Skip to main content

0800 917 1000   Open weekdays 9am-5pm

IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Child Migration Programmes Investigation Report

2.11 The Catholic Church

1. In this section we consider the overall role of the Catholic agencies in child migration, with a particular focus on those sending agencies linked to the Catholic Church other than Father Hudson’s and the Sisters of Nazareth, who have been considered separately in sections 2.9 and 2.10. To assist us in understanding this area, we considered witness evidence from the Reverend Christopher Thomas (from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference), Bishop Howard Tripp (from the Southwark Catholic Rescue Society), Mary Gandy (from the Catholic Child Welfare Council), Dr Rosemary Keenan (from the Catholic Children’s Society (Westminster)) and the Right Reverend Marcus Stock.

2.11.1 What was the overall role of the Catholic Church in child migration?

2. Pre-War, Catholic agencies migrated over 10,000 children to Canada,[1] and 115 to Australia.[2] It then migrated an estimate of 958 children to Australia with 946 under the auspices of the Australian Catholic Immigration Committee (“ACIC”), from 1945‑1956.[3] 

3. The Catholic agencies’ rationales for involvement in the programmes included the best interests of the child, the provision of better living conditions for them, the safeguarding of their religious faith, the growth of the Catholic faith within Australia itself, financial considerations and the social imperial motivation of populating the Empire with white British stock.[4] Documents from that period refer to the appeal of migration being “the saving of children from undesirable parents[5] and securing the “rescue” of children.[6]

4. The witnesses and the experts provided us with an understanding of the overarching Catholic institutions involved in post-War migration, which can be summarised as follows:

a. the Catholic Child Welfare Council (CCWC), which from 1929 was an umbrella body for diocesan societies[7] involved in migration (albeit that it had a wider child welfare remit), that discussed general principles and conducted some limited post-migration monitoring of the children but had no supervisory or regulatory role;[8] 

b. the Catholic Council for British Overseas Settlement (CCBOS), which from 1939, had exclusive control and management of the emigration and settlement of all children/juveniles up to the age of 17, and was the organisation with whom the UK government believed it was dealing up to 1948;[9] and

c. the Federal Catholic Immigration Committee (FCIC), a sub-committee of the Episcopal conference in Australia, which, from 1947, became the Catholic organisation which had the formal child migration agreement with HMG.[10]

5. Post-migration, custodianship of children in the Christian Brothers’ institutions in Australia was given to the Catholic Episcopal Migration and Welfare Association (CEMWA) rather than to the Christian Brothers themselves.

6. There was clearly some fluidity as to how the various organisations and the individuals within them operated in practice: for example, Brother Conlon (affiliated to the Christian Brothers) conducted direct recruitment visits on behalf of the Australian church authorities,[11] but signed some documentation on behalf of the CCWC; and Canon Flint was the administrator of Father Hudson’s as well as Secretary of CCBOS from April 1947, and Emigration Secretary of the CCWC between the early 1950s and 1956.[12]

7. In Canada, some children migrated by the Catholic Church were received at St George’s Home in Ottawa and then placed at individual farms or with foster parents. In Australia, the receiving institutions included St Vincent de Paul Orphanage, Goodwood St Joseph’s, Neerkol, and Christian Brothers schools (Castledare, Clontarf, Tardun and Bindoon). Over half the children migrated post-War went to Christian Brothers’ institutions.[13]

8. As described in Part B.2 above, several previous reports and inquiries have considered the issue of child sexual abuse at institutions in Australia to which Catholic agencies in England and Wales migrated children.

9. The Australian Royal Commission, in its Case Study 26 into St Joseph’s Neerkol, recorded that the previous ‘Forde’ Inquiry had observed that child sexual abuse at the orphanage was perpetrated by a range of persons, including workers, visitors and priests. The Commission heard from 12 former residents, who detailed serious emotional, physical and sexual abuse at the orphanage.[14]

10. As far as the Western Australian Christian Brothers’ institutions are concerned, the Lost Innocents report concluded that while its inquiry was concerned with all child migrant institutions in Australia, “the four Christian Brothers institutions in Western Australia stand out as the most culpable in their duty of care in relation to the physical and sexual violence that occurred within them”.[15] 

11. In its Case Study 11 into those institutions, the Australian Royal Commission heard evidence of many boys being sexually, physically and emotionally abused. Eleven men gave oral evidence at the hearings, during which they made allegations of sexual abuse against sixteen Christian Brothers. The Commission found that that in each decade from 1919 to the 1960s, there were allegations of child sexual abuse against Brothers, about which the Provincial Council knew; and that in each decade from the 1930s to the 1950s, allegations were raised against Brothers against whom there had been previous allegations. It concluded that the leadership of the Christian Brothers from 1947-1968 had failed to manage the institutions so as to prevent child sexual abuse.[16]

