Chapter 7 - Travel and reunions
Distance is tyranny and money is the question, I cannot be with my
Evidence to the Committee
emphasised the importance of providing continuing funding for travel assistance
to enable former child migrants to revisit their country of birth and be
reunited with family and relatives.
Benefit of reunions
Submissions emphasised the
positive effects that providing travel assistance has made to former child
migrants’ lives both in addressing their isolation and anger - of not knowing ‘who they are’ or ‘where
they came from’ and their need for belonging and identity as part of a family. The International Association of
Former Child Migrants and their Families (the International Association)
commented on the effects of family reunions in the following terms:
We have witnessed and experienced the effect that reunification
has had on our members. It is amazing! It is like meeting a completely
different person, a happy, confident, complete person. A person who now knows
who they are and where they come from. A person who, after decades of not
belonging, knows that they belong; knows that they are a member of a loving
family, and knows that they were not an “unwanted street urchin” - or an orphan
when they were deported.
The Committee also received
many heartwarming testimonials from former child migrants commenting on how the
reunions had had a very positive effect on their lives. One former child
migrant wrote in his submission to the inquiry that:
...they [the Trust] found
my family and in February 2000 they flew me home for the most wonderful 3 weeks
I have spent in my entire life.
Another former child migrant stated that:
...as I have been to see my family in England 4 times in the last
5 years I have discovered the family I never knew I had and of the love and
affection which I was denied of over the last 45 years.
In a moving tribute a former
child migrant appearing before the Committee stated that:
I would like to dedicate my session to my 88-year-old mother. I
am 65 and I have only been with her for six weeks of my life.
The Committee was able to hear
first-hand from the parents and siblings it met in London the stories
of absolute joy and elation at rediscovering family and being reunited as a
result of the travel scheme. They were tempered however by feelings of
bitterness and anger at having been ‘absolutely robbed’ during their lives.
These meetings proved to be very powerful and moving occasions for the
International Social Service
(ISS), who administer the UK travel scheme, reported the experiences of many
former child migrants commenting that the reunions with family and relatives
had ‘changed their lives forever’, others report that they ‘know who they are’
for the first time and feel at ‘peace’ with themselves.
Current travel assistance arrangements
There are a number of
arrangements in place for the funding of travel to assist former child migrants
to be reunited with family members. The principal travel assistance funding is
currently provided by the UK Government through the Child Migrant Support Fund
and by the Christian Brothers in Australia through the Christian Brothers
Ex-Residents & Students Services (C-BERS Services).
In addition, a number of other
Catholic religious orders in the 1990s have offered financial assistance on an
ad hoc basis to former child migrants to travel to their country of origin,
especially to meet family members. The Sisters of Mercy in Perth made a major
financial contribution to ‘the Sentimental Journey’, a trip back to Britain and
Ireland by many of the female former child migrants who came under their care
from Britain. The Poor Sisters of Nazareth and the Sisters of Mercy in
Rockhampton have also offered travel assistance to former child migrants.
The other receiving agencies do
not fund travel to the country of origin for former child migrants for family
reunions. Neither the Commonwealth
nor State Governments, except Queensland, provide funding for travel
assistance. In Queensland, the Forde Foundation provides assistance with family
reunion costs to former residents of Queensland institutions, including former
The Australian Child Migrant
Foundation (ACMF) has previously assisted former child migrants to visit the UK
as part of its family reunion program. The Foundation currently has no funds to
continue with this program. The program operated by the Foundation provided a
single return airfare, travel allowance and travel insurance. Counselling
services were also provided on a needs basis to both former migrants and their
UK families. 
Child Migrant Support Fund
The UK Government set aside 1
million over three years to fund former child migrants’ reunions with relatives
in the United Kingdom through the Child Migrant Support Fund. The Fund, which
commenced operations in April 1999 and will continue until March 2002, was
established as part of the response of the British Government to the UK Health
Committee report into the welfare of former British child migrants. The Fund
assists former British child migrants to reunite for the first time with close
family members who qualify under the eligibility requirements from whom they
have been separated since they were brought to Australia.
International Social Service
(ISS), an international non-government, non-profit organisation, was contracted
to operate the scheme on behalf of the UK Department of Health due to its
expertise and independence in this area. ISS was established as an
international migration organisation in 1924 and since that time has provided
international casework services in many countries for a wide range of migration
matters. The operations of the UK Fund are co-ordinated by ISS UK, with
collaboration from ISS Australia and other ISS Branches concerned with UK
former child migrants, including Canada and New Zealand.
