Survivors of a notorious British migrant child program want answers from the Prince of Wales and his charity after learning that their wait for compensation has been delayed for another two years.
Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the program, which saw 130,000 children from largely poor backgrounds sent to Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Zimbabwe, was “government-induced human trafficking.”
A group supervised by the Prince’s Trust has yet to pay compensation to survivors in Australia, despite the deadline expiring on Monday.
In 2012, the Prince’s Trust absorbed the Fairbridge charity, responsible for an agricultural school in rural New South Wales (NSW), Australia, where more than 200 survivors were awarded compensation in 2015.
After major investigations in the UK and Australia into child abuse in institutions, the charity founded by Charles established a separate company called Fairbridge Restored in 2020.
As soon as it was created, Fairbridge Restored was put into administration and tasked with handling compensation payments for agricultural school survivors, which continued to function despite being blacklisted by the Home Office in 1956.
The Fairbridge Restored administration period would expire on Monday, but with no compensation paid to the survivors it has now been extended for another 24 months, infuriating the survivors, many of whom are elderly and in poor health.
David Hill, a former migrant child who wrote two books about Fairbridge Farm Schools, expressed anger at both the delay and the fact that the news had come through the PA news agency rather than the trustees or the Prince’s Trusts themselves. despite repeated attempts to progress updates.
“I just think it’s scary, absolutely scary. I mean, it’s cruel. People are dying, people are dying and (the Prince’s Trust) promised they would speed it up and they didn’t. Justice is still being denied, “Hill said.
He accused the charity of being more concerned with distancing himself from Fairbridge and his “tainted reputation” than justice for survivors.
In early 2022, Mr. Hill wrote to Charles – who founded the Prince’s Trust and served as its president for the past 40 years – begging him to help him find a solution to the payment saga due to i surviving children of Fairbridge.
“(They) are aging and dying at an increasing rate. If delayed long enough, there will be no victims left to pay compensation, “the letter reads.
Mr. Hill has not received a reply from the Prince of Wales or Clarence House.
Mr. Hill, the former chief executive of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, told PA: “It was scary handled by the Prince’s Trust. They should be ashamed of themselves.
“The Prince’s Trust founded Fairbridge Restored, gave her the money and then put it into administration, which means they made a Pontius Pilate and washed their hands of it. And the administrators – who are lawyers (and who) have no idea what it is – have to spend the money ”.
In 2015, more than 200 survivors of Molong Agricultural School in rural NSW, where Mr Hill and about a thousand other British migrant children were sent, received a record payment of AU $ 24 million (13 , £ 6 million) from the state government.
The farm was blacklisted by the UK Home Office in 1956 after a fact-finding mission found that Fairbridge institutions were “unsuitable for children” but continued to receive British migrant children for the next two decades.
The collective action launched by the survivors after the publication of Mr Hill’s book The Forgotten Children found that over 60% of the school’s children had been sexually abused.
Then, in 2018, the UK Independent Survey on Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) found that both the UK government and Fairbridge were aware of agricultural school abuse in Australia as early as the 1930s. Its final report said: “Fairbridge UK denied responsibility and was at best intentionally blinded to the evidence of sexual abuse contained in its own records.”
Around the same time, the Australian government released its final report of its own Royal Commission in Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
On the long list of offending institutions was Fairbridge UK, which by then had been absorbed by the Prince’s Trust and its name had been dissolved.
The Prince’s Trust has agreed to pay into a national compensation scheme. However, a year after establishing Fairbridge Restored for this purpose, it missed the June 2021 deadline and the Australian government had to step in on behalf of the Prince’s Trust and Fairbridge Restored to compensate the victims.
Mr. Hill had previously warned the Prince’s Trust that it was a mistake to set up an insolvent company to pay compensation to the National Redress Scheme for victims of institutionalized abuse.
“(Prince’s Trust) pulled all of this out from 2018 (which is when) they said they would (compensate Fairbridge survivors). So it’s been four years, “she said.
“About half of the Fairbridge kids who were alive four years ago are now dead. I’m not very impressed with them. “
In a statement to the PA, Australia’s Department of Social Services (DSS) confirmed that the federal government took action to pay compensation on behalf of Fairbridge Restored after it refused to join the program on July 1, 2020 after the expiration of a deadline of 30 June 2020.
DSS also added that it will continue to act as a financier of last resort for repair program applicants who have attended the now defunct Fairbridge Agricultural Schools.
The amount paid to survivors in place of Fairbridge Restored so far by the Australian government is protected information, so it cannot be released, DSS said.
PA’s repeated requests for comment from the Prince’s Trust have been met with management contacting the directors of Fairbridge Restored.
The charity also denied being the “parent company” of Fairbridge Restored.
Fairbridge Restored administrators confirmed in a statement that they had “made an application to the UK court and an order has been granted to extend the administrative process for another 24 months, until 5 September 2024”.