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August 31, 2009

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Australia apologizes to abused children

AUSTRALIA'S government will follow its historic apology to Aborigines last year for past injustices with a similar apology to child immigrants and Australian-born children who suffered in state care during the last century, a Cabinet minister said yesterday.

Families and Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin announced the apology on the anniversaries of Senate reports on child immigration in 2001 and on Australian children raised in institutions in 2004.

Both reports recommended that the government of then Prime Minister John Howard apologize for the abuses and assaults that many suffered in institutions and foster care.

The report on child immigration said that between 6,000 and 30,000 children from Britain and Malta, often taken from unmarried mothers or poor families, were sent alone to Australia as migrants in the last century. It could not determine the number because of scarce records.

The second report found that more than 500,000 Australian children were placed in foster homes, orphanages and other institutions during the 20th century. Many were emotionally, physically and sexually abused while in state care, it said.

"By the end of 2009, the Australian government will issue a formal statement of acknowledgment and apology, on behalf of the nation, to forgotten Australians and former child migrants," Macklin said.

"Many former child migrants and other children who were in institutions, their families and the wider community have suffered from a system that did not adequately provide for, or protect children in its care," she added.


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