Former residents of Fairbridge Farm have today welcomed an apology from New South Wales Premier Mike Baird, after they suffered years of institutional abuse at the school in Molong in the state’s Central West.
The apology came two months after a landmark $24 million dollar class action was approved by the Supreme Court. The class action was brought against the Fairbridge Foundation, the State of New South Wales and the Commonwealth Government.
The legal action was the first of its kind in New South Wales and is believed to be the largest for survivors of mass child abuse in Australian legal history.
Today, Mr Baird apologised to around 20 former Fairbridge Farm residents in person and addressed others during a statement to Parliament.
As part of the settlement, the Fairbridge Foundation has also agreed to make a full and unqualified apology.
Slater and Gordon Class Action Lawyer Roop Sandhu said while the apologies were long overdue, his clients felt they were heartfelt and genuine.
“It brought many of our clients to tears to finally have their abuse acknowledged with a formal apology from the Premier today,”
“Nothing can undo the hurt and suffering they endured, but today’s acknowledgement is one step closer to ensuring no child will have to ask for such apologies in the future." Mr Sandhu said.
“The former residents of Fairbridge have shown immense courage and fortitude in bringing this claim and I hope the legal process can be improved sooner rather than later.
Mr Sandhu said the defendants continue to deny legal liability for the institutional child abuse that occurred at Fairbridge Farm, based on a statute of limitations defence.
“Of the time we spent in court, not a single day was spent debating abuse,” Mr Sandhu said.
“Eight former residents started the action with us, but died before its resolution. For them justice delayed was justice denied.
“A national redress scheme would be an effective alternative to costly and psychologically damaging litigation and proposed legislative amendments would reduce the impact of limitations defences."
“It has been an honour and a privilege to represent these survivors of child abuse, but I cannot help but think that there must be another way.”