Cheap (white) labour for the commonwealth

Apparently the British government after World War II deported a lot of children to Australia without their parents’ permission. I did not know this.

On arrival in Australia, the policy was to separate brothers and sisters. And many of the young children ended up in what felt like labour camps, where they were physically, psychologically and often sexually abused.

Did they indeed – well doesn’t that sound familiar.

In testimony before a British parliamentary committee in the late 1990s, one boy spoke of the criminal abuse he was subjected at the hands of Catholic priests at Tardun in Western Australia. A number of Christian brothers competed between themselves to see who could rape him 100 times first, the boy said. They liked his blue eyes, so he repeatedly beat himself in the hope they would change colour.

The dear Christian brothers – how they do keep turning up in these stories of bullying and abuse.

But what I don’t understand is why these children were deported in the first place. The story says ‘The British government saw them as a burden on the state’ – so I suppose they were in foster care or institutions? Separated from their parents for various reasons? It must be something like that…but to move from that to deportation…yikes. And this was presumably Attlee’s government. Yikes again.

There’s a short history at the Child Migrants Trust but it still leaves out some vital facts – it doesn’t even make it clear whether or not all the children were already separated from their parents or not. It seems clear that all the parents must have been very poor and very powerless – it seems impossible that any of them could have been rich or influential or even middle class enough to make an effective stink.

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