It was 1986 when Nottinghamshire social worker, Margaret Humphreys, was first contacted by a former child migrant in Australia. She was asked if she could help track down his family in the UK. That was just the start of a long journey for Margaret, and for the many individuals and families she has helped since that day.
In 1987 she established the Child Migrants Trust, which continues to do vital work in tracking down families and raising awareness.
Here is an excerpt from the Child Migrants Trust website that explains a little of what the children were subjected to:
‘After being told fanciful tales of travel to the ‘Land of Milk and Honey‘, where children ride to school on horseback, child migrants were sent abroad without passports, social histories or even basic documents such as a full birth certificate. Brothers and sisters were frequently separated for most of their childhood; some were loaded onto trucks for long journeys to remote institutions, only to be put to work as labourers the next day. Many felt an extreme sense of rejection by their family and country of origin. Others felt like characters from Kafka’s novels; their punishment was obvious – exile from their family and homeland – but the nature of their crime was a complete mystery.
The tragic reality for many child migrants was appalling standards of care which fell well below standards found within British institutions. Children as young as seven, sent to institutions in Western Australia, were involved in construction works without basic safety measures. Many were injured in building accidents at an age when they would have been in school if they had remained in the United Kingdom.’
Families were torn apart – many never to find each other again. In a recent news article (Daily Mirror, 30th August 2018) Rex Wade – one of the last child migrants to be sent to Australia in 1970 – tells his story:
“The whole experience ruined my life. We were treated like slaves. It was wrong and should never have happened.”
These and many other stories inspired me to write The Forgotten Children – in the hope that it will increase awareness about this terrible period in British history.
The Forgotten Children is available now for pre-order from Amazon and will be published on November 29th.