The Child Migrants Trust (CMT) was established in 1987 by English social worker Margaret Humphreys to address the issues surrounding the deportation of children from Britain, and to offer to former child migrants and their families services including counselling, support for family reunions, and family research. Since 2010, the CMT has administered the UK government-funded Family Restoration Fund (FRF), reuniting Britain’s former Child Migrants with their mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters and other relatives. The Trust is a registered charity in both Australia and Britain and has offices in Nottingham (England), Victoria Park (Western Australia) and Hawthorn (Victoria).

The origins of the Child Migrants Trust go back to 1986 when Margaret Humphreys, a Nottinghamshire Social Worker, received a letter from a woman who claimed that at the age of four she was shipped to a children’s Home in Australia, and wanted help locating her parents or any members of her family in Britain.

Research for this case revealed a long history of compulsory migration that ended in 1970. Over 130,000 British children were deported from Britain to distant parts of the Empire and, more recently, across the Commonwealth, including Australia.

Children as young as three years old were brought up mainly in Orphanages, Farm Schools and other institutions where they often provided unpaid labour and received little or no education. Many experienced physical, sexual and emotional abuse. They were often told that their parents had died, while their parents were often told their children had been adopted in Britain.

There are several different dimensions to the Trust’s work. A key task is to give former child migrants basic knowledge of their family background, a full birth certificate, clarity about their citizenship status and the opportunity to reunite with their family.

In addition, many former child migrants need skilled help to come to terms with their childhood experiences and to plan and prepare for meeting family members after a life time of separation.

The Trust has been very active in bringing information about child migrants to light. In 1990, Phillip Bean, a trustee of CMT, co-authored the book Lost Children of the Empire which was instrumental in raising awareness of child migration. The book accompanied a documentary of the same name.

The Trust has also campaigned to raise public awareness of the difficult legacy and long-term consequences of child migration schemes, both for former child migrants in different countries and their families in Britain.

Through her social work and advocacy, and with her book Empty Cradles, published in 1994, Margaret Humphreys was instrumental in raising awareness about child migration from the United Kingdom. She received the Medal of the Order of Australia in March 1993, for her services on behalf of the child migrants.

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