12. The experts also drew our attention to the work of Brother Barry Coldrey. In his 1993 book, ‘The Scheme: The Christian Brothers and Childcare in Western Australia’, he concluded that analysis of Christian Brothers’ archives provided strong evidence of five Brothers who had committed multiple acts of sexual abuse, and a further six who had admitted committing single offences.[17] However, Brother Coldrey produced a further report, ‘Reaping the Whirlwind – The Christian Brothers and Sexual Abuse of Boys 1920 to 1944’. This was a private report to the General Council of the Christian Brothers. In it, he stated that the chapter of ‘The Scheme dealing with sexual abuse had been “crafted to make the minimum admissions necessary to get out of the problem”, and that the situation with respect to sexual abuse was in fact worse than had been suggested. He described the Christian Brothers’ child care institutions in Western Australia and Victoria as the “Achilles Heel” of the Australian Provinces in sexual abuse terms. Coldrey’s private report also suggests that awareness of sexual abuse among staff at these residential institutions extended to the operation of ‘sex rings’ in three of these Western Australian residential institutions, in which Brothers collaborated with one another in their activities, assisted and covered for each other, and may have shared the same boys.[18]

13. During our Part 1 hearings, we heard allegations of sexual abuse from several people who had been migrated by agencies related to the Catholic Church including the SoN, FH and Southwark Catholic Rescue Society (SCRS). In addition, the table of additional accounts of sexual abuse that the Inquiry received included 38 allegations of sexual abuse in Christian Brothers institutions, four at St Joseph’s, Neerkol, and one at St Vincent’s, Goodwood.[19]

14. The Catholic Church has itself received further allegations or evidence of sexual abuse of child migrants during the migration period, and after it, as set out below. 

2.11.2 What did the Catholic Church know about alleged sexual abuse of its child migrants?

15. Records from the migration era show that a child migrant, CM-A5, alleged sexual abuse on the ship on the journey to Australia. The Catholic chaplain accompanying the children became aware of the incident but it is not clear whether he communicated the incident to the Catholic authorities in England. However, CM-A5 explained how the nuns accompanying the children were aware of the incident and had told her not to tell anyone about it.[20]

16. We have also seen correspondence to the CCWC from 1961 referring to a child migrant, who was at that time a young adult and who wanted to return home. The letter states that when he had gone to the Marist Brothers, another religious order, it was found that he had “interfered with” some of the younger boys in the college and was dismissed. He then went to Clontarf and Bindoon, and was again found to be interfering with younger boys.[21]

Many of the boys at Clontarf and Bindoon were child migrants, and although Catholic migration ended in 1956, we understand that the migrants remained in situ. On that basis we consider that this letter can properly be characterised as an allegation of possible sexual abuse of child migrants, of which the CCWC had knowledge.

17. Third, there is evidence that Brother Conlon knew of some of the allegations of sexual abuse by the Christian Brothers.[22] 

While there is no evidence that he passed this information on to Catholic institutions in the UK (nor would it have been in his interests to do so, given that he was trying to encourage migration to the Brothers), Bishop Stock, rightly in our view, accepted that if Brother Conlon did have such knowledge, it would be of significant concern that he was instrumental in encouraging child migration from England to Christian Brothers’ institutions in Australia.[23]

18. In light of evidence such as this, it is understandable that concerns have, in recent years, been raised about the recruitment visits of people like Brother Conlon. However, the Inquiry did not hear any direct evidence that children were selected for the purpose of trafficking them into sexual abuse.

19. By way of context, the Australian Royal Commission in its Christian Brothers Case Study has found that although the relevant Provincial Council was aware of allegations of sexual abuse against Christian Brothers in each of the decades from the 1920s onwards and certainly in the 1940s and 1950s, generally the response to allegations of sexual abuse was kept within the Christian Brothers Order itself; rather than them notifying external agencies.[24]

20. More generally, Bishop Stock’s evidence was that the structure of the Catholic Church was hierarchical within each geographic region, and therefore while abuse that was known about may have been reported upwards (such as to the relevant Provincial Council), it would not necessarily have been reported horizontally (such as to another home or to an institution in a different country).[25] 

21. These factors may be part of the reason why there is no further evidence of allegations being made during this period to the CCWC or discussed at meetings (and we note that Ms Gandy said that she would have expected to see any such issues referenced within the minutes).[26] Bishop Tripp’s evidence was that the Southwark Child Rescue Society had received no reports of child sexual abuse or the risk of child sexual abuse.[27]

Generally, children were exposed to a risk of sexual abuse, which ought to have been appreciated by the Catholic migration agencies.

Had they operated a more robust system for monitoring the welfare of those children they migrated, they might have known more about specific allegations of sexual abuse and about the risk of sexual abuse more generally. A more robust system of monitoring was more likely to have reduced that risk by triggering interventions to protect children from sexual abuse, and other harm.

It is certainly striking to the Inquiry how little knowledge of alleged sexual abuse of child migrants there was in the Catholic migration agencies in England at the time, given the apparent scale and severity of such abuse at Catholic institutions in Australia.

2.11.3 How adequately did the Catholic Church respond to alleged sexual abuse of child migrants that came to its attention during the migration period?

22. The issue in relation to CM-A5 was reported to the ship’s Captain. In a letter to Australia House, the shipping company said that they had considered prosecution but this was not possible, so the perpetrator had been given a “bad discharge” and all practicable steps had been taken to prevent him from being re-engaged on any other ship.[28]

This response was appropriate.

