It’s a sorry state of affairs when forgiveness is not the main objective

Hugh Mackay, 17/11/09; (2 Items)

So we’re to have another national apology, tendered by the Prime Minister on behalf of the Parliament and the Australian people. This time, it’s the turn of the “forgotten children” – those who languished, and were often neglected or abused, in institutions for orphans and other marginalised or displaced children, including those sent here from postwar Britain “for their own good”. No doubt an apology is called for. Even those who are cynical of such formalities would have to acknowledge that terrible wrongs were committed against these children – comparable in many ways to the wrongs committed against the members of the so-called stolen generations of Aboriginal children. But there’s a terrible gap in this process that no one seems to be acknowledging. You can easily identify that gap if you ask yourself: what is the purpose of an apology?
Response – Hugh, I read your article and wonder if you really have any comprehension of what it was like to be one of these children. I was in the 1950’s. It was sheer terror and I still have terrible nightmares. Each time that I hear on the media of how wonderful the religious institution that I was incarcerated with is, I want to scream. I remember being locked in a windowless donkey room – boiler room- for minor transgressions. At 12 all you are aware of is the blackness, the hissing sound of escaping steam and the terrible heat from the boiler and you are there for an hour or longer. Eating donated food contaminated with petrol from outlying farms, standing on an exposed back verandah in nightwear in the freezing cold for another indescretion and perhaps the worst of all at the local public school not having a name but being known as home kid. Please Hugh tell me how it should be easy to forgive this. Oh and of course being told that because my father did not pay his fees there was to be no contact at all. All letters and gifts returned to him. No Christmas or Birthdays and thiinking that your father had forgotten you. You are the expert Hugh, how do I forgive, so very easy for you to say, so hard for me to do.
– Further responses;;;

Another sorry story – Caroline Overington; 17/11/09
They call themselves the forgotten Australians, and they mean forgotten by everybody. Forgotten by parents who left them in orphanages, who sometimes promised to come back for them but never returned; forgotten by siblings from whom they were separated and whom they often never saw again. Forgotten, too, by the state, which first sent them, or else took them, into institutions and then released them into the community, bewildered, unsupported and alone, expecting them to somehow cope. By some estimates, there are, or were, more than 500,000 of them: state wards, orphans, child migrants and other children reared in state and church-run institutions throughout the 20th century. About 900 of them gathered yesterday in the Great Hall of Parliament House in Canberra, to sit and listen, to cheer and applaud as Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull offered them an apology for their suffering.
See:; PM plays deal or no special deal in question time; 17/11/09;; Apology at last for lives scarred forever; Tony Wright; 17/ 11/09;; ‘I’ve been waiting all my adulthood for someone to believe us’; Krlsey Munro;17/11/09;; Three sisters torn apart and condemned to horror; 17/11/09;