But today, I will admit to getting a little teary hearing Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s sorry speech to the ‘Forgotten Generation’, those half a million British children, some as young as 2, who alone and against their will, often having been forcefully separated from siblings at the wharves, were loaded onto ships and bought to a desolate, far-flung land named Australia.
These children, some orphans, some the children of single mothers, were bought to Australia under a scheme meant to place them in “farm schools” and give them a new life of opportunity, whilst helping build Australia’s population of (and I quote) “good white stock”. Instead, most found a life of suffering, abuse, loneliness and isolation.
Picture, and an overview of the scheme, from here.
My daughter is 2. That’s what hit home to me, my mind’s eye conjuring up an image of her alone on a foggy wharf, people yelling, gangplanks clanging, confused, crying, wondering what is happening, where is her mother, so scared her heart is beating through her chest and her hands won’t stop shaking. Dammit, I’m crying again just typing this.
Can you imagine it? These poor children, victims of some stupid, ill-conceived and just plain fucking cruel scheme. Not only did they suffer through that, but when they got to Australia, they found a life of hard labour, systematic abuse, beatings, even sexual assault. Cold, heartless insitutions instead of the family they knew and no doubt missed keenly.
Not only that, but until now, never had the massive injustice done to them recognised. I had never heard of this before last week. Funny, they didn’t teach it in school.
What sort of Government would allow this? Those who have been elected into power, failing to protect those most powerless. I almost hope that this was a tragic mistake, that they actually somehow, were stupid enough to think they were helping these children. Because the alternative is just overwhelmingly evil, Machiavellian.
It is a great testament to these people that they survived, persevered and even prospered. They made the best of what they were thrown into, and made lives here. Many went on to find their lost families as adults, once they had begun to heal. The human spirit is indomitable, and damned impressive.
I’m not going to get into politics or affiliations, but I do think Kevin Rudd’s speech today has, if not helped those now-grown children move forward, has at least bought what horrible thing happened to them to the attention of a shocked and sorry nation.