Australia is one of several countries where British migrant children allegedly suffered sexual abuse while under the care of religious organisations and charities.
The first hearing of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (ICCSA) is underway in the UK. The hearing will analyse evidence of misconduct perpetrated against British children who were sent to Commonwealth countries between 1935 and the early 1970s.
Many kids were shipped to nations such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada without the consent of their parents, and some were even wrongly told they were orphans.
Upon arriving at their destinations, they were sent to farm schools or institutions and put to work, with many accusing their guardians of physical, mental and sexual abuse.
Abuse victim comes forward
David Hill, one of the migrant children, waived his anonymity in order to give evidence of his time at Fairbridge Farm School in Western Australia.
“We’ll never be able to undo the great wrong that was done to these children,” he said during an emotional statement.
“But what is important to the survivors of sexual abuse is where this inquiry is satisfied with the evidence – name the villains.”
According to the BBC, between 7,000 and 10,000 British children were sent to Australia following World War II as part of the migrant programs. They were handed into the care of the Catholic and Anglican churches, as well as charities such as Barnardo’s and the Fairbridge Society.
However, Imran Kahn, speaking on behalf of former child migrant Oliver Cosgrave, said there was a sinister motive for sending youngsters abroad.
“(It was) a scheme to populate the empire with good, white British stock and which led to the physical, emotional and sexual abuse of countless children, many thousands of miles away from their families,” he said.
Are government apologies enough?
The Australian and UK governments apologised for the scandal in 2009 and 2010, respectively.
Samantha Leek QC, representing the government at the ICCSA hearing, said the child migrant program “should not have been sanctioned or facilitated”. She claimed the consequences for the children were a matter of deep regret for the government.
The UK government set up a 6 million (AU$9.7 million) restoration fund to enable former child migrants to travel to the UK and reunite with their families.
Nevertheless, the inquiry is likely to encourage victims of child sexual abuse in Australia to come forward and claim compensation for the suffering they experienced.
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