To establish their eligibility,
applicants to the Fund must meet the following criteria:
the applicant was an assisted UK former child
migrant (thereby excluding the Maltese from eligibility);
the applicant can prove that he/she has a
father/mother, uncle/aunt, or brother/sister living in the United Kingdom, who
would welcome his/her visit;
the visit to the United Kingdom is the first
time that the applicant will meet the nominated relative since being sent to
the applicant’s family income falls within
certain income limits. The income limit is a fortnightly gross amount of
$A1,688.25 for single applicants or $A2, 820 for a couple, with $A36 added
for each dependent child or student. A person on a full Australian pension
would normally qualify.
Successful applicants receive
an economy airfare to the United Kingdom, all taxes and travel insurance, and
assistance with travel from their homes to the airport of departure and from
the airport of arrival to the address of their relative. An allowance for
accommodation for up to 14 days is also provided. The rate of assistance vary
if staying at a hotel in London, outside London or with relatives.
Reimbursement of the costs of
passports and visas is provided where these costs have been incurred. The Fund
also provides up to three hours of formal counselling post travel, if required. The average expenditure per person,
including airfares and the accommodation allowance, is approximately $A4,500.
C-BERS Services - travel assistance
The Christian Brothers provides
travel assistance as one of the services offered through the Christian Brothers
Ex-Residents & Students Services, a service for former residents of
Christian Brothers institutions in Western Australia. C-BERS is funded by the
Christian Brothers but is operationally independent.
Access to travel funding is not
means tested, nor is it dependent on men finding family in their country of
origin. The eligibility for travel
funding is detailed below:
travel assistance is available for a once only
trip to meet with family of origin and/or to visit the country of origin (where
no family has been found);
priority funding is provided for meeting with
the applicant’s family;
assistance is provided for one direct economy
return airfare from the major airport of the applicant’s usual place of
residence in Australia to the major airport close to his destination in his
country of origin (assistance for travel during peak periods is not normally
a 700 allowance is provided towards living and
other expenses associated with travel;
in exceptional circumstances such as disability,
funding may be provided for an accompanying carer;
C-BERS must be satisfied that, as far as
possible, due regard has been paid to issues of the psychological health and
the safety of all individuals involved;
financial assistance is provided once C-BERS is
satisfied that all necessary preparation and planning has been undertaken, both
with the ex-resident and family members overseas; and that professional backup
is made available, while overseas, to the ex-resident and family.
ISS Australia has received over
400 inquiries over the last two years from former child migrants, and 234 of
these people have gone on to submit an application to the Fund. Of the 234
applications in Australia for travel funding, ISS has submitted 214 to the
United Kingdom for approval (after ensuring that the documentation etc is in
order). The United Kingdom has approved 181 applications and rejected 22 applications.
A further 16 applications have been withdrawn by the applicants for various
personal reasons (figures as at May 2001).
The Catholic Church’s Joint
Liaison Group (Joint Liaison Group) estimated that travel assistance to former
child migrants by Australian Catholic congregations and organisations has been
provided to over 250 former child migrants, involving expenditures of
approximately $1 million to date. More than 100 other people are currently
either having their applications processed, or have had their applications
approved and have yet to travel.
C-BERS advised the Committee
that it has provided travel funding to 211 ex-residents and 26 carers to the UK
or Malta (as at April 2001). This
number includes funded trips for 48 Maltese clients. Expenditure on travel by C-BERS from
1995 to April2001 was $1,416,695.
The Australian Child Migrant
Foundation (ACMF) has assisted some 80 former child migrants to visit the UK as
part of its family reunion program.
While these schemes have been
welcomed by many former child migrants in that they have provided an
opportunity for many ex-residents to return to their country of origin, the UK
scheme in particular has been the subject of criticism during the inquiry.
Committee members meet Mrs
Rose and Ms Sylvia Coulson, the mother and sister of child migrants who have
all been reunited under the travel scheme, accompanied by Mr Ian Thwaites of
the Child Migrants Trust
Limitations of the UK scheme
If as much care had been
taken to obstruct me coming to Australia as to obstructing the funding for me
to return to my birthplace, then things might have been different.