23. As far as the issues in the 1961 letter are concerned, arrangements had been made in Australia for the boy to see a doctor at the Psychiatry Clinic, who advised that he be placed in a normal family with grown up boys and girls. This had been done but various family placements had not worked out. As far as English institutions are concerned, the response of the CCWC was simply to investigate whether the boy’s mother in the UK would take him back: she was happy to do so but needed financial assistance for the return passage, which the CCWC declined to provide.[29] 

While these elements of the response were appropriate, the Inquiry notes that there is no evidence of any attempt to identify if the children who had been “interfered” with were child migrants, nor to ascertain whether had been affected by any such interference. Although we cannot say that this was the accepted standard for the time, we note that some form of check did appear to have been conducted in Fairbridge’s response to a girl “interfered” with on the ‘Largs Bay’ ship.

2.11.4 Did the Catholic Church take sufficient care to protect its child migrants from sexual abuse?


24. Neither Mary Gandy nor Rosemary Keenan have been able to identify any formal selection procedures as applied by the Catholic agencies.[30] Some insight can be gained from Father Murphy’s reply to a questionnaire sent by the WGPW, in 1949, which noted that children were usually selected:

a. due to an approach by the parents;

b. for the purpose of removing the child from danger; or

c. on the basis of the wishes of the individual child. It was noted that if the child’s physical and mental standards met requirements, a plan for migration would be proceeded with, and that information as to personality, behaviour, school records and family history would be taken into account. Children could be migrated between the age of two and 15, but in practice no child under seven had been migrated.[31]

25. However, there is evidence that suggests a less rigorous selection process actually operated in practice:

a. As we have already indicated in section B, there was clearly a risk that the “block nomination” process which the Catholic agencies operated would place organisational needs ahead of the welfare of the children;

b. We have already referred to evidence of children being migrated before the funding agreements were in place for them and when the institutions were not ready to receive them;[32] 

c. The CCWC annual meeting minutes dated 21 October 1952 record that Canon Flint had emphasised that “we were interested in emigration from the Rescue angle, but it was imperative that we should be able to get the children out quickly” and contained a reassurance by Father Stinson that the children would go “as quickly as possible”.[33] 

d. All of this evidence, together with the evidence of the “direct” recruitment visits outwith the CCWC process,[34] suggests a premium on speed of migration and not rigour of selection; and

e. According to a 1993 paper by Jim Richards (then Director of CCSW), on 15 April 1958, the Home Office’s G.H. McConnell had cause to write critically about the selection process being operated by the Crusade of Rescue (one of the Catholic sending agencies), noting that “staff seldom interview individual children...the documents they have forwarded...seldom show whether the child himself wants to emigrate…”, leading to the recommendation that “for the future, the Crusade [of Rescue] should require of any home or Society suggesting candidates for emigration that the child should have been interviewed by a trained social worker who would enquire in detail into all the family circumstances, assemble a comprehensive case history and send a full report on the case with the other documents”.[35]

26. The experts also highlighted that there is no evidence of any kind of selection committee for child migrants, as recommended by the WGPW or the draft Home Office regulations that were circulated in 1952.[36]

27. In terms of consent, on the basis of incomplete records, the CCSW reported to the Health Select Committee in 1998, that it could only find evidence of consent by parents in 19% of cases of children migrated.[37] This increased to around 20% by the time that the CCWC gave evidence to the Australian Senate Inquiry in 2001.[38] Bishop Tripp noted that of the 41 children migrated by the SCRS, parental consent was obtained in 30 cases and Directors’ consent in the remaining 11.[39]

In light of all this evidence, the selection procedures operated by the Catholic agencies fell short of what was considered reasonable at the time. 

Institutional care and the nature of it

28. The Curtis principles favoured the use of fostering or adoption, and if institutional care was required at all, the use of small homes. The Inquiry notes that in 1993, Jim Richards concluded that the Catholic agencies should have focused on caring for the children in the UK rather than migrating them, because that would have been consistent with the Curtis principles.[40]

29. However, for those children who were migrated, the Inquiry saw no evidence that consideration was given to fostering or adoption, despite a suggestion to this effect in a Catholic recruitment brochure[41] (and in fact, in February 1951 Father Nicol rejected the suggestion of fostering, asserting that “there is very little in the way of home life that cannot be found in our institutions”).[42] 

30. Moreover, child migrants to Catholic institutions were generally housed in large orphanages and not cottage style homes. In October 1951, the CCWC annual meeting recorded the Home Office’s concern that reception homes in Australia were “in the main, marytoo big”. The concern was that the institutions in Australia did not meet the standards required by the Children Act 1948 with regard to the emphasis on a move away from large institutional homes to boarding out (fostering and adopting).[43] When the Ross team inspected Castledare, they found about 120 children being cared for by four Christian Brothers, a staff ratio of around 1:29.[44] This was much lower than the ratio in place at other migrant institutions and must have meant that Catholic institutions were not capable of providing the sort of individualised care which Curtis and the Home Office envisaged. We say this bearing in mind that the Curtis report noted an average staff ratio of 1:7 in homes run by voluntary organisations, with the worst being 1:17.[45]

Institutional inspection

31. We are conscious that there are numerous Australian inspection reports about the Nazareth Houses which were largely favourable, albeit that they often focused on the material conditions rather than the emotional well-being of children. It also does not appear that these reports were conveyed to the Catholic authorities in England and Wales regularly or at all.[46]

