadequate pipsqueak First Lord of the Treasury?

DeeDee99 said...

I think the Italians should apologise to the descendents of Boudicca, Queen of the Icenii, and her daughters, for their appalling and anti-feminist treatment of a monarch and her family which resulted in their deaths by suicide - because they received insufficient counselling after the rapes and no-one was brought to justice so they had to take the law into their own hands.

If no other members of the Icenii Tribe are available to accept the apology and make the application for compensation, I will be happy to do so.

Boudicca (from Guildford)

Laurence said...

There may be some who derive a degree of solace from this apology for an apology. That group might be outnumbered by their fellow victims who will construe this -rightly in my view - as mere tokenism.

True Belle said...

Let us get a sense proportion here!

During WW2 many young children were evacuated to the country side or Canada. Some children became orphaned by virtue of the bombs that fell on our major cities.

Why apologise for introducing youngsters to a possibly far better life, many youngsters did very well. Many children who were evacuated to our British country side suffered horribly , but many had pleasant memories.

I suspect the grief and emptiness felt by youngsters sent to Australia is the same as children who are put into care.

I used to hear parents threatening their youngsters with 'If you don't behave , you will be put on a boat to Australia' no idle threat it appears.

Is this really what happened to Barnardo's children and all the other charities like the Railway orphanages etc.

Mortality rates were much higher , working class adults had a poorer survival rate.

I cannot believe how people forget, and if people want to whinge and howl, well just imagine how really tough life would have been like as an orphan if they had remained in postwar Britain!

Eugenics will have benefited Australia anyway !

Let Kevin Rudd blub, and all the others too. Boo hoo.

Nick said...

So its not acceptable to apologise for someone who is alive, you have to wait until they are dead?

So its wrong to pay compensation to a child that you sent off to be buggered and raped?

The criminals are still alive

Nick

Gallimaufry said...

Gordon Brown should copy Harold Holt.

Magical_Mist said...

I don't think there is any harm in 'historical apologies', within reason.
If they help in terms of international relations, then I'm all for them.

Andrew said...

I'm fed up with Brown's selective apologies. When I heard he was going to apologise after Rudd, I thought it might be today, but now I hear it will be in January!
Still dithering.

Boy on a bike said...

Noooooo! Kevin Rude is a bloody idiot who wants to please everyone. If anything, he is copying Brown and running this country down the toilet. Rudd just wants to be loved - that's the only reason he's doing this. He's got no spine - no ticker. This is a sign of abject personal weakness.

norman said...

It is very sad and sensitive subject. We should recognise the injustice done. But regarding Brown,I want him first to apologise for the terrible pain he directly inflicted as the Chancellor on the soldiers by not providing the funds to equip them well while he and Bliar send them to fight in foreign lands, second by pursuing dreadful economic policies inflicted stealth taxes on us,third by removing BOE and establishing the weak FSA, thereby allowing the banks to play with others money and finally for renaging on the EU referendum by telling lies.

Michael said...

Australian Prime Minister apologises to British Child Migrants.