Page last updated at 07:00 GMT, Monday, 1 February 2010

Cornish children sent abroad after migration stop

Rex Wade
Rex Wade said he found his time in care impossible to forget

Unwanted children were sent to Australia by Cornwall County Council years after the practice had been discredited, BBC Cornwall has learned.

From the 1930s, Britain transported children as young as four to farm schools in Australia and Canada.

Child migration was widely believed to have stopped in 1967 but two boys from Cornwall were sent away in 1970.

Cornwall Council said it recognised the "difficult experience" such moves created and was offering support.

'Sad chapter'

Under the Child Migrants Programme, poor children were sent to a "better life" elsewhere.

But many were abused and ended up in institutions or as labourers on farms.

Rex Wade, then Rex Wilton, from St Columb Major, near Newquay, was sent out in December 1970 when he was just 11 to a care home in Tasmania with his younger brother.

They were sent away because their mother could not cope with raising them after the death of their father.

Rex Wade's paperwork
Rex Wade still has his migration paperwork

He said they suffered regular beatings at the hands of the couple who ran the home.

Mr Wade said: "If the grass wasn't cut in a certain way, you'd be punished for it and he'd throw things at you like a stone or a shovel until it was done right."

He ran away, got into trouble and had several problems with drinking.

Now sober, and with violence behind him, he said he still finds that time impossible to forget.

It was the then Cornwall County Council which approved the practice of sending children abroad, despite several government reports discrediting child migration.

Migration experts believed the practice had stopped in 1967, but it has emerged that Cornwall County Council continued to send children abroad until 1970.

In a statement, the unitary authority Cornwall Council, which replaced the county council in 2009, said the migration was a "sad and highly emotive chapter in the country's history".

Government apologies

It said: "This policy was in operation more than 50 years ago.

"Modern-day practices, which are set out in legislation and overseen by the courts, would not use this as an option for children in the care of local authorities.

"The council recognises that this may have been a difficult experience for some individuals, and has offered counselling and support to anyone who has been affected.

Mr Wade has been compensated by the government of Tasmania, which said nothing that happened at the home was his fault.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologised in November to people abused or neglected while they were in state care.

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he too would make a public apology. A date has yet to be set.

Print Sponsor

Child migrants harrowing memories
29 Jan 10 |  People and Places
Australia 'sorry' for child abuse
16 Nov 09 |  Asia-Pacific
Child migrant apology 'will help'
15 Nov 09 |  Nottinghamshire

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific