Australian Church apologises to brutalised child migrants
Two peak bodies within the Catholic Church yesterday issued a public apology to all men and women who suffered because of their experiences as child migrants brought to Catholic institutions in Australia.
The Joint Liaison Group On Child Migration, representing the Committee on Migrants and Refugees of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, and the Executive of the Australian Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes, made the apology at the Senate Community Affairs References Committee Inquiry into Child Migration.
The Convenor of the Joint Liaison Group, Br Tony Shanahan, said that all parties involved in child migration, from governments down, should acknowledge that the concept of migrating unaccompanied children halfway around the world, resulting in separation from homeland and family ties, was flawed and has resulted in suffering and dislocation in the lives of many.
"Despite good intentions and even if some of the hurtful consequences suffered by child migrants were unintended it is both appropriate and necessary to apologise."
"We are also aware of many allegations of sexual and physical abuse by former child migrants, including those cared for in Catholic institutions," he said.
"We accept that there is a substantial core of truth in these complaints and this apology expresses our shame and regret. We are sorry that some of those vulnerable children who should have found care and protection in our Catholic institutions suffered abuse," he added.
But International Association of Former Child Migrants (IAFCM) vice president Don Coleshill, who was shipped to Australia as a five-year-old in 1937, accepted the apology with "a very large grain of salt".
"They are only hollow words unless you say you want to do something to substantiate or support the apology," he said. "I consider the apology is a lot of hot air."
However Former Deputy Mayor of Campbelltown in Sydney and IAFCM member John Hennessy said the apology was "a complete shock but a step towards the healing process".
"I think it should be a beacon that at long last child migrants have been listened to," he said.
Br Shanahan called on the British, Australian and State governments involved to take their share of the responsibility for the treatment. "We cannot see why the commitment of governments to assisting former child migrants should be any less substantial than that of groups like the Catholic Church," he said.