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?