Fairbridge Farm class action can proceed

A LANDMARK Supreme Court judgement means that after being stalled for two years, child migrants who suffered alleged abuse at Fairbridge Farm School can go ahead with their class action.

However, former Fairbridge Farm resident David Hill said the two-year delay while the court ruled on a technicality in the case meant some residents would not have the chance to see justice done.

“They have had to wait too long with this delay,” he said.

“ It’s been two years and five of the plaintiffs have died in that time.

Slater and Gordon Lawyers began acting for 60 former students in the class action in 2008.

It is believed to be the first class action against an Australian government involving child migration.

Slater and Gordon spokesperson Roop Sandhu said the former residents were alleging physical or sexual abuse while living at the Fairbridge Farm School near Molong between 1939 and 1974.

“They are seeking compensation for injuries suffered, claiming the Foundation [Fairbridge] and the Commonwealth and NSW government allowed a system of institutional abuse to develop and persist at the Molong Farm School over many decades,” he said.

Mr Sandhu said it was time to discuss a resolution with both tiers of government.

“The defendants can stop this ongoing court action and acknowledge the suffering and pain of these people,” he said.

“The state and federal governments have the power to end this tomorrow. The former Fairbridge residents were children in their care.”

Despite his criticisms over the two-year delay, Mr Hill welcomed the news.

“As these people get older, it is becoming more critical for a resolution to be determined,” he said.

“They have gone through enough and they are all just hopeful for a resolution sooner rather than later,” he said.

The Central Western Daily has learned that some of the former residents have taken their claims of abuse to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Lawyers representing 60 former child residents of Fairbridge Farm at Molong claim:

* Hundreds of children, some as young as four, were sent from their homes in England to the Fairbridge Farm School in Molong from 1938 to 1974.

* Many children have suffered terrible physical and sexual abuse at Molong and have suffered lifelong psychiatric and physical injuries as a result.

* The former residents are claiming the Fairbridge Foundation and the two tiers of government allowed a system of institutional abuse to develop and persist for many decades at Fairbridge Farm School.

* By law, guardianship for the children was given to the federal minister for immigration who in turn transferred custodial responsibilities to the NSW Child Welfare Department.

* It is alleged in the class action that both governments had a duty of care to the children.

* Children at Fairbridge endured vicious assaults including sexual assaults by members of staff.

* Insufficient action was taken to ensure the safety of children at Fairbridge Farm School.

janice.harris@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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