32. The evidence from that time shows that at various points, Catholic agencies said that there should be visits by those from England and Wales to Australia to inspect the schools and that this should happen before they resume or continue migration. The CCWC or other representatives of the Catholic Church identified in the following instances that inspections or visits to receiving institutions in Australia should be carried out by someone from the UK:

a. in the Bans Report of 1902;[47]

b. in St Peter’s Net in the 1920s;[48]

c. by Canon Craven and Canon Bennett in 1945;[49] 

d. by Canon Craven in May 1946;[50]

e. by Canon Craven in November 1946;[51]

f. by Father Barrett in November 1950;[52] and

g. by Canon Flood to the CCWC in March 1955.[53]

33. As we have said previously, that would have been consistent with Curtis principles. However, as Bishop Stock accepted in evidence it is clear that those visits did not happen, and instead individual assurances from Australia were taken at face value on the basis of trust in the institutions, despite the repeated unease about the lack of information coming from Australia.[54]

34. In a book by Jim Hyland (former Chairman of CCWC), he described it as a regrettable omission” that nobody from the CCWC or the CoR had been dispatched “to Australia to carry out its own investigation into arrangements and the standards of care provided”.[55] 

This was a serious failure.

35. The Inquiry considers that institutional inspections were a crucial part of sending organisations’ responsibility to monitor the care being provided to children post-migration, and in this regard the Catholic Church failed to meet even their own expectations. Although we cannot say whether properly carried out inspections would have identified individual experiences of sexual abuse, we note that such evidence was uncovered on occasion by local inspections.[56]

36. In our view, disclosures of sexual abuse if they were going to be made at all may, have been more likely in one to one conversations with the children.[57] The importance of these had been identified as far back as the Bans report of 1902[58], but such conversations are rarely recorded in the range of institutional reports we have seen.[59]

Reports on individual children

37. The CCWC or other representatives of the Catholic Church identified or were told in the following instances that obtaining reports on children was something that should have been done:

a. by Canon Bennett in 1949;[60]

b. by Canon Flint on behalf of the CCWC in October 1949;[61]

c. by Canon Craven in October 1951;[62]

d. by the CCWC in October 1952, when referring to a pro forma report to be compiled for all child migrants;[63]

e. by the CCWC in October 1953, when noting that they had not received any reports back other than as the result of one direct request;[64]

f. by the Secretary of the CCWC in a letter to CEMWA in November 1953;[65]

g. in correspondence between Canon Flint, Father Stinson and Mgr Crennan in 1954;[66]

h. when the CCWC, at their annual meeting in 1955, noted that reports on individual children were still not forthcoming;[67] and

i. by Mr Rainer on behalf of the SCRS at various points in 1956.[68]

38. According to the experts, standards of monitoring and contact with children varied amongst the different diocesan childcare organisations and religious orders. For example: 

a. Evidence from Bishop Tripp suggests attempts by the SCRS to gain regular reports on children migrated, and some dissatisfaction that its expectation of regular reports was not met;[69]

b. The SoN did not have any formal monitoring system for children sent to residential institutions run by other religious orders, and there were limits to the effectiveness of its monitoring of children sent to Nazareth houses as we have discussed in section 2.10;[70] 

c. The CCWC did not appear to have a dedicated office or administrator during the relevant period, which led Professor Lynch to opine that they would not have had the necessary resources to effectively monitor the children whom had been sent.[71] 

The overall picture is, as Bishop Stock accepted, that reports back about individual children were intermittent and that, even when the CCWC attempted to introduce an annual reporting system it is not clear that this was complied with. Therefore, that for a number of children migrated, possibly the majority of them, no individual report was received about them after migration.[72] We note that Jim Richards (then Director of the Catholic Children’s Society (Westminster))[73] and Jim Hyland (former Chairman of the CCWC)[74] had, in 1993 and 2009 respectively, reached similar conclusions.

This reporting system fell short of expected practice and that Bishop Stock was right to accept that the failure of the CCWC to obtain annual reports on individual children was a significant lost opportunity. While one cannot know what those reports would have contained, the failure to have any clear reporting system effectively guaranteed that any concerns about sexual abuse would not be raised.

Overall conclusion on sufficiency of care

Based on all the evidence referred to in this section it is clear to us that the Catholic migration agencies did not take sufficient care to protect those children they migrated from the risk of sexual abuse. 

2.11.5 How adequately did the Catholic Church respond to allegations or evidence of sexual abuse of child migrants it received in the post-migration period?

39. Bishop Stock provided the Inquiry with a summary table of 21 allegations recorded between 1989 and the present by Southwark Catholic Children’s Society (SCCS), FH, CCSW, the CCWC and the Australian Child Migrants Project (ACMP). Of these allegations, 16 were disclosures made in the context of enquiries made to trace family members, and five were derived from other sources including newspaper articles and other agencies. We also received evidence as to the responses to the allegations.[75] The allegations received[76] and the responses to them are summarised as follows:[77] 

a. At some point after 1989, the ACMP received in the file of a former child migrant an enclosure to a letter from the Provincialate of the Congregation of Christian Brothers, Bath, which stated that the former child migrant and some others were sexually abused by a Brother in Australia, and that a teenager also abused younger boys at the school, as well as a book extract referring to physical and sexual abuse by a Brother. The ACMP assisted in family tracing; no formal report was made;

