British Child Migrant 60th Reunion
This Sunday 21 October, almost half of the 31 child migrants who arrived at Mayfield's Murray Dwyer Orphanage in 1952, will unite for their 60th reunion at Sacred Heart Cathedral, Hamilton for Mass before visiting the site of the former orphanage and having a plaque dedication together.
The occasion aims to provide an opportunity for the men to come together and for the community to gather with them; to remember, acknowledge and honour their story of dislocation from their country and culture.
Former British Child Migrants Reunion Committee member, Catherine Mahony, is inviting the community to show solidarity and join and reflect with the men by attending this Sunday.
"The Mass and reunion is a time for us to reflect on the adult impacts of these childhoods, in which they had to come to terms with not being the people they thought they were and the loneliness, lack of affection, physical hardship and cruelty they experienced as children," Ms Mahony said.
"They now know they had families in England and some have met those families. For others however, it was too late and for a few, it was a physical, emotional and geographic journey they were unable to face.
"The Organising Committee is therefore strongly urging the community to consider coming to the Mass, and to bring others so that the men can experience a sense of solidarity and hope through a church-filled diocesan family," Ms Mahony said.
In the last ten years, many of the men have experienced the power of apology from Bishop Michael Malone, the former Bishop of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, and from the Australian and UK governments.
Sunday will also be marked by an apology from the current Bishop of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, Bill Wright.
"Ten years ago, Bishop Michael Malone celebrated Mass with members of the group and offered an apology, as an Australian and as a Catholic, for what had happened to them," Bishop Bill said.
"Since then, apologies for the way 'the Scheme' operated have been issued by the Australian and United Kingdom governments, in 2007 and 2009 respectively.
"I will mark the occasion with the Former Child Migrants again this year because, despite all progress of the last 10 years, we must not feel that we can now forget what happened or forget the wrongs done. I will apologise again on this occasion as a way of saying that we have not forgotten and, because this is the first time I will have been involved as Bishop, to say that leadership of the diocese continues to feel, as Bishop Malone felt, sorrow and responsibility for our part in the Scheme.
"These things impacted differently on different children, and not everyone shares the same memories. Nonetheless, wrongs were done: some greater, some less. It is important to remember, to acknowledge the experiences of those who were part of it, and to continue to say, clearly and sincerely, 'We are sorry'."
Former British Child Migrant, Mick Kenny will be attending on Sunday and is looking forward to the occasion. "I'm looking forward to Sunday because it's a really important chance to bring the boys together. I try and keep in touch with the other men who live locally but I haven't seen some of them who live out of town since our last reunion in 2001," Mick said.
Date: Sunday 21/10/12
Time: Commencing with Mass at 9.30am then a morning tea, lunch and plaque dedication.
Venue: Sacred Heart Cathedral, 841 Hunter Street, Newcastle West.