Evidence to the Committee
indicated significant deficiencies in the United Kingdom’s scheme, especially
relating to the Fund’s restricted eligibility criteria, the limited total
funding and the limited time period over which it operates. One submission
succinctly explained that the criteria were for many child migrants
‘discriminatory, intrusive, insulting, restrictive, insensitive, invasive, intimidating,
degrading and annoying’. Much of
these comments are directed against the personal and intrusive nature of the
questions on the application form required to determine funding eligibility.
Submissions noted that the
Fund’s restricted eligibility criteria caused the most bitterness among many
former child migrants ineligible to apply for travel assistance. The kinship
test whereby a narrow range of eligible near relatives are recognised for the
purposes of the Fund and the stipulation that the travel must be for a first
time reunion with close relatives were cited as particularly restrictive
criteria. The Child Migrants Trust (the Trust) stated that:
Applications are means tested, and involve only first time
reunions with mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts. Visits
to other relatives such as cousins, or to pay respects at a parent’s grave, are
ineligible for funding.
Submissions noted that former
child migrants who were sent to Australia earlier in the pre-war period are
especially affected by these limitations. As they tend to be older, their
eligible close relatives are often dead, but they have nephews, nieces or
cousins still living whom they would like to contact, and who may be their last
remaining relatives. Having found their families, what matters most to these
former child migrants is the opportunity to make contact with their remaining
relatives and re-reclaim their identity.
That is not easily done in just one visit.
The effect of the restricted
eligibility on former child migrants applying to travel was illustrated in
evidence to the Committee. Swanleigh indicted that it had assisted 20 former
residents in applying to the Fund yet only five applications had been accepted. Barnardos indicated that while all
those that the organisation had assisted with filling out applications had been
successful, however, this was largely because applicants were made very aware
of the criteria that applied to the Fund -‘there might be a self-selection
process there where those who do not feel that they would meet the criteria
select themselves out from applying’.
Submissions also noted that
many former child migrants feel bitterly disappointed at not being able to
obtain support to at least visit their parents or close relatives’ graves,
because these types of visits are ineligible for funding. Evidence was also
received that many former child migrants have made significant financial
sacrifices to obtain the funds to visit the United Kingdom to search for and
meet relatives and, as a result, now live in difficult economic circumstances.
These people believe it is unfair that they cannot obtain any reimbursement for
the funds they have expended or to be eligible for a further funded trip. They
believe that the governments who brought them to Australia should assist them
to return or reimburse them if they have already spent their own funds to meet
C-BERS noted that a complaint
of some former Maltese child migrants is that they had been given conflicting
information about their rights to claim ISS funding for travel and
reunification. As noted
previously, C-BERS has funded a number of reunification trips to Malta for
clients to meet extended family.
The exclusion of some former
child migrants through the application of means testing applied under the Fund
was also criticised during the inquiry. The view was strongly put that every
child migrant, irrespective of their social status, is still a victim of the
migration scheme and should be treated in the same way. Assistance to one
section of child migrants to the exclusion of others was discriminatory and
wrong. ISS observed that being excluded seems in the majority of cases to be
felt as another deliberate rebuff from the United Kingdom Government.
Regardless of the applicant’s financial circumstances, ISS noted that ‘it seems
to exacerbate the deep sense of injustice felt by former child migrants in
relation to their treatment by all governments involved’. ISS (UK) advised the Committee that
that the means test and other eligibility restrictions were due to the
limitations of the amount of the original fund.
Evidence to the inquiry also
raised the issue of the exclusion of former child migrants from Malta from
accessing the UK travel fund.
C-BERS noted that:
The ISS does not make funds or assistance available to Maltese
former child migrants and this means their experience is inequitably treated
when compared with persons from Britain. The only funding that we are aware of
for this group comes through C-BERS, with individual, as-needs assistance from
female religious orders.
The Committee was also informed
that some former child migrants are not aware of the existence of the Fund and
how to apply for assistance. The South Australian Department of Human Services
reported that ‘in a meeting that we had with the Child Migrants Trust we
learned that some of the former migrants had trouble working out how they could
access the travel fund’. Barnardos
Australia also expressed the view that the Fund had not been ‘properly
ISS commented on the funding
limits within which the Fund operates:
I guess the overriding thing about the fund is it has finite
dollars. It is 1 million and they expect the 1 million to be spent in
three years...If the 1 million is not spent by then, I imagine that it is
possible that they could say it can run on for another three months until the
money runs out or something but, in terms of making major extensions to it, it
is always that underriding situation that there is only 1 million to be spent.
