A promise of a better life

On 29th August 2018  BBC News reported that some of the child migrants who were sent to Australia from the UK are planning to sue the UK Government.  The article explains…

Between 1945-70, some 4,000 children were separated from their families and sent to Australia and Zimbabwe.

The Independent Inquiry Into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA) considered the children who were forcibly relocated in the post-war period.

A scheme saw children from deprived backgrounds who were often already in social care – some as young as three years old – sent away with the promise of a better life.

I have read many of the accounts bravely shared by victims of this dreadful policy – children who were costing the UK too much to look after within the residential care system.  The ‘cheaper’ option was to send them off to Commonwealth countries who were looking for ‘good white British stock’.

It makes your heart break.

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.

 

Not lost, but abandoned

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.

The Forgotten Children

I will let the words of the Child Migrants Trust tell this story…

‘Britain is the only country in the world with a sustained history of child migration. Only Britain has used child migration as a key part of its child care strategy over four centuries rather than as a last resort during times of war or civil unrest.

The reality of this policy was to remove children, some as young as three years old from their mothers and fathers, from all that was familiar to them, and to ship them thousands of miles away from their home country to institutions in distant lands within the Commonwealth. Many of these children were removed without their parents’ knowledge or consent.

In the post-war period, child migrants as young as three were shipped to Canada, New Zealand, the former Rhodesia and Australia, a practice that continued as late as 1970.’

It is only as a result of the tireless work of Nottinghamshire social worker, Margaret Humphreys, that much of the truth has come to light.

When I first found out about the child migrants I was shocked.  Then I was angry and that anger inspired me to write a book.  I realised the best way to help the thousands of people affected by this dreadful policy that lasted for decades, was to raise awareness.

The Forgotten Children follows the journey of a mother, whose child was taken from her at birth.  It is fiction, but based on the many factual accounts I read while researching the book.

By telling the fictional story of Emily’s search for her child, I hope The Forgotten Children will encourage more people to be shocked and angry.  Perhaps then the individuals and families affected will finally receive the support they deserve.

The Forgotten Children is available now for pre-order from Amazon and will be published on November 29th.

Forgotten children

I woke this morning to listen again to some of the horrors experienced by the British child migrants.  The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in England and Wales has the first day of public hearings today and its initial focus will be the British children sent to Australia between 1945 and 1974.

I was studying for my MA in Professional Writing when I first learned about these children, some as young as four years old, who were taken from British care homes and put on ships to journey to the other side of the world.  When they arrived they were placed in institutions where they were often used as slave labour.  They experienced dreadful neglect, hardship and abuse of all kinds.  It was only when a Nottinghamshire social worker, Margaret Humphries, started to investigate that the truth came to light.  In 1987 she founded the Child Migrants Trust and she has since dedicated the rest of her life to helping children – now adults – to find out the truth about their past.

There have been several books already written about the child migrants, one of which was made into a heart-wrenching film, Oranges and Sunshine.

The more I read about the sad tales of the children who were taken from all they knew in the name of providing ‘good, sound British stock’ for our colonies, the more I felt impelled to try to raise awareness in the best way I know how.

I am currently putting the finishing touches to my novel Forgotten Children, which tells of a mother’s desperate attempts to find her son, and a young man’s search for his parents.  The story is inspired by the factual accounts of some of the child migrants, who contributed to a book, entitled, Lost Children of the Empire, which is now out of print, but I managed to track it down in the British Library.  It made for sad reading.

Forgotten Children will be published later this year.