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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Child Migration Programmes Investigation Report

The Ross report and reports from Anthony Rouse, 1956

58. The Home Office had been keen to ensure that Mr Moss’s report was not regarded as an official publication or one that reflected its views, which caused some tension with the CRO as the Australian authorities had broadly welcomed Mr Moss’s views. An interdepartmental review concluded that child migration could continue only if the Curtis principles were respected but the OMB opposed restrictions on migration. Therefore the decision was taken to conduct a further review. The members of the body set up to conduct the review, the Ross Fact-Finding Mission, were John Ross (Chair, undersecretary at the Home Office responsible for the children’s department), Ms Wansborough-Jones (a Children’s Officer at Essex County Council) and William Garnett (former deputy British High Commissioner who had been involved in reviews of some of the institutions).[1] 

59. It was intended that the mission would produce a report to be published as a White Paper with confidential reports on particular institutions assessing whether the care of child migrants did in fact match expected practice in Britain. The writers said that they “thought it right to take account of childcare methods as developed since 1948 when the Children Act passed into law” and that this was their approach in judging the ‘standards’ of care.[2] This demonstrates that the Ross mission considered that the appropriate principles to apply to the Australian institutions were the Curtis ones.

60. The writers noted that at the end of 1956, 2,117 child migrant places had been made available in Australia for migrant children, but only 1,427 of these were occupied.[3]

61. The Ross report dismissed the notion that children who were already rejected and insecure would benefit from a “fresh start”; and again stressed the need for children to be brought up in an environment as close as possible to a family home, recommending boarding out/the use of small homes. It noted that there was “a body of opinion” by this point in Australia that “subscribed to these methods in relation to Australian children”.[4] 

62. The Ross mission visited 26 out of the 39 institutions in Australia to which British child migrants were sent. Although there were some positive observations, the reports overall were very critical. Reference was made to the institutional character, the lack of homely atmosphere, the separation of siblings, the lack of education and employment opportunities, the lack of staff training in childcare methods, the negative attitude towards the children of some of the staff, the lack of progress with fostering and, the lack of information about the children being sent from the UK.[5] The Ross report recommended that the consent of the Home Secretary should be required for voluntary society migration.[6] 

63. The Ross mission was effectively re-stating the need for the Curtis principles to be respected in the institutions, and observing that they were not being met in many respects.

64. The Overseas Migration Board made clear that it did not accept the Mission’s views.[7] 

65. The Australian government arranged for inspections of some of the schools and argued that there was “no justification” for deferring migration.[8]

66. Anthony Rouse was an attaché from the UK High Commissioner’s Office. He accompanied the Australian government’s inspection team as they investigated a small number of institutions ahead of the publication date for the Ross Report. Mr Rouse sent his confidential notes back to the UK High Commissioner as a form of live briefing while the Australian government’s team conducted its investigation. These were frequently critical.[9]

67. Post-Ross, the conditions at several institutions were regarded as so poor that they were put on a ‘blacklist’ and regarded as not fit to receive any more child migrants.[10]

68. However, migration continued, partly because of the influence of the Overseas Migration Board, the sending organisations and the Australian government.

The criticisms made by the Ross Mission were so extensive that their reports can properly be regarded as a defining ‘line in the sand’ in the history of child migration. There could have been no serious misunderstanding beyond this point as to the very adverse treatment to which many of the child migrants were being subjected. Continuing to migrate children after this date, with that knowledge, without evidence of any improvement in conditions, was wholly wrong.

References

Footnotes

  1. Constantine 10 March 2017 97-101; CMT000397_002.
  2. Constantine 10 March 2017 102-103; CMT000397_005-7.
  3. CMT000397_005.
  4. CMT000397_005-6.
  5. CMT000397.
  6. Lynch 10 March 2017 40; Constantine 10 March 2017 103-107.
  7. INQ000075_001; INQ000005_001.
  8. INQ000072.
  9. EWM000005_190-192.
  10. Constantine 27 February 2017 153-156 and 10 March 2017 91-92; 108-112; Lynch 10 March 2017 29-30 and 21 July 2017 121-125; CMT000366_001; INQ000084.
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