Western Australia Fairbridge kids still fighting for redress


Former child migrants abused in Fairbridge Society institutions may have the chance for redress.
Former child migrants abused in Fairbridge Society institutions may have the chance for redress.

Mr Hinch was six when he was "deported" to Australia in 1951 under the British child migrant program.

He spent 10 years at the Fairbridge Farm School in Pinjarra, Western Australia, where he experienced sexual, physical and mental abuse.

He was not alone. Many of an estimated 2500 child migrants sent to most Australian states by the Fairbridge Society between 1912 and 1970 were sexually abused, as well as regularly beaten.

They appeared set to miss out on compensation and acknowledgement through Australia's national redress scheme for people sexually abused as children in institutions because the Fairbridge Society no longer existed.

The Prince's Trust, the youth charity founded by the Prince of Wales in 1976, has now taken steps so abuse survivors can seek redress related to the former Fairbridge Society.

"We categorically condemn all forms of child abuse," a trust spokesperson said.

"Although The Prince's Trust has never had any involvement in child migration schemes, we once again want to say we are deeply sorry for the hurt and suffering experienced by victims and survivors."

Established by Kingsley Fairbridge in 1909, the Fairbridge Society enjoyed the patronage of high-profile individuals including members of the royal family.

The society ceased to exist in the early 1980s when its child migration programs ended, although a replacement organisation continued working in the UK until it became part of The Prince's Trust in 2011 and was dissolved two years later.

Fairbridge has now been reinstated as an organisation in the UK, under administrators.

"The Prince's Trust is providing Fairbridge with funds, to give victims and survivors the opportunity to make claims, and it is also our hope that Fairbridge will sign up to the Australian redress scheme," the spokesperson said.

"We are in proactive and ongoing talks with the Australian authorities and with the administrators of Fairbridge, and we are committed to finding the best way to support the victims and supporters."

Mr Hinch, president of the Old Fairbridgians Association of WA, views it as a positive step, but not the end of the fight.

"There is light at the end of the tunnel, but I still look at it as a very faint light," he said.

The light would be a bit brighter once Fairbridge actually joined the scheme, he said.

"I want to see the kids actually receiving the money in their bank accounts before I say 'yep, the daylight is now showing'.

"As far as I'm concerned I've still got a lot of fighting to do."

Joint administrator Chris Laverty said at this point she could not confirm Fairbridge would join the national redress scheme.

Ms Laverty said she had reached out to the Australian government to discuss the criteria needed to join the scheme and whether that was suitable to a UK insolvency process.

Mr Hinch and other former Fairbridge child migrants had been writing to The Prince's Trust and even Prince Charles himself to try to get action on redress.

A former Kingsley Fairbridge Farm School child, who did not want to be named, said The Prince's Trust had previously argued its involvement was only due to the fact it inherited the Fairbridge records and archives.

"Now they've actually come round and said they are now going to do something," he said.

"I find it quite amazing."

Mr Hinch and WA support service Tuart Place had been trying to get Fairbridge declared a defunct organisation for redress purposes, and for the Commonwealth and states governments to be made to step in as the funder of last resort.

Legal service Knowmore principal lawyer Anna Swain said The Prince's Trust's action was welcome news but it remained a waiting game.

Until institutions like Fairbridge formally join the scheme, redress applications sit on hold.

Some survivors have held off even applying until the institution responsible for their abuse is added to the list of participating organisations.

"We hear this a lot, that 'they're waiting for us to die'. They may never join as well, that's obviously the great worry for a lot of people," Ms Swain said.

"We have a number of survivors who have already lodged applications some time ago and have been waiting for the news that an institution will take responsibility for the horrors that they have suffered."

Institutions have until June 30 to join the national redress scheme or at least provide a binding commitment.

The UK government also has a redress scheme offering payments of 20,000 pounds for all former British child migrants on the basis they were exposed to the risk of sexual abuse.

(Source).


Leave a comment


Please note, comments must be approved before they are published