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Prince’s Trust sorry for Aust child abuse

Dame Martina said she was “absolutely shocked”.

The chief executive of a youth charity set up by Prince Charles has told a UK inquiry she is “deeply sorry” for the sexual abuse of child migrants sent to Australian farm schools.

Dame Martina Milburn told the inquiry that the Prince’s Trust had in 2012 absorbed the Fairbridge Society – a former child migrant charity at the centre of multiple accusations of historic child sexual abuse.

The UK’s Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse is examining the abuse of child migrants sent from the UK to Australia from the 1940s to 1970 into the care of church and charity groups.

More than 3000 of nearly 7000 sent to Australia ended up in farm schools run by Fairbridge, which had powerful royal and aristocratic support in Britain.

The inquiry has heard that many Fairbridge children were sexually abused as well as being regularly beaten and humiliated, poorly fed and clothed and used as virtual slave labour on farms.

Dame Martina on Wednesday expressed her “horror and sadness” at hearing the stories of former child migrants who were abused.

She said the Prince’s Trust in its merger with the Fairbridge Society had “not been told the full truth of what was happening around the child migrants”.

The trust was set up by Prince Charles in 1976 to assist disadvantaged young people into work.

Dame Martina said the trust had never been involved in child migration but had inherited the Fairbridge archives and still used the Fairbridge name for one of its youth support programs.

“We categorically condemn all forms of child abuse and are deeply sorry for the hurt and suffering experienced by victims and survivors.”

Dame Martina said she was “absolutely shocked” that the Fairbridge Society had not itself apologised earlier.

She said the trust would consider dropping the Fairbridge name for one of its programs as “I don’t think it is really acceptable”.

Dame Martina said the trust was cooperating fully with the inquiry to ensure if there was “anyone still living who should be bought to justice then that should happen”.

Nigel Haynes, who was Fairbridge Society director from 1993 to 2008, said in a written statement that in his time in charge he had “no knowledge of any incidents or allegations regarding sexual abuse” relating to Fairbridge.

The society was set up by Kingsley Fairbridge in 1909 to send children from British slums to Commonwealth countries, and so populate them with “good, white British stock”, the inquiry has heard.

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