b. In 1990, a former child migrant wrote a letter to Canon Flood alleging sexual and physical abuse by Christian Brothers in Australia. Some investigations were made of the circumstances of his migration, but the individual’s social worker confirmed that there was no further need to consider his case because it was being dealt with by the CMT;

c. In 1994, there was reference in a newspaper article to a Christian Brother accused by a former child migrant of sexual abuse. The former child migrant was a client of the CMT but did not contact the CCWC so no action was taken;

d. In 1994, during a telephone call, a former child migrant told Rosemary Keenan that he had been sexually abused as a child; this was recorded in a file note. The child migrant wished to consider the matter further and was in touch with the CMT and CBERS so no further action was taken;

e. In 1995, a former child migrant wrote to Mary Gandy stating that he had spent nine years in institutions where he was physically and sexually abused. The former child migrant was a client of CMT and CBERS; the CCWC assisted with family tracing; 

f. In 1995, a former child migrant met a FH worker to review his file with a CMT worker, who stated that the individual had been badly physically and sexually abused in Australia. The former child migrant was a client of the CMT; FH assisted with family reunification.

g. In 1997, FH was forwarded a letter containing an allegation of sexual abuse in England during the train journey to the boat to Australia (as also set out in section 2.10). The individual was provided with support and assistance with origins work as well as a visit, money and expenses, and the sexual abuse allegation was reported to Warwickshire Police;

h. In 1997, a sister of a former child migrant told a FH worker that her brother was sexually and physically abused by Christian Brothers in Australia. Access to files was not granted to the child migrant’s sister and she was referred to Centacare, but no further contact was received;

i. In 1997, a former child migrant told Rosemary Keenan that she was physically and sexually abused in a home in Australia run by a religious order. Dr Keenan understood that the allegations had been reported to police in Australia and CMT was involved; no further action was taken;

j. In 1997, an allegation of sexual abuse was made in a letter to a FH worker, but the individual died that year. It seemed unlikely that investigation would have been considered necessary given the passage of time, the group litigation against the Christian Brothers in Australia and their apology in 1993; the allegation was retained on file but no further action was taken;

k. In 1998, the sister of a former child migrant told a FH worker that her sister had been sexually abused and whipped in the cellars before going to Australia. The sister had been at a Nazareth House home prior to going to Australia. The former child migrant was a client of CMT. The allegation was reported to the senior social worker at FH but was not referred to the SoN. There was no specific disclosure or consent by the former child migrant herself;

l. In 1998, during a telephone call, a former child migrant told Rosemary Keenan that he had been sexually abused as a child in Australia. Dr Keenan made enquiries with agencies in Australia with the former child migrant’s consent and heard that there were mental health issues and failure to follow up on appointments; no further contact was made;

m. In 2002, a former child migrant gave papers to a CCWC worker containing allegations of sexual abuse including rape by a Christian Brother; these were passed to FH but filed unread. The former child migrant met with the CCWC/ ACMP worker and his case was passed as a referral to FH; no work was done on this due to staff absence and the documents were returned to CCWC; the former child migrant did not pursue the inquiry; the documents were subsequently handed back to FH and not read until documents were reviewed for this Inquiry in 2016; 

n. In 2002, the ACMP reviewed correspondence on the file of former child migrants referring to “misbehaviour” between boys; one of the former child migrants told the ACMP that “the accusation of misbehaviour … typifies the lewd thoughts and actions of [the priest] and his peers”. No report of actual abuse was made and the former child migrant had been provided with his file by the CMT; no further action was taken;

o. In 2002, a former child migrant wrote a letter to the Professional Standards Resource Group (a group established in each diocese to address alleged misconduct) in Western Australia stating that he was sexually assaulted by a man believed to be the gardener while in the care of nuns in England. The allegation related to a gardener at a Nazareth House home in England; the CCWC was in receipt of correspondence concerning this; the Director of the Professional Standards Resource Group wrote to the SoN outlining the allegation and response sought; the former child migrant was a client of CMT and CBERS; it does not appear that there was further action taken apart from assisting with family reunification;

p. In 2003, a former child migrant reported physical abuse; copies of newspaper articles state that he reported savage beatings and his brother reported sexual abuse of child migrants by Christian Brothers in Australia. The former child migrant was a client of CBERS; the ACMP assisted with family reunification;

q. In 2009, a former child migrant reported harsh treatment by nuns in Australia and rape by a gardener/handyman to a CCSW worker. A file note was made; the former child migrant was reluctant to discuss and reported receiving compensation in Australia; she was a client of CMT; she was provided with “assistance” but no other action was taken;

r. In 2010, in two phone calls, a former child migrant and his wife told a FH worker that he was molested while in the care of the Christian Brothers in Australia. The former child migrant was a client of CBERS; no further action was taken; and

s. In 2011, a former child migrant published allegations of sexual, psychological and physical abuse in care in Australia, including rape by a Christian Brother. The pages from the website were printed out and placed on file, and the individual was in touch with CBERS.

