Former client migrants have commenced a class action, seeking compensation for physical and psychological abuse suffered at the hands of staff at a farm school in remote New South Wales.
The action, being conducted by law firm Slater & Gordon, is believed to be the first of its kind to be lodged against an Australian government in relation to the child migration program of the early to mid 1900s.
Former residents of the Fairbridge Farm School at Molong in the central west of NSW are claiming that the school's operators and the state and federal governments allowed a system of institutional abuse that involved brutal physical and sexual attacks over many decades.
The former Molong residents are claiming the Foundation and the two governments allowed a system of institutional abuse to develop and persist at the Molong Farm School over many decades.
It is alleged many children suffered terrible physical and sexual abuse at the hands of the staff at the residency and have suffered lifelong psychiatric and physical injuries as a result.
More than 65 former residents are already supporting the class action and seeking compensation as part of the claim.
Slater & Gordon lawyer, Ken Fowlie, said the class action was a last resort after the foundation and both governments refused to entertain any kind of redress scheme for victims.
“It is very disappointing former residents of the Molong Farm, who have already endured so much, now have to go through a long and difficult legal fight to win justice,” Fowlie said.
“Despite recent Senate inquiries recommending the creation of an out-of-court scheme to compensate victims, our clients have been left with no choice but to go to court to seek justice.
“The time has come for the Fairbridge Foundation and the state and federal governments, which all played critical roles in this misguided programme, to recognise the suffering these people went through and still endure, and to do the right thing.
‘’We are calling on the Fairbridge Foundation, the State of NSW and the Commonwealth to engage with us, to resolve these tragic cases and to allow our clients to move on with their lives.”
For much of the 1900s the British-based Fairbridge Foundation sent children from the United Kingdom to Australia, Canada and Rhodesia for resettlement, mostly without their parents.
Between 1938 and 1974, hundreds of children, some as young as four, were sent from England to the Fairbridge Farm School in Molong.
Customarily, the children became guardians of the Commonwealth and then the State and often never saw their parents again.
The class action covers all residents at the Molong Fairbridge Farm School for any period between 1938 and 1974 who were physically or sexually assaulted and who have suffered a relevant injury including post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety or some other form of psychiatric or physical injury.