UK waited for victims to die, says campaigner
AUSTRALIA/BRITAIN: A British high commissioner to Australia said that the government was not interested in the plight of abused child migrants because it was waiting for them to die, a public inquiry was told yesterday.
The claim was made by Norman Johnston, 75, who said it had taken 30 years of campaigning to get the British government to apologise for the suffering of children taken from their families and sent to schools in former colonies. Johnston, president of the International Association of Former Child Migrants, told the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse: ‘‘The British government sent us to places that they knew were not safe for children. I want the British public to know that.’’
More than 130,000 children were sent to the colonies by charities and churches under stateapproved migration schemes that ran for more than a century. Between 1948 and 1970 some 6000 children were sent to Australia, of whom about 2000 are alive.
In 2005 Johnston said he had a meeting in Canberra with Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke, who was the British high commissioner. He said: ‘‘We tried to give the message to the high commissioner about the lack of support we were getting from Britain to help to find our families and we were given short shrift.’’ Johnston said the meeting had been ‘‘very frank’’ and claimed that it ended with Lady Liddell saying: ‘‘You will have a very long wait. The British government are waiting for you all to die.’’
- The Times