40. Generally, Bishop Stock stated that Catholic organisations in England and Wales may have assumed without checking that allegations had been reported to the appropriate authorities in Australia, especially when the child migrant was already in touch with a relevant agency such as CBERS or the CMT. Clearly, he stated, “it would have been better to check that this was the case for each individual” and “in a number of cases there is no record of any such discussion”.[78] 

41. Bishop Stock also said that in some cases it was difficult to tell whether an allegation of child sexual abuse was actually being made, and to identify the motivation of the victim. He continued that “[I]t would have been best practice in those cases for there to have been some proactive follow-up to ascertain the individual’s intention, but equally, the views of the individual needed to be respected if it was evidently clear that they did not want to talk about it further.[79] 

42. Bishop Stock also noted that “in the late 1980s there was a reluctance on the part of some to take those allegations at face value.… [A]ny early reluctance was relatively quickly replaced by a recognition of the importance of ensuring that these allegations were properly investigated. Nevertheless, it is extremely regrettable that in the early days of general revelations of child sexual abuse there was a defensive, and at times dismissive, attitude adopted on the part of some."[80]

The evidence demonstrates a progressive realisation, since 1989, of the need for the Catholic Church to respond appropriately to allegations of sexual abuse of child migrants. However in many of the examples given there appears to have been limited substantive action taken.

2.11.6 What support and reparations has the Catholic Church offered to former child migrants alleging sexual abuse, and has this been adequate?

43. The Inquiry heard evidence on the support and reparations offered by Catholic institutions, primarily from Bishop Stock,[81] Mary Gandy,[82] Dr Keenan[83] and Andrew Quinn,[84] and considered a very large volume of documentary evidence concerning support and reparations dating from 1989 to the present day.

44. The evidence showed that Catholic institutions have provided numerous support services to former child migrants and others, including the following:

a. the establishment of a central point of reference for tracing through the CCWC in 1989 (the CCWC ceased operation in 2002);

b. the establishment of channels of communication with Australian agencies, including social work and counselling services;

c. the establishment of a service for access to records, family reunification, origins work and counselling including the appointment of social workers by CCWC in 1992;

d. the creation of the CCWC Australian Child Migrants Sub-Committee, with Catholic sending agencies as members, in 1992;

e. the creation of the ‘Origins’ department at FH in 1993;

f. the development of a specialist service within CCSW’s Post-Adoption and Aftercare service for child migrant enquiries;

g. cooperation with the CMT including disclosure of records; 

h. visits to Australia in 1995 (Canon Fisher and Mary Gandy, to identify needs of former child migrants, publicise services and build links) and 1998 (Dr Keenan, to discuss the development of the Personal History Index and improving services);

i. the production of a Statement of Intent, Code of Practice and information leaflet in 1994;

j. the creation of the child migrant database in 1994 and subsequent detailed analyses of that database, led by Dr Keenan;

k. the convening of a Sending Agencies Group in 1997, to establish common professional best practice;

l. the establishment and operation of the Australian Child Migrant Project from 2001 to 2005;

m. practical support, communications and assistance to former child migrants visiting the UK;

n. active participation in public inquiries in Australia and the UK, including IICSA; and

o. apologies and expressions of regret.

45. Support services have focused on access to records, family reunification and origins work, together with counselling and practical assistance with travel and accommodation.

46. There has been less demand in England and Wales for specific and separate support in relation to sexual abuse, which is provided by some services in Australia. The CCIICSA submitted that “the support and reparations offered by Catholic institutions in England and Wales were provided to all former child migrants regardless of whether they had suffered sexual abuse. Former child migrants sought to access services and information in England and Wales in relation to access to records, family reunification and origins work. Where reports of sexual abuse were made, they typically emerged during this process or as background information. Sexual abuse formed but one part, albeit a significant part, of a broader picture of other forms of abuse and a profound sense of loss and a lack of identity”.[85]

47. Bishop Stock affirmed the statements of regret and apologies that have been made on behalf of the Catholic Church in England and Wales. During the hearing, he offered a further apology and offered to meet privately with any former child migrant who wished to do so.[86]

48. There has been no compensatory scheme established by Catholic organisations in England and Wales. The CCIICSA submitted that it appears likely that compensation may not have been considered relevant because responsibility for sexual abuse lay primarily with Australian institutions, there has been no civil litigation in the UK, and various compensation schemes have been set up in Australia.[87] 

49. In Appendix 1 to its Closing Statement, CCIICSA provided a schedule of support and reparations provided in Australia to former child migrants who resided in Catholic institutions: the Slater and Gordon class action and other payments by the Christian Brothers; compensation for abuse to former residents of Neerkol by the Sisters of Mercy; compensation for abuse by the Sisters of Nazareth; the ‘Towards Healing’ principles and procedures adopted by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Catholic Religious Australia; the Melbourne Response; and the Redress Western Australia scheme.

50. The Inquiry was assisted in understanding, in a broad sense, what has been provided in Australia because we consider that we cannot ignore the reality of the steps taken abroad. However, we consider that these actions should not be used by institutions in England and Wales to avoid responsibility.

The need to make support and reparations was first identified by Catholic organisations in the 1980s and support and reparations have been provided since that time by various Catholic organisations.

Their responses have been considerably better than those of some other organisations such as Fairbridge.

Compensation schemes and other forms of support and reparation have been provided by Catholic organisations in Australia for child migrants who have suffered child sexual abuse following their migration.

Although the Catholic organisations in England and Wales have offered extensive support to former child migrants, they have not paid financial compensation in any proactive way.



