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Martin Narey’s response to Gordon Brown’s apology to child migrants

On Wednesday, 24nd February, Gordon Brown apologised on behalf of the British Government for the practice of child migration to our former colonies. This follows an apology by the Australian PM, Kevin Rudd, three months ago.

Barnardo's very much welcomes the Prime Minister’s apology. Dr. Barnardo's Homes, as we were then known, was one of many agencies involved in child migration in the last century, a policy which was once mainstream child care practice. This policy was well intentioned and many who advocated it before and after the Second World War sincerely believed migration would offer impoverished children the chance of a radically better life.

But while some children did well and are grateful for the chance migration gave them, for too many children that hope was not realised and Barnardo's deeply regrets that. We express our deepest sympathy for anyone who suffered.

For many years Barnardo’s has been giving as much help as we can to former child migrants. We respond to enquiries from any child who was ever in our care, including those who migrated. Our extensive archive means that we are uniquely well placed to respond with help tracing family histories and we have a team of qualified social workers to provide help and emotional support reuniting families. This work continues.

Today I have said that if there is any adult who feels they have suffered as a result of Barnardo’s actions and who feels we can help to put right the damage caused, they should contact me and I will give their case my personal attention.

Barnardo’s has never shied away from the part we played in child migration, painful though that history is. Over the years, we have opened our records to historians. The first major study of child migrants, by Professor Joy Parr, was based on extensive work in our archives.  Gillian Wagner and Professor Roy Parker have also produced definitive and often critical accounts.

I hope that today’s events give every one of us an opportunity to reflect on past failures and learn from past mistakes. And to recommit to the duty we all owe to the most vulnerable children. - former Chief Executive of Barnardo's Martin Narey.

For more information visit our child migration frequently asked questions page.

All media enquiries should be directed to our media line on 0208 498 5555. Read our press statement.