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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Child Migration Programmes Investigation Report

Evidence from other inquiries of child sexual abuse

1. Allegations of the sexual abuse of former child migrants were first made public in this country through the work of the Child Migrants Trust (CMT). In July 1987, Lost Children of the Empire, a lengthy article in the Observer newspaper, set out a range of issues relating to child migration, including accounts of sexual abuse.[45] In 1998, the review by the House of Commons Select Committee on Health of the welfare of former British child migrants considered many accounts of emotional, physical and sexual abuse from former child migrants. The Committee observed that some of the abuse was of “quite exceptional depravity”.[46]

2. Several Australian inquiries and reports have also set out accounts of sexual abuse given by child migrants, including:

a. the interim report of the Western Australia Select Committee into Child Migration (1996);[47] 

b. the Queensland Government’s report on St Joseph’s, Neerkol (1998)[48];

c. the Forde reports (1999);[49] and

d. the Australian Senate Community Affairs Committee’s Lost Innocents report (2001). The Committee received accounts of sexual abuse from 38 of the 207 former child migrants who made submissions to it, including 24 from the Christian Brothers institutions in Western Australia. Their report described some of the accounts as “horrendous” and involving “systemic criminal sexual assault and predatory behaviour by a large number of the Christian Brothers over a considerable period of time”.[50]

3. Evidence about sexual abuse also emerged at the International Congress on Child Migration in 2002.[51] Most recently, the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse (Australian Royal Commission) has reported on three case studies relating to sexual abuse in institutions to which child migrants were sent – namely, the Salvation Army Riverview Training Farm (Queensland); the Christian Brothers schools at Castledare, Clontarf, Tardun and Bindoon (Western Australia); and St Joseph’s, Neerkol (Queensland). Furthermore, the Northern Ireland Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIA), in its child migration module, received accounts of sexual abuse from 24 of 50 former child migrant witnesses.[52] 

4. In summary, these previous inquiries and reports heard accounts of the following forms of abuse:

a. touching children’s genitals;

b. masturbating children;

c. forcing children to masturbate or perform oral sex on the abuser, and masturbating against a child;

d. attempted and actual anal or vaginal penetration of children, sometimes with external objects; and

e. forced sexual contact with animals.

5. The abuse was described as having taken place in the residential homes, in dormitories and staff bedrooms as well as other areas. Sexual abuse was often described as having taken place in private, but instances were also reported of sexual abuse having taken place in the presence of other children. Overall, there was evidence of sexual abuse of child migrants in 16 Australian institutions.[53]

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