Select Committee on Health Minutes of Evidence


This study outlines the deceptions surrounding the Child Migration Schemes, upon Former Child Migrants and their families.

Liverpool, 1947:

A group of seven or eight year old boys board a train at Lime Street Station bound, they thought, for a "holiday" in Australia.

Over the years, several of these boys, now men, have reported to the Trust a particularly vivid and traumatic incident. As the train pulled away they heard a woman screaming for her son "Peter". They saw her running along the station platform desperately searching for him.

A few heard Peter shouting through the window for her; crying out that he would never forget her. Some said they still dreamt of the horrifying, frantic image of this distraught and helpless mother.

This group of small boys travelled together to Australia. Peter was placed in an institution. He experienced severe physical brutality which left permanent damage to his spine. An x-ray revealed splintered bone chips.

Peter was told he was an orphan. In 1997, the Trust found Peter's mother, very much alive, in the south of England.

Peter's mother, Mrs McKay, told the Trust that without financial support, she had no choice but to place him in care. On one of her weekly visits Mrs McKay arrived to be told Peter had been sent to Australia that very morning. She had not given her consent.

Last year Peter and his mother were reunited after a separation lasting 50 years. They met near Lime Street Station, where they had been parted so heartlessly.

Their reunion has been successful in that they are in contact with each other and have sense of control in being back in touch. But Peter still needs surgery for his childhood injuries and his mother wonders whether she will ever recapture the feeling in her heart that was extinguished when her son was stolen away to a foreign land.


This case study demonstrates the importance of independence and neutrality when working with the families of former Child Migrants.Jim Waters is a 54 year old former Child Migrant who was sent to Australia at the age of six. As a child, he was repeatedly told he was a "war orphan". Following publicity in the early 1990s about reunions between supposed "orphans" and their parents in Britain, Jim approached a Church agency which found his mother.However, Jim was informed that his mother "wanted nothing to do with him". The Church advised Jim to respect her wishes and "leave an old lady in peace" as she would probably not respond to another approach.

Jim did not wish to hurt his mother but neither could he lose the opportunity of seeing her, if only for one brief visit. In a state of considerable turmoil, Jim asked the Trust to intervene.

Jim's mother was quite anxious when contacted by the Trust's social worker but felt reassured when she realised that the Trust was working on behalf of her son and not the Church. She explained that she had been made to feel "guilty and sinful" by the Church when her child was born. She felt she had not been given choices, and had wanted to keep her baby. Sadly, with no financial support, she recalled bitterly the day her baby was taken from her and placed with the Church agency. She was allowed to visit only once a month.

Jim's mother was told there was a local church-going family who wanted to take her baby and that she should be thankful somebody was prepared to "pick up her mistake". Against her better judgement, she stopped visiting, believing always that her son was living in England and with a caring family. She was horrified to discover that Jim had been sent to an institution in Australia.Jim has been reunited with his mother and maintains regular contact with her. The Trust's neutral position and specialist skills played a key role in reassuring Jim's mother and enabling her to meet with her son again.

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Prepared 10 August 1998