The Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse is currently investigating the extent to which institutions have failed to protect children. The inquiry is carrying out 13 separate investigations into historical abuse within various institutions.
One of these investigations includes looking into the Child Migrant Programme that took place between 1920 and 1978. This involved the systematic shipping of children from deprived backgrounds to countries within the commonwealth in hope of a brighter future. What these children experienced was the complete opposite.
An Inquiry Into the Child Migration Programme
It was announced this week that ex-prime ministers, Sir John Major and Gordon Brown, will provide evidence at the public hearings that will take place over a two week period. The Child Migration Programme took place between the 1920s and 1970s and so abuse sufferers from this programme are quite old. As a result, this particular investigation has been prioritised over others.
The inquiry has already heard from a number of former child migrants who have accused carers of abuse, both physical and sexual. Investigators have also heard from expert witnesses about the history of child migration.
What Was The Child Migration programme?
Because of the stigma surrounding children who were brought up by a single mother and the growing issue of overcrowded orphanages and care homes, the decision was made to systematically send thousands of children to other parts of the British Empire. Most were sent to Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
It was thought that this would be a good way to increase the populous within the colonies. More than 130,000 children were shipped all over the world, away from family and familiarity as part of the Child Migration Programme.
It was common for children to be told they were orphans, with no family ties left in the UK to keep them there. They were told their new homes would provide education, care and opportunity for a fresh start. Single mothers were told that by giving up their children, they would be providing them with hope for a better future. In truth, much of this turned out to be lies.
What Were The Children’s Experiences Like?
The inquiry focusses mainly on the experiences by those children who were sent to Australia and Canada. Of the 130,000 children sent abroad, around 7,000 were sent to the other side of the world, to Australia.
In the 1990s an investigation into the experiences of child migrants in Australia found that many had been subject to harrowing conditions. They had suffered greatly at the hands of their supposed carers, experiencing physical and sexual abuse. The children had not received the well-rounded education that had been promised to them and received only farm schooling, much of which involved hard labour. Food was scarce and what was available lacked in the nutrients needed for a growing child.
Children were denied details of family back home and many were told that they were orphans, despite many having mothers back home who had not provided consent for the sending away of their children. Brothers and sisters were separated or ordered not to communicate.
Revelations Of The Abuse
Children who were sent to the various locations as part of the Child Migration Programme often came from vulnerable, deprived backgrounds. They suffered great torment at the hands of people who were supposed to be caring for them.
There is evidence to show that rumours of potential child abuse occurring in Australia reached the British government as far back as in the 1950s. In retaliation to this, a fact finding mission took place in 1956. As a result, Fairbridge Society (who owned many of the farms that children had been sent to) had 10 of their 26 institutions black listed. But the Programme continued, as did the abuse.
In 1987, The Child Migration Trust was begun by Margaret Humphreys. Margaret was a social worker from Nottingham who received a letter from a former migrant wanting to find her parents in the UK having been lied to as a child that they were dead. The Child Migration Trust fought for 10 years for an inquiry to be carried out in the UK and finally in 1997 The United Kingdom Health Committee announced an inquiry into the welfare of British former child migrants.
It took another 13 years for a public apology to occur during Gordon Brown’s time as prime minister. Sir John Major, who had been prime minister from 1990 to 1997, denied the responsibility of the role that Britain played in the many years of abuse the children faced as the abuse itself happened in another country.
The Independent Inquiry will now hear evidence from multiple sources over a two week period. After that, a paper that will lay out learning points to be taken into the future will be provided for the current and future governments. But for those who suffered at the hands of many abusers, away from family and home, their catharsis may be found in other ways.
“There is no doubt that the UK has badly let down destitute children and treated them wrongfully, which is an issue to be investigated by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.”
“The Inquiry will have to look at the available evidence both now and from the past to ascertain what links there were, if any, between the abuse abroad, and UK based Institutions. Was the British Government guilty of either turning a blind eye to reports from abroad, and not believing complaints made, or were they totally ignorant of what was going on to United Kingdom born children, who started their lives as British Citizens?”
“There seems to have been a sea change in attitude between the denial of responsibility by John Major, and the apology made by Gordon Brown. This is no doubt why the Inquiry wants to hear evidence from them both. Two such completely different views do not agree with each other, and the Inquiry needs to investigate what brought about the change in attitude, and why the apology was not offered in 1997.”
“Compensation for abuse as a child can sometimes provide closure for survivors. But speaking to a specialist abuse solicitor is also an opportunity to be heard and for some abuse survivors, it may be the first time.”
“If you have been affected by abuse in anyway and you would like legal advice on any aspect, you can contact any one of our female or male specialist lawyers by calling 0845 604 70575 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org“