Submissions emphasised the
importance of prompt access to the fund because it is limited by time and in
terms of available funding. The Trust noted that the fund is expected to be
fully subscribed, despite its very limited eligibility criteria, within its
three year operating period. The
UK Department of Health confirmed with the Committee that the available funding
will be totally spent.
Unmet need for travel assistance
While evidence to the Committee
clearly demonstrated that the travel needs of former child migrants have not
been met, the actual level of unmet need is difficult to determine, though some
evidence to the Committee suggested that it may be considerable. ISS indicated
that some 415 former child migrants had made inquiries about the UK travel fund
to ISS - of these, 181 or 44 per cent had not
gone on to make an application. ISS suggested that one obvious reason for this
would be that they did not meet the eligibility criteria. The level of unmet demand is
illustrated in the case of Swanleigh where that organisation indicted that it
had assisted 20 former residents in applying to the Fund yet only five
applications had been accepted.
ISS (UK) advised the Committee
that it had been trying to determine the full demand for the service in the
future and believes that it would be for at least five years. ISS noted that an
important question to determine is the extent to which all eligible former
child migrants know of, and have applied to, the ISS for travel funding. ISS
While we have had 415 former CM’s directly contact us, there is
a much larger number who would have heard about the [the Fund] directly from
other related agencies, or by word of mouth, and we cannot capture those
figures. Our major concern is that the [the Fund] will be wound up before all
eligible former CM’s have a chance to apply.
Barnardos suggested that the
degree of unmet need may be understated as ‘there might be a self-selection
process there where those who do not feel that they would meet the criteria select
themselves out from applying’.
Barnardos also suggested that some further ‘filtering’ may occur as some
potential applicants may be persuaded not to apply because the organisation
assisting them in their application feels that they would not meet the eligibility
The operation of the C-BERS
travel fund also indicated a degree of unmet demand for travel assistance. A
former member of the C-BERS Management Committee noted that C-BERS
underestimated the demand for the scheme:
Obviously, as we got more and more into this, we saw that the
needs were much greater than we had anticipated - if anything we actually
shared almost a growth industry, not something that was going to be over and
done with very, very quickly.
An Australian travel fund
Many submissions to the inquiry
argued that the Commonwealth Government should establish a travel support fund. This proposal was advocated as one
way to address the need to widen the eligibility criteria for travel and family
Some groups proposed that State
Governments should also contribute to the fund. The Trust and the International
Association argued that an Australian travel fund would complement the existing
UK scheme which is due to finish in 2002.
Several submissions and other
evidence commented on how such a scheme should operate, arguing that it should
have much broader eligibility criteria than the UK scheme. The Child Migrant
Friendship Society (CMFS) proposed that the scheme should provide for return
airfares to Britain for all former child migrants and their partners/carers, as
well as the provision of a daily allowance in the UK for two weeks. It was
argued that such travel costs should be made available regardless of whether
the individual had successfully traced family members, had previously travelled
to Britain, or was able to fund a trip out of his/her own resources.
Submissions also commented on
the frequency with which visits should be provided. The CMFS argued that the
travel scheme should permit travel back to the UK every five years. The Society
The long-term impact of child migration cannot be appropriately
addressed in a one-off visit to the place from which these children were sent.
For these former child migrants, the locating of relatives, the developing of a
sense of identity located to the place as well as to persons, the development
of family relationships, is an on-going and complex undertaking that requires
both time and serial opportunities.
The Australian Child Migrant
Foundation, reflecting on the operation of their own travel scheme, argued that
they came to the view that it was almost ‘a matter of right’ for people to be
funded on at least one trip back to their country of origin. Another submission argued that the
travel fund should provide for at least three visits home as one visit is ‘not
sufficient’ time to reestablish family ties.
The Committee sought evidence
on the length of time over which the scheme should operate. The CMFS suggested
that the scheme should operate for a minimum of 10 years. The Society argued
that there may be many applications at the start of the scheme though ‘that
will probably slow down in five to 10 years, maybe even sooner’. The Society
saw the need for the scheme to operate as ‘fairly long term’ as many former
child migrants would want to visit the UK more than once and that ‘we are
asking that they all be given a reasonable number of trips’.