  1. Gandy 18 July 2017 141; CCS000214_007.
  2. 69 in 1938 and 46 in 1939: Stock 18 July 2017 25/20-24.
  3. Lynch and Constantine 17 July 2017 97; Stock 18 July 2017 26-27; CHC000537_004.
  4. Stock 18 July 2017 38-40; 152-153; Lynch and Constantine 17 July 2017 95; CCS000208; CCS000224_008.
  5. See the observations to this effect by Canon Craven in November 1946: CHC000403_011.
  6. See the letter from Father Cleary noting the views of the CCWC in February 1951: CHC000424.
  7. Mary Gandy’s understanding was that religious orders such as the SoN joined the CCWC after the migration period: Gandy 18 July 2017 130-131; CHC000397_004.
  8. Stock 18 July 2017 59-60; Gandy 18 July 2017 130; 134;142-143; Lynch and Constantine 17 July 2017 133; 135-137.
  9. CCBOS was understood by the experts to be a successor organisation to (i) the Catholic Emigration Association, established in 1903, which acted as an amalgamation of various Catholic emigration bodies and was responsible for children aged under 17 until the early 1930s (in Canada); and (ii) the Catholic Emigration Society, which was initially responsible for emigrating families and adults, but in 1938 took over responsibility for children being migrated to non-Catholic children’s homes, and was dissolved in November 1938: Lynch and Constantine 17 July 2017 137-138.
  10. The experts noted that this was the only such organisation that was based outside of the UK (although the agreement was with the FCIC’s London Office, known as ACIC); and considered that the effect of this arrangement was to give the Catholic authorities in Australia significant control in terms of child migration activities: Lynch and Constantine 17 July 2017 140-142. We note that the London office closed down in 1953: CHC000430.
  11. As did Father Stinson and Father Nicol (priests). Such direct recruitment visits were frowned upon by the CCWC, but continued nonetheless: Stock 18 July 2017 53; Lynch and Constantine 17 July 2017 162-163.
  12. Lynch and Constantine 17 July 2017 134-135; 157-159; Stock 18 July 2017 41; 53.
  13. Stock 18 July 2017 28; CCS000224_006-007; CCS000210; CHC000396_021-023.
  14. EWM000045 see link: (
  15. EWM000007_127, para. 5.43
  16. EWM000064 see link: (
  17. EWM000178_009-010, paras. 15.5-15.7; EWM000161
  18. EWM000178_010-015, paras. 15.8-15.17; Lynch 17 July 2017 117-121
  19. FHN000082_004 and INQ001259
  20. CM-A5, 3 March 2017 14-16; 61-65; Stock 18 July 2017 65-67; CHC000538_009.
  21. Stock 18 July 2017 67-70; Lynch 17 July 2017 35-39; FHN000048_001; FHN000047_001.
  22. See Professor Lynch’s summary of Barry Coldrey’s evidence to this effect, referring to (i) a letter Brother Conlon had written to the General Council in Dublin in 1935, complaining about 4 recent cases of sexual abuse and raising concerns about the slow way in which these had been dealt with by the Provincial Council; and (ii) a further letter he had written to the Council in 1941 in relation to sexual abuse perpetrated by a Brother in Adelaide, in which he was reported to have said “As long as outsiders do not become aware of these things, we may hope for better times after the war”, Professors Lynch and Constantine had not seen the primary documents themselves, as the Inquiry was only able to obtain Barry Coldrey’s report, but Professor Lynch noted that Barry Coldrey was not someone who was hostile to the Christian Brothers: Lynch and Constantine 17 July 2017 120-121; EWM000455_010; EWM000178_013. There is no evidence of Father Stinson being informed of allegations of sexual abuse by the Christian Brothers: Lynch and Constantine 21 July 2017 134-135.
  23. Stock 18 July 2017 41-42.
  24. Lynch 9 March 2017 137-138.
  25. Stock 18 July 2017 73.
  26. Gandy 18 July 2017 157.
  27. CHC000470_020-021 (paragraphs 8.1, 8.3, 8.4-8.5).
  28. CM-A5, 3 March 2017 14-16; 61-65; Stock 18 July 2017 65-67; CHC000538_009.
  29. Stock 18 July 2017 67-70; Lynch 17 July 2017 35-39; 40-44; 53/8-13; FHN000048_001; FHN000047_001.
  30. Gandy 18 July 2017 153-154; CCS000224_006; CCS000221.
  31. CHC000537_041-042, footnotes 302-308.
  32. See, for example, the children migrated by the SoN in 1947, when there was not a maintenance agreement in place, albeit that it was subsequently backdated: Doolan 13 July 2017 1221-4; 124/25; 128/22-24; 152/10-21; Lynch 11 July 2017 86/16-25; 88/20-23; 95/13-21; 97/16-18
  33. FHN000011_029-30.
  34. Stock 18 July 2017 53; Lynch and Constantine 17 July 2017 162-163 and SoN Closing Statement, para.58.
  35. CCS000211_016.
  36. EWM000450_019-020.
  37. See EWM000005_117-118; CCS000210.
  38. EWM00005_118; EWM000007_070 (paragraphs 3.53-3.55).
  39. CHC000470_011-016 (paragraphs 4.18, 4.27-4.38).
  40. He wrote that the agencies “do not seem to reflect what might be described as best practice of the time...rather than continue sending children abroad, the policy should have been to have switched resources into foster care and into small family group homes, not just for future children who would come into care, but for those who were there at present. This was what many local authorities were doing”: CCS000211_017-018.
