The University of Melbourne has apologised to the so-called 'Forgotten Australians' its researchers used in medical experiments and trials.
18 Nov 2009 - 7:25 AM  UPDATED 23 Aug 2013 - 2:09 PM

The University of Melbourne has apologised to the so-called 'Forgotten Australians' its researchers used in medical experiments and trials.

In an email to staff and students on Tuesday, vice-chancellor Glyn Davis admitted the university used orphans as "subjects" in vaccination trials for common childhood diseases, The Age newspaper said.

A 2004 Senate inquiry identified Melbourne organisations such as the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research as using children from institutions.

But The University of Melbourne was not among them, until now, the newspaper said.

Medical experiments

The Senate inquiry found children and babies in institutions were used for medical experiments and research in Victoria until as recently as the 1970s, in the race to beat debilitating diseases such as whooping cough and polio, following World War II.

Professor Davis said in the email he supported the bipartisan apology for the Forgotten Australians delivered in the federal parliament this week.

"It is also appropriate the university take this occasion to express its deep regret for the part played by researchers linked to its community in vaccination research trials conducted after World War II using children in orphanages as 'subjects'," he wrote.

"The University of Melbourne Council and the university community join with other Australians in saying a heartfelt 'sorry' to those children whose personal rights were infringed by these experiments and to all the Forgotten Australians for the suffering their institutionalisation has caused."

The apology comes with an offer of counselling for all those affected by the practice.