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Judge in charge of Scottish child abuse inquiry calls for New Zealand victims to come forward


The head of a powerful child abuse inquiry is searching for Kiwi child migrants.

Lady Smith is investigating abuse in state care in Scotland and as part of that high-profile inquiry, she's asking Kiwis who were part of a forced migration scheme to come forward.

"Our investigations include the abuse of children whose departure from Scotland was as part of the child migrant programmes that operated during the 20th century," she told 1 NEWS.

"Wherever that abuse happened, we want to know about it."

Thousands of children were sent to Australia, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand between the 1920s and 1970s.

Professor Lynn Abrams of Glasgow University says 2000 children were sent here in 1946, and 1000 in the following year.

"After that, we don’t quite know," she says.

Lady Smith wants abuse victims to come out of the shadows and seek help.. Source: 1 NEWS

And that's the problem facing Lady Smith's inquiry – very little is known about the children sent here to New Zealand.

Professor Abrams says it’s likely they were placed in foster care homes, not religious institutions like children sent to Australia.

"They were separated from siblings and any remaining family members and often didn't really understand why they had been sent there," she said.

The inquiry – plus a similar inquiry held in England and Wales – has heard from some Australian migrants.

One of them was David Hill – who wrote Forgotten Children – about the experiences of children like him who were sent to Fairbridge Farm School.

"A lot went wrong with these schemes - they were regarded as well-intentioned but some terrible things happened," he says.

"The emotional deprivation, the physical abuse and we learned much later the sexual abuse which was endemic."

And while the experience has been positive for some witnesses, coming forward may also be traumatic.

"I know there are still many who are not ready and will probably never be ready to talk about it," he said

Lady Smith acknowledges that it’s "not easy" to speak to an inquiry, but says there are an expert team in place.

"For many it will be a painful process. But we ask you to do so because it is critically important that our community faces up to the fact that children in care were wronged in the past and that those responsible for their care failed them."

In 2010 child migrants received an apology from the then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

He said: "Today your pain is recognised, your suffering is understood your betrayal is acknowledged by the apology I make on behalf of our country."

Mr Hill said the apology was "very useful" but that the British Government needs to go further "and offer some recompense, some redress."

The Government is this week set to announce details of an inquiry into abuse in state care in New Zealand.

Those who want to contact the Edinburgh inquiry should visit the website: https://www.childabuseinquiry.scot