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2009 Media Release: Apology an important step forward in the healing process

Commission Commission – General

Monday, 16 November 2009

Apology an important step forward in the healing process

Today’s Apology to the 500,000 forgotten Australians and former child migrants for the appalling treatment they suffered in institutional care last century, marks an important step in the healing process for these individuals and the nation, the Australian Human Rights Commission said today.

Commission President Cathy Branson, said the importance of saying sorry should not be underestimated.

“The Apology delivered today by the Prime Minister is a welcome and significant gesture,” Ms Branson said.

“Saying sorry on behalf of the nation will assist many individuals and their families to look to the future and to put behind them this dark chapter in Australia’s history," she said.

“Acknowledging the trauma, damage and lost life chances that many of these children suffered is an important reflection of our maturity as a compassionate nation with a conscience.

“Recognising the horrific stories of abuse suffered by those placed in care, as well as the shocking experiences of around 7000 former child migrants who were forced into menial work and prevented from getting a decent education, should assist in ensuring this never happens again.”

Ms Branson also applauded those churches and other providers who had already apologised for this past treatment.

“It is fitting that this national Apology should take place ahead of Friday’s 20th anniversary of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child,” she said.

“Let’s use the tragic lessons of the past to move forward as a stronger, more respectful and compassionate nation that ensures the human rights of children are never again overridden.”

Media contact: Louise McDermott 02 9284 9851 or 0419 258 597