Turnbull says sorry to ‘Forgotten’

The Opposition leader followed Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in saying sorry to those taken from their families and placed in institutions from the late 1920s until the 1970s.

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The apology parliament would be asked to accept had the unqualified support of the opposition, Mr Turnbull said to cheers and applause.

Mr Turnbull recalled his visit last week to the National Orphanage Museum in Sydney where the faded sticker on an open suitcase caught his eye. The suitcase belonged to Peter Hicks.

Children ‘brutalised, used as child labour’

“This little battered suitcase was Peter’s one passport to a life beyond the grim orphanage in which he found himself at only 14 months of age.”

He used the suitcase, with all his worldly possessions, for an annual stay with a kindly married couple.

The holiday was his only escape from violent assaults, degrading abuses, “the loss of innocence” where marginalised children were brutalised and used as child labour under the guise of safe-guarding their faith or protecting them from moral danger.

Peter, not knowing his parents, was also split apart from his brothers.

“A story that is, as you know, as cruel as it was common,” Mr Turnbull said.

Peter tried to find the love and affection all children desired from their mother.

Emotional embrace for victim

“He wrote away seeking answers, he received a brief and abrupt response from the police saying they didn’t do that sort of thing.”

At the age of 40, Peter received a call “out of the blue” asking him to visit a woman who was in hospital. The woman was his mother, and she was dying. Six weeks later she died of cancer.

“For only six weeks for part of his 56 years, Peter got to know his mother.

“Peter is with us here today.”

That mention prompted Mr Hicks to leave his chair in the audience and embrace a clearly emotional Mr Turnbull.

“Stories like Peter’s are a savage indictment on our society, but we must tell them,” Mr Turnbull said.

The nation was apologising for failing to believe the stories of the Forgotten Australians, he said.

‘We admire, love, believe you’

“I hope, as do we all, that this apology helps restore dignity and respect.

“Today we want you to know we admire you, we believe you, we love you,” he said.

Mr Turnbull choked with emotion as he told the tale of Pippa Corbett, an eight-year-old girl institutionalised in Bondi with her younger brother and sister.

Her two-month-old brother was kept in a separate area and left in a cot where “he was never held or picked up”.

Pippa, when demanding to see him, was belted with the switch.

They were abandoned and betrayed by governments, churches and charities, Mr Turnbull said.

“Those of you who were child migrants were part of a deliberate and calculating policy of many governments to bring children from Britain and Malta to populate the Empire with good white stock.”

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