Some evidence also indicated
the need for centrally located accommodation in the United Kingdom - in London,
and possibly other cities, which would serve both as a drop-in centre and short
term accommodation (up to four days), and in which counselling could be
provided. The CMFS stated that:
For many former child migrants, the return to their home
country, the contact with families and others connected with their
childhood...produces high levels of stress, anxiety and pain. The availability of
counselling and personal support is imperative at this time.
Evidence also indicated that
many former Maltese child migrants expressed the need for the establishment of
a half-way house in Malta for returning former child migrants.
C-BERS noted, however, that
some former child migrants would not want this type of service and that it is
necessary to respect an individual’s choice in this matter - ‘a number of the
men have family or have contacts or have places they want to go to and they
just want to go there-they do not want an interim place’. C-BERS added that ‘we need to be
very careful in that place, and if we have counselling, that it is...
non-partisan; that we do not in any way have a place in which the men feel that
there is a right or a wrong way of doing things’.
There was strong support in
evidence to the inquiry that any new travel scheme should not be means tested.
The CMFS argued that ‘as such travel funds are not a welfare payment but a
partial compensation for past practices, they would not appropriately be
subject to any means-testing’. The
ACMF, drawing on its experience of operating a travel fund, was also opposed to
means testing. The Foundation added that ‘it would not be necessary to means
test the majority in any case because so many people have actually fallen by
the wayside. We were very, very compassionate about the way we ran our criteria
and I do not believe that there was any necessity to means-test it’. The Foundation stated that ‘once you
move into the means testing arena there are significant complications involved,
not just matters of privacy but actually how you measure wealth, income and all
the rest of it’.
In relation to funding of the
scheme, the Joint Liaison Group argued that the Commonwealth Government should
at least match the UK Government’s contribution to travel assistance by making
available the equivalent of 1 million sterling. The Committee questioned the Liaison
Group as to whether the introduction of a government-funded scheme would lead
to a reduction in C-BERS funding for travel. The Liaison Group stated that this
was not the case -‘we certainly want to help, and we want to go on helping with
The Committee received little
evidence as to the probable cost of introducing such a scheme. As noted above, the CMFS argued that
expenditures may be higher in the initial years of the scheme but may decline
over time reflecting the fact that former child migrants represent an ageing
cohort. The ACMF, reflecting on
their experience of operating their travel fund, noted that many former child
migrants with the financial means funded their own travel -‘so they were not
prepared to actually come to us and take precious resources from us if they
could afford it themselves’ - and a similar pattern may occur with the establishment of any new
The Committee raised with the
Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs the question of establishing
a Commonwealth-funded travel fund. The Department responded by stating that if
a travel scheme were to be funded by the Commonwealth Government ‘we would
obviously have to look at the technicalities of how funding would be provided’
but that it would need to be funded differently from the way the Child Migrants
Trust is currently funded.
Supplementation for the UK scheme
In an effort to respond to the
need for additional travel assistance for many child migrants, several
submissions argued that the Commonwealth and/or State Governments should
provide funding to ‘top-up’ the UK scheme. This proposal was advocated as an
alternative to establishing an Australian fund and was seen as a more effective
way to address the unmet need in this area and the need to widen the
eligibility criteria for travel and family reunions.
ISS argued that the Australian
Government should urge the United Kingdom Government to expand the eligibility
criteria and match that with a ‘significant contribution’. NCH also argued that the UK
Government ‘should expand the fund in terms of its size and duration, in
recognition of its obligation to the children it helped send abroad in former
years’. ISS, in supporting a
widening of the Fund’s eligibility criteria, added that ‘we would need some
support I think socially and governmentally in Australia to give effect to that
because these criteria are across the network; they are not just criteria for
Australia’. The ACMF argued that
the Australian Government should approach the United Kingdom Government to put
the case for easing the eligibility criteria.
Some witnesses argued that the
receiving agencies should contribute to a travel fund. As noted above, the Christian
Brothers and some other Catholic religious orders have provided travel
assistance. The Fairbridge Foundation and Fairbridge WA stated that they did
not have the financial resources to provide travel assistance. Barnardos expressed a similar view
stating that their budget was ‘very limited’ - ‘I do not believe that Barnardos
in Australia would be able to afford the number of people that would apply’. The Committee considers that the
arguments of the receiving agencies in regard to their purported inability to
provide travel funding are unconvincing and notes that in the case of
Fairbridge WA some $2.7 million was repatriated to Fairbridge UK in the 1980s.
