The Times | Calls for a judicial inquiry into abuse of British child migrants in UK and Australian institutions

The founder of the Child Migrants Trust has welcomed calls for a full judicial inquiry following an investigation by The Times newspaper that has uncovered evidence that some of the 6,000 to 7,000 children sent to Australia were sexually and physically abused in British institutions before facing further abuse in Australia.

Margaret Humphreys CBE, OAM who founded the Child Migrants Trust, said a judicial inquiry is now needed to establish how children were selected in the UK to be ‘trafficked’ to Australia to face further abuse and, in some cases, were even abused on the boat over to Australia.

Ms Humphreys said: “It is vitally important that the British Government investigates these allegations of historic childhood abuse in UK institutions and how these children were selected then trafficked to face further abuse in Australia.

“This is beginning to look like the work of an international paedophile ring. New evidence given to the Royal Commission in Australia confirms this disturbing picture.

“We have heard evidence that children were selected in the UK  and allegations that those escorting the children began the abuse on the boat over to Australia.

“The Government should now begin a full judicial inquiry into how thousands of our British children, many with families in the UK, were forcibly repatriated to face appalling brutalities on the other side of the world.”

David Hinchliffe, the chairman of Britain’s inquiry into the forced migration of thousands of children and former Labour MP for Wakefield, told The Times that a full judicial inquiry into child migration was needed to establish the legal basis for the scheme and whether child migrants should be compensated for the harm suffered.

Norman Johnston, chairman of the International Association of Former Child Migrants, told The Times that his organisation suspected that British institutions tried to cover up sexual abuse by forcing abused children abroad.

He said: “We suspect that . . . many of those children were trafficked because of the abuses that happened to them.”

Child migrant Peter Bagshaw (66) who lives in Perth explained how staff in institutions in Lincolnshire and later Cornwall sexually abused him.

“It happened probably once a week. Being so young, there was nothing I could do about it. You got told not to talk about it,”

Mr Bagshaw, 66, told The Times that the sexual abuse continued until he was 14 when he was told he was being sent to Australia. He was overjoyed to be escaping his tormenters.

On arrival at Fairbridge Farm School, in Pinjarra, Western Australia, however, he discovered that child migrants were used as cheap labour. He was put to work from 3 a.m. each day.  A staff member also sexually abused him.

Michael O’Donoghue told The Times that his abuse started when he was five at Nazareth House in Romsey, Hampshire. “It was done by a teacher,” he said. “It was done regularly in the toilets and the dormitory.”

He left for Australia on his 11th birthday. He was taken to a Christian Brothers’ Orphanage, in Western Australia, where the sexual abuse began almost immediately.

He told The Times how he had escaped when he was 15, riding a bicycle 155 miles to Perth.

The plight of those children, some as young as three, who were shipped to Australia from Britain into abusive, substandard institutions during the post-war period.  From 1947 until 1970, also formed part of the testimony at the Australian Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse in Australia at the end of April this year.

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.

The Times article can be viewed here (subscription required)

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