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Thread: Britain Apologizes to Orphans Shipped Overseas

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    Britain Apologizes to Orphans Shipped Overseas

    LONDON – As many as 150,000 poor British children were shipped off to the colonies over three and a half centuries, often taken from struggling families under programs intended to provide them with a new start — and the Empire with a supply of sturdy white workers.

    Forty years after the program stopped, Britain and Australia are saying sorry to the child migrants, who were promised a better life only to suffer abuse and neglect thousands of miles from home.

    The British government said Sunday that Prime Minister Gordon Brown would apologize for child migrant programs that sent boys and girls as young as 3 to Australia, Canada and other former colonies. Many ended up in institutions where they were physically and sexually abused, or were sent to work as farm laborers.

    Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will offer his own apology Monday to the child migrants, as well as to the "forgotten Australians," children who suffered in state care during the last century.

    Sandra Anker, who was 6 when she was sent to Australia in 1950, said the British government has "a lot to answer for."

    "We've suffered all our lives," she told the BBC. "For the government of England to say sorry to us, it makes it right — even if it's late, it's better than not at all."

    The British government has estimated that a total of 150,000 British children may have been shipped abroad between 1618 — when a group was sent to the Virginia Colony — and 1967, most of them from the late 19th century onwards.

    After 1920, most of the children went to Australia through programs run by the government, religious groups and children's charities.

    A 2001 Australian report said that between 6,000 and 30,000 children from Britain and Malta, often taken from unmarried mothers or impoverished families, were sent alone to Australia as migrants during the 20th century. Many of the children were told that they were orphans, though most had either been abandoned or taken from their families by the state. Siblings were commonly split up once they arrived in Australia.

    Authorities believed they were acting in the children's best interests, but the migration also was intended to stop them from being a burden on the British state while supplying the receiving countries with potential workers. A 1998 British parliamentary inquiry noted that "a further motive was racist: the importation of 'good white stock' was seen as a desirable policy objective in the developing British Colonies."

    British Children's Secretary Ed Balls said the child migrant policy was "a stain on our society."

    "The apology is symbolically very important," he told Sky News television.

    "I think it is important that we say to the children who are now adults and older people and to their offspring that this is something that we look back on in shame," he said.

    "It would never happen today. But I think it is right that as a society when we look back and see things which we now know were morally wrong, that we are willing to say we're sorry."

    Britain has been trying to make amends since the late 1990s by funding trips to reunite migrants with their families in Britain.

    Brown's office said officials would consult with representatives of the surviving children before making a formal apology next year.

    Official apologies for historical wrongs have proved controversial.

    Former Australian Prime Minister John Howard initially resisted calls to apologize to institutionalized children and Australian Aborigines, arguing that contemporary Australians should not take responsibility for mistakes made by past generations.

    Rudd reversed the policy after he was elected in 2007 and apologized to Aborigines for 200 years of injustice since European settlement.

    At a ceremony Monday in Canberra that hundreds of former child migrants are expected to attend, Rudd will apologize for his country's role in the migration and say sorry to the 7,000 survivors of the program who still live in Australia.

    He also will apologize to the Australian children — more than 500,000, according to a 2004 Australian Senate report — who were placed in foster homes, orphanages and other institutions during the 20th century. Many were emotionally, physically and sexually abused in state care.

    Source

    I don't think it was necessarily a bad policy. There were also abuses (though they were not considered abuses at the time) in the orphanages & poorhouses of England. I myself have ancestors who arrived from Britain alone before the age of 21 as indentured servants during the American colonial era. The policy of sending orphans overseas is preferable to the current social policy of giving them to same-sex couples.

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    Maybe they should ask us how we feel about it instead of telling us. I have no problem with all the Irish immigrants sent here. I am glad it happened.

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    As you say Kogen, governments always presume to speak on behalf of the public regardless of whether they represent their views or not. Obviously, there's an agenda here and undermining the British nation's self-esteem is very high up on it!

    However, the really silly thing about all these "apologies" is that if these events had never taken place then there's every chance that the person apologising for them today would not be alive to do so

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    They would have had the same abuses back home. At least overseas they had more opportunities in the long run and it provided white people to populate the colonies. Win-win. So what are they appologizing for? The racism of it all? My only regret is as I've said before I think the racial stock of the colonies is not as good as the homeland i.e. whites in America in such are generally of a lower class than the motherland. They should have sent some more nobles or something to impregnate the hoardes of poverty ridden peasants. Nonetheless a good policy for its time. No one could have foreseen the absurd social revolutions of the 60s

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    Apart from the question of abuse (which can happen anywhere) the real crux of this issue is that many of the children were lied to, many being told that their parents were dead, on this basis they were shipped across the world to a country that was far from familiar and to recipients who treated them as little more than indentured labour.

    One can argue of course that in the end, they did better in Oz than they would have done back in Blighty, but the whole project was arranged by UK child agencies together with the British and Australian Governments in a most underhand and two faced dishonest way.

    In short, it was criminal. It was the exploitation of child labour pure and simple. If it happened today, those responsible would be jailed!

    These were deprived kids from broken families still reeling from the effects of WW2, many of them were orphans who the UK child agencies were only too keen to get shot of.

    To their everlasting credit, these kids made a life for themselves and over the years helped Australia to thrive. But nothing can take away the shame of the Governments and agencies involved who treated these kids as little more than unpaid servants and working class breeding stock.


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    Quote Originally Posted by rainman View Post
    My only regret is as I've said before I think the racial stock of the colonies is not as good as the homeland i.e. whites in America in such are generally of a lower class than the motherland.
    Gee thanks.

    As it is I have read many comments from Brits over the years on these foras lamenting the condition of contemporay British society, especially the chav culture & references to British youth as 'feral'.

    They should have sent some more nobles or something to impregnate the hoardes of poverty ridden peasants. Nonetheless a good policy for its time. No one could have foreseen the absurd social revolutions of the 60s
    Have you ever heard of the Cavaliers who came to Virginia in the 17th century, many of them younger sons of the Englsih gentry? Many of the Puritans, Quakers & other nonconformists who settled New England & Pennsylvania were from the middle class. Even the indentured servants were generally hard workers, Britian didn't have a welfare state or housing estates during the American colonial era.

    I think the welfare policies of the last 50-years is to blame for the current state of much of the White population in that it encourages the underclass to breed & discourages the better classes from doing so.

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    It's good and bad but it also show's the world that we too worked in poor conditions and were mistreated.

    We are far to often made to feel like we were all born with a silver spoon in our mouths, i can assure you i never had one growing up in Dublin, times were hard even for my generation in Ireland, i guess as a race we tend not to whine and complain about things and use them as a tool to be forever lazy and get things for free....

    Vicky

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    My first American ancestor came here in service, unwillingly pressed to join the crew of a British merchant ship. He escaped as soon as he saw land, which turned out to be Saco Bay in what is today Maine.

    If it hadn't happened I would probally have been born a Hebridean herring fishman like he was .

    I'm not sure what the point is in apologizing now.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zimobog View Post

    I'm not sure what the point is in apologizing now.
    It seems to be the current fashion among politicians to apologize for past acts that are considered politically incorrect &/or racially insensitive by current standards. Bill Clinton liked apologizing on behalf of America for what some peop[le considered transgressions - though he was reluctant to apologozie for his own misdeeds or for actions that occured on his watch, like US involvement in the Balkan Wars. Also we live in a victim society & the victims or their descendents have the vote.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Æmeric View Post
    Gee thanks.

    As it is I have read many comments from Brits over the years on these foras lamenting the condition of contemporay British society, especially the chav culture & references to British youth as 'feral'.



    Have you ever heard of the Cavaliers who came to Virginia in the 17th century, many of them younger sons of the Englsih gentry? Many of the Puritans, Quakers & other nonconformists who settled New England & Pennsylvania were from the middle class. Even the indentured servants were generally hard workers, Britian didn't have a welfare state or housing estates during the American colonial era.

    I think the welfare policies of the last 50-years is to blame for the current state of much of the White population in that it encourages the underclass to breed & discourages the better classes from doing so.
    Jamestown had a fair number of runaways and delinquents, orphans and erstwhile unloved children. The social status of the average colonist did not rise until the Civil War, which is when my grandmother's family came from London. They were considered upper class or aristocrats, because they had access to the King and even attended him under house arrest at Cowes on the Isle of Wight. I know I have vagabonds in my tree, somewhere.

    Anyway, penal transports began with Virginia, but didn't earnestly get underway until Georgia, which led to the complaint written in the Declaration of Independence. Britain was forced to use Botany Bay in NSW, to safeguard prison conditions from the turbulence of British North America. Now that I think about it, there's a parallel with the issues in which the Bastille was stormed. I'm not sure how to put it.

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