  41. See EWM000249_009, a CVOCE brochure which includes in relation to the CCWC the following “Destination is determined by the child’s needs, but in all cases the children are first admitted to residential schools or homes in Australia before arrangements are made, as opportunities occur later, for placing in private families (our emphasis): Lynch 10 March 2017 6-7.
  42. CCS000201_022-023.
  43. CHC000397_019 (paragraph 65), CHC000426_009; CHC000426.
  44. Lynch 10 March 2017 52.
  45. EWM000286_078.
  46. Lynch and Constantine 17 July 2017 174; EWM000450_023-024. The focus on material matters in such reports was of concern to British officials: EWM000402_021.
  47. CCS000214_002, as recorded by Jim Hyland.
  48. CCS000336.
  49. Lynch and Constantine 17 July 2017 148-150; [MS/2 FN 135].
  50. CCS000357_028.
  51. CHC000403_010.
  52. CHC000431.
  53. FHN000011_037.
  54. Stock 18 July 2017 44-49.
  55. CCS000215_005-006.
  56. See, for example, a State inspection report on Castledare from December 1950, which noted a report of a student being caught acting ‘unnaturally’ with a dog and indicating that he learnt the behaviour there. Also noted that the boy said that older boys used to make him take off his clothes and ‘do rude things’ to him. The report also noted that Mr McGhee punished the children with a ‘stick across the bottom’ if he caught them: EWM000064_030.
  57. Indeed, former child migrants told the Australian Royal Commission and this Inquiry of making such disclosures to members of staff or child welfare officers: see, for example, A5 3 March 2017 42-47; A6 1 March 2017 67-68; Delaney 7 March 2017 112; and A11 8 March 2017 54-56.
  58. CCS000293_012.
  59. Only one reference to this appears in Sisters of Nazareth reports: SNZ000019_030. As we set out in section B.2, former child migrants themselves rarely recalled the opportunity to speak with such inspectors on a one-to-one basis.
  60. EWM000443_005 (paragraph 8.6).
  61. CHC000425.
  62. CHC000397_019 (paragraph 65), CHC000426_009; CHC000426.
  63. FHN000011_030.
  64. EWM000450_021; CHC000397_020 (paragraph 67).
  65. CHC000429.
  66. CCS000201_106-10; CCS000201_109-110.
  67. Lynch and Constantine 17 July 2017 167-168; EWM000450_021; CHC000397_021 (paragraph 71); CHC000432_007-008
  68. CCS000201_195; CCS000201_195; CCS000201_194; CCS000201_193; CCS000201_191-192; CCS000201_188; CCS000201_187.
  69. CHC000470_012; _020-021 (paragraphs 4.20; 7.5-7.7); CHC000496; CHC000492; Bishop Tripp also noted the contrast between the Australian situation in this respect and position in Canada, where they had an infrastructure in place to facilitate post-migration communication: CHC000470_011 (paragraph 4.16).
  70. EWM000450_022; SNZ00007
  71. Lynch and Constantine 17 July 2017 173.
  72. Stock 18 July 2017 46-47.
  73. Mr Richards wrote, in a document entitled ‘Australian Migrants: A Consideration of the Conditions of the Time’ that “...the agencies involved in sending children to Australia do not seem to reflect what might be described as best practice of the time….the policy should have been to have switched resources into foster care and into small family group homes, not just for future children who would come into care, but for those who were there at present….Moreover, what information that came from Australia about the adverse effects of immigration, does not seem to have been acted upon in a sufficiently critical and vigorous way, whether it come from Government sources, or in our case, Catholic ones” (CCS000211_017-018). An undated document entitled ‘Catholic Child Emigration to Australia’ makes similar points: “No reports were sent back on children until 1956, six months before the end of the scheme. Very little contact by the UK Catholic agency....once [the children] had left UK. It appears that no one from England officially visited Australia between 1938-56 (despite concerns expressed) on behalf of the English Catholic Church Agencies. Lack of understanding by both Australia and UK of each others child care practices…” (CCS000212_010-011).
  74. Mr Hyland wrote that “The failure to ensure that such homes and schools were regularly monitored, rather than simply to trust all was well was, in hindsight, a serious error by both the sending agencies and those responsible for oversight of these establishments” (CCS000216_003-004).
  75. See the written and oral evidence of Bishop Stock (CCIICSA); Bishop Tripp (Southwark Catholic Children’s Society), Andrew Quinn (Father Hudson’s Care), Rosemary Keenan (Catholic Children’s Society (Westminster)) and Mary Gandy (former Secretary of CCWC); CHC000544; and CCIICSA Closing Submissions, [29]; Submissions, [35]-[41].
  76. Other than one allegation, in which in 2003 a former child migrant gave a statement to an ACMP worker detailing his report of sexual abuse by a gardener / handyman when he was 11 years old in Northern Ireland, which is outside our geographical scope.
  77. Some of these allegations are also considered in section 2.10 in respect of Father Hudson’s
  78. CHC000538_075.
  79. CHC000538_075.
  80. CHC000538_076.
  81. CHC000538_011-016, 076; Stock 18 July 2017 81-103.
  82. Gandy 18