British children who were sent to Australia between 1947 and 1970 may be able to seek compensation for historic sexual abuse they suffered during their time overseas.
The UK has migrated hundreds of thousands of children to Commonwealth countries over the centuries, including Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and Australia.
But an Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) found many children involved in these migration programs were mistreated by the organisations responsible for their care.
A primary focus of the IICSA report are the decades following the Second World War, when approximately 4,000 children were sent primarily to Australia.
Child migrants have revealed multiple experiences of physical, emotional and sexual abuse during their time in care homes, religious orders and foster families.
For example, a group of 15 care home residents was forced to watch a beloved pet horse sadistically killed as a collective punishment for alleged misbehaving. One former child migrant described being locked in a dungeon without food or water for days, a situation he said was more akin to torture than abuse.
Michael O’Donoghue, who was sent to a Christian Brothers institution in Clontarf, claimed he was raped by two brothers at the home, as well as a theatre manager who regularly visited the facility to abuse children.
According to Mr O’Donoghue, he was regularly beaten for wetting the bed and forced to take part in organised boxing matches where younger children were pitted against older boys.
“I have lived a lifetime without identity and borne the terrible legacy of being a British child who was abandoned by my country,” he told the inquiry.
The IICSA found the UK government responsible for widespread failings in its child migration programs and suggested that a redress scheme should be introduced to compensate victims of sexual abuse.
“Around 2,000 child migrants are alive today, and the panel considers it essential that all surviving former child migrants are offered such redress,” the IICSA report stated.
The victims may also be able to secure compensation from the Australian institutions involved in their abuse. The country’s own Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse highlighted considerable failings across a number of organisations in the country.
While financial redress will never repair the damage that historic sexual abuse causes, survivors can take some solace their perpetrators have faced justice for their crimes.
If you would like to find out more about compensation for institutional abuse, please contact Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers.