A retiring committee member of the Canberra Multicultural Community Forum, Patrick O’Flaherty, will be a special guest at Parliament House on Monday, November 16 to hear a formal apology to the ‘Forgotten Australians’ and former child migrants by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
The apology will be made to more than half a million Australians, and some 7000 child migrants, many of whom suffered abuse and neglect in institutions during the last century.
Mr O’Flaherty (70) who is legally blind, was barely three weeks old when he was abandoned outside an orphanage in London. In 1947 he was one of a contingent of child migrants shipped to Australian as part of a nation-building exercise.
“I was told my mother and father had been killed in the London Blitz and I had no reason to believe otherwise,” Mr O’Flaherty said. “Then in 1973 I was contacted by a social worker to let me know that my mother was alive and well. This led to further discoveries and I tracked my father down in Wales.
“Both parents were as Irish as the shamrock. Now I have an Irish passport and am very proud of my belated Irish identity, just as I am of my Australian identity.
“In September this year I travelled ‘blind class’ to attend my nephew’s wedding in Wales. Most of my family were there, it was fantastic.
Of the apology, he said he felt humble to be among the 200 guests of the Prime Minister to represent all Forgotten Australians and child migrants.
“I will be honoured to represent them. Each life has been shaped by complex circumstances at times of great vulnerability.”
Mr O’Flaherty worked for the Government for 30 years in Canberra and also made a career as an academic – also representing post graduate scholars on the Council at the University of Canberra.
CMCF Chair Sam Wong said Mr O’Flaherty had been a tireless worker for the cause of multiculturalism in the National Capital.
“We shall miss his cheerful nature and good humour on our committee, but I’m glad to say Patrick has agreed to continue to represent us on organisations such as ACT Council of Social Service, so we won’t be losing contact,” Mr Wong said.