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Child migration is the migration of children, without their parents, to another country or region.[1] In many cases this has involved the forced migration of children in care, to be used as child labour.


During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many Aboriginal Australian children were removed from their families and placed in institutions and foster homes, in what became known as the Stolen Generations.[2]

Over 7000 children migrated to Australia under assisted child migration schemes. The vast majority of children were migrated from the UK, with a small number from Malta. Child migrants were adopted or brought up in children's homes, institutions, orphanages or foster care. Many of these children experienced neglect and abuse while in institutional care.

In November 2009 Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd formally apologized to "Forgotten Australians" and child migrants on behalf of the nation.[3][4] "Forgotten Australians" is a term the Australian Senate has used to describe children who were brought up in orphanages, children's homes, institutions or foster care in Australia. Child migrants are a specific group of "Forgotten Australians" [5].


The Canadian Indian residential school system, founded in the 19th century, was intended to force the assimilation of the Aboriginal peoples in Canada into European-Canadian society.[6] The last residential school was closed in 1996. [7] On June 11, 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized, on behalf of the sitting Cabinet, in front of an audience of Aboriginal delegates, and in an address that was broadcast nationally on the CBC, for the past governments' policies of assimilation.[8] In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI expressed his sorrow at "the anguish caused by the deplorable conduct of some members of the Church" and offered his "sympathy and prayerful solidarity".[9]


310 children were emigrated from Malta to Australia between 1950 and 1965 under the ‘Child Migration to Australia Scheme’ following an agreement between the Australian Catholic Immigration committee and the Emigration and Labour Minister on 9 December, 1949.[10] Most of the Maltese children sent to Australia under this scheme came either from government orphanages or Church children’s homes and all were said to have left with their parents’ consent. The Australian government had offered to welcome Maltese boys, aged between eight and 11, and girls aged between five and 10 years into Catholic institutions and promised to offer them employment supervised by the responsible Catholic authorities.[10] One of these children became a priest and many others embarked on a career though many grew up hurt knowing that their parents had consented to their departure from home.[10] The Maltese emigrants were included in the Australian Prime Minister,s 2009 apology public apology to those who suffered abuse at the hands of their carers in institutions, orphanages and foster care.[10]

United Kingdom

The practice of sending poor or orphaned children to British settler colonies, to help alleviate the shortage of labour, began in England in 1618, with the rounding-up and transportation of 100 vagrant children to the Virginia Colony.[11] Prior to the second half of the twentieth century, the Home Children programme was seen as a way to move impoverished children to a "better life" in Australia, Canada and elsewhere, also providing good "white stock" to former colonies. Unfortunately. the children and parents were not consulted, and often siblings were separated.[12] In total 130,000 children were sent from the UK to Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) and Australia. Often children were lied to about their parents being dead and many faced abuse in their new homes.[3]

In February 2010 British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown issued an official apology for the 'shameful' child resettlement programme and announced a £6 million fund designed to compensate the families affected by the "misguided" programme.[13]

During WWII some 3.5 million children were evacuated from areas at risk of aerial bombing to rural locations.[14] (see Evacuations of civilians in Britain during World War II)

United States

During the 19th century there were a number of attempts to move children from crowded east coast cities to midwestern and western rural families & orphanages, most famous was the orphan train movement.[15] Additionally Native American children were separated from their families & sent to boarding schools to force them into assimilating western culture.[16]


  1. Anon. "Independent child migration". CMRN main themes. Child migration Research Network. Retrieved 21 November 2009.
  2. Read, Peter (1981) (PDF). The Stolen Generations: The Removal of Aboriginal children in New South Wales 1883 to 1969. Department of Aboriginal Affairs (New South Wales government). ISBN 0-646-46221-0.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Anon (16 November 2009). "Australia 'sorry' for child abuse". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved 17 november 2009.
  4. PMs apology
  5. Adoption & Forgotten Australians - Child Migrants
  6. "Alberni School Victim Speaks Out". First Nations Drum. Retrieved 2009-12-02.[dead link]
  7. "A timeline of residential schools". CBC. 2008-05-16. Archived from the original on 2008-05-19. Retrieved 2008-06-11.
  8. PM cites 'sad chapter' in apology for residential schools -, June 11, 2008. Retrieved 2009-12-02.
  9. Communique of the Holy See Press Office. 29.4.2009. Retrieved 2009-12-02.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Attard, Elaine. "Australian PM apologises for child abuse". The Malta Independent online. Standard Publications Ltd. Retrieved 17 November 2009.
  11. "A child migration timeline". The Goldonian. Goldonian Web. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
  12. Child Labor By Sandy Hobbs, Jim McKechnie, Michael Lavalette p. 33, 34)
  13. Ralph, Alex (24 February 2010). "Gordon Brown sorry for 'shameful' colonial child resettlement programme". The Times (Times Newspapers Ltd). Retrieved 26 February 2010.
  14. Anon. "Home page". The Evacuees Reunion Association.. The Evacuees Reunion Association.. Retrieved 28 April 2010.
  15. Torigoe, John (December 24 2008). "He rode the 'Orphan Train' across the country". CNN.
  16. Andrea Smith, "Soul Wound: The Legacy of Native American Schools", Amnesty Magazine, Amnesty International website

External links

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