The Committee also notes that in Queensland, the State Government argued that
the relevant churches should contribute to the Forde Foundation trust fund
which has been set up to assist former residents of institutions in that State.
ISS noted that the UK fund will
end within 12 months and while there has been some suggestion that most
eligible former child migrants will have applied by that time:
We feel that that is not true; we still receive many calls...from
people who have just heard of the fund, and we are very fearful that many
people will miss the boat, so to speak. The fund will end before they know
about it or before they have completed the time-consuming process to find their
ISS argued that ‘an extension
of the fund and an expansion of the fund in terms of its eligibility and what
it offers in support would be a very cost-effective option for the Australian
government’. ISS suggested that
the Australian Government’s contribution to the UK fund should be at least
equivalent to the UK Government’s level of funding of the scheme, and noted
that ‘it seems to us to offer both expediency and economy of scale savings to
add to an existing fund and/or existing structure’. ISS(UK) emphasised this point with
the Committee in London believing there was a need for the Australian
government to recognise its obligation and become involved, suggesting that a
pooled fund would be the simplest mechanism.
The Committee questioned the
ISS on possible problems in implementing this arrangement. ISS acknowledged
some difficulties with the proposal because of the different jurisdictions
involved but added that:
...there are other examples of cross-jurisdictional cooperation...where
funds have been put together. I am sure also that it is not insurmountable. If
the Australian government were to press for an expansion of the eligibility
criteria and match that with a significant contribution, then I think that
would be all to the good.
The Department added a note of
The experience of the British government in administering that
travel fund to date is...that it is seen immediately as too little, confined by
time, confined by the criteria that had been adopted. I think that before any
such supplementation from the Australian end occurred, we would need to be
pretty precise on exactly what it was we were seeking to contribute to.
The Committee, nevertheless,
believes that there are several advantages in the Commonwealth and State
Governments, in conjunction with the receiving agencies, providing funding to
supplement the UK Child Migrant Support Fund. Providing supplementary funding
would be simpler administratively than the Commonwealth establishing a new
fund. It would also overcome the complexity of three separate funds potentially
operating at the same time - the UK travel fund, the C-BERS travel scheme and a
new Australian scheme. While the Committee believes that there would need to be
a firm commitment from the United Kingdom Government to additional funding of
its scheme past its anticipated closing date of 2002, the Committee believes
that were the United Kingdom Government not to extend its travel fund, then the
Commonwealth should establish an Australian travel fund funded by the
Commonwealth, States and receiving agencies.
The need for greater
coordination amongst the various agencies offering travel assistance schemes
was also raised in evidence.
The Joint Liaison Group argued
that there was a need for Commonwealth and State Governments -‘to get better
coordination and get better cooperation amongst the different agencies in the
field so that the available resources are used to good effect’. The Liaison Group argued that there
may be gaps in the provision of travel assistance at present - ‘you need to get
people together, talk about where the gaps are in the services at the moment,
formulate some reasonable guidelines and then use the resources that are
available to the best effect’.
The Committee believes that
there is a need to provide on-going travel assistance to give former child
migrants the opportunity to visit their country of birth and be reunited with
their families and relatives or to visit sites of importance to them. Contact
with family is an essential ingredient of personal healing and dealing with
‘unfinished business’. The Committee acknowledges the support currently
available through the UK Government’s Child Migrant Support Fund and through
C-BERS Services and other travel assistance arrangements. Evidence to the
inquiry suggested that many former child migrants have difficulty in personally
organising travel and the formalities that go with restoring contact. Evidence
to the Committee indicates that these schemes have provided often immeasurable
benefits for many former child migrants especially addressing their need for
belonging and identity. It is also obvious to the Committee that further
assistance in this area is required.
While it is difficult to
establish the extent of unmet need, evidence to the Committee clearly indicates
that there is a substantial current demand and the probability that this demand
will continue into the immediate future. The level of funding earmarked for
travel assistance to date under the current arrangements - 1 million under the
UK travel scheme and $1.4 million under C-BERS - is clearly inadequate. For the
level of unmet demand to be met, further expenditure of funding is a necessity.
The Committee believes that the
Commonwealth Government should encourage the United Kingdom Government to fund
the Child Migrant Support Fund for at least another three years beyond its
expiry date of 2002; and that this Fund should be supplemented by funding from
the Commonwealth and State Governments and the receiving agencies.
The Committee believes that the
Commonwealth Government should contribute $1 million per year for three years
initially and the State Governments should provide a combined amount of $1
million over the same period. The Committee strongly believes that the
receiving agencies, not currently providing travel funding, should also
contribute to the Fund and that this should be funded by a levy on the agencies
in proportion to the number of children placed in institutions under their care
as a result of the child migration schemes during the 20th century, or by other
means. The Committee notes that the Christian Brothers provide travel funding
through C-BERS and that they therefore would not be subject to a levy.
The Committee believes that the
Child Migrant Support Fund should have broader eligibility criteria than is
currently the case and that the Fund should permit visits to family members as
broadly defined and other relatives, such as cousins. The scheme should not be
limited to visits to only immediate family members. The eligibility criteria
should also allow travel for other related purposes, such as visits to family
The scheme should be open to
all former child migrants, regardless of means, and be available for two subsequent
visits, in addition to first time visits as is currently the case. The current
provision in the Fund providing for the payment of return economy airfares to
the country of origin as well as an allowance for accommodation of up to 14
days for first time visits should be retained. For second and subsequent
visits, the Committee believes that the amount of travel assistance provided
should be limited to the payment of airfares and associated travel expenses,
such as travel insurance, with accommodation and other living expenses
associated with travel to be provided by the applicant, their family or from
The Committee believes that
former child migrants who have undertaken previous visits, either through
funded travel assistance or travel that has been self-funded should not be
precluded from claiming travel funding under the Committee’s proposed scheme.
The Committee believes that the Fund should provide, in special circumstances,
for travel funding to be provided for an accompanying carer - either a spouse
or child or other person.
The Committee believes that the
Commonwealth, in conjunction with other stakeholders should undertake a review
of its participation in the Fund after three years to determine the extent of
continuing demand for the scheme and the adequacy of funding.
The Committee, while strongly
supporting the continuation of the United Kingdom’s Child Migrant Support Fund
considers that should the United Kingdom Government not extend the Fund, the
Commonwealth Government should establish a separate Australian travel fund to
facilitate family reunions and travel for other related purposes. The Committee
believes that such a scheme should be funded by the Commonwealth and State
Governments and the receiving agencies as detailed below; and that the scheme
should have a broad set of eligibility criteria as detailed in the
Recommendation 18: That the Commonwealth
Government urge the United Kingdom Government to extend its contribution to the
Child Migrant Support Fund for at least a further three years beyond its
anticipated end in 2002.
Recommendation 19: That the Child Migrant Support Fund be
supplemented by funding from the Australian Government, State Governments and
receiving agencies; and that this funding comprise:
Commonwealth Government contribution of $1 million per year for three
combined contribution from State Governments of $1 million per year for
three years initially; and
contribution from receiving agencies, and that this be funded by a levy or
other means on receiving agencies not currently providing travel
assistance, in proportion to the number of children placed under their
care as a result of the child migration schemes during the 20th century.
Recommendation 20: That the eligibility criteria for access to the
Child Migrant Support Fund be broadened to:
(a) permit visits to family members and other
relatives, including aunts and uncles, cousins, nephews and nieces; and for
other related purposes, such as visits to family graves;
(b) be available for all former child
migrants, including the Maltese and those who may have undertaken previous
visits at their own expense;
(c) provide for two further visits but with a
reduced level of assistance, limited to the payment of airfares and associated
(d) provide, in exceptional circumstances,
travel funding for a spouse, child or other person as an accompanying carer;
(e) be subject to no means-testing
Recommendation 21: That the Commonwealth Government, together with
other stakeholders, undertake a review of its participation in the Child
Migrant Support Fund after three years to determine the adequacy of funding
from Australian sources for the fund and the extent of continuing demand for
travel from former child migrants.
Recommendation 22: That, should the Child Migrant Support Fund not be extended
by the United Kingdom Government, the Commonwealth Government establish a
separate Australian travel scheme to assist former child migrants to visit their
country of origin, and that this scheme be funded by contributions from the
Commonwealth, State Governments and receiving agencies as detailed in
Recommendation 19; and that the scheme have a broad set of eligibility criteria
as detailed in Recommendation 20.
Committee members meet
with Barnardos UK in London