Former child migrants are planning a silent vigil outside the Royal Commission public hearing in Perth on 28th April 2014 to mark the first time Britain’s child migrants will give public testimony to the Commission into the sexual abuse they suffered after being ‘trafficked’ to Australia from the United Kingdom.
Former child migrants will tell the full story of their ordeal at the hands of the Christian Brothers in Western Australia to the Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse.
The Commission is investigating the allegations against the Christian Brothers who ran the Bindoon, Castledare, Clontarf and Tardun orphanages and the response of Western Australian State authorities to allegations of child sexual abuse at the institutions. Hundreds of former child migrants endured torture, criminal assaults and unspeakable acts of brutality in these homes after being forcibly deported from the United Kingdom, often without their parents' knowledge or consent.
Throughout the day many of these former child migrants will gather outside the Commission hearing in Perth in a dignified silence in support of those giving evidence and to recall the brutality and cruelty many of them suffered on their arrival in Australia.
Norman Johnston, sent to Clontarf in 1950 aged 8 years said:
“We have waited all our lives for this moment, a chance for the truth to be told in public. Whilst it is a momentous day we still know that so much remains hidden.
We are thankful for the apologies from Government, both in this country and the United Kingdom, but we still do not know the full truth about why were we taken from our parents and given to those who made our lives a living hell in Australia.
This vigil should serve as a reminder that the child migrants are not going away.
We hope this royal commission goes a long way to getting the answers for how we were allowed to be treated so cruelly in Australia but the truth about how we got here is also essential.
We call on the UK Government to set up a judicial inquiry into the fate of child migrants to finally explain why children were taken from their beds and trafficked to Australia.”
From 1947, child migrants as young as three were shipped to Australia from Britain into abusive, substandard institutions described as more like concentration camps than children's homes. Although inspections by a UK Government committee blacklisted many Australian institutions in 1956, children continued to be deported and abused in these institutions up until 1970 when the trafficking ended.
Time limitation has prevented legal action against the Christian Brothers and only a fraction of the perpetrators have ever been charged.
It is believed that during the post-war period about 3,300 children were shipped to Australia. Governments have not been able to provide more precise statistics.
The Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse is looking at child sex abuse in Australia, including investigations into religious organisations, state care facilities, schools, not-for-profit groups and the responses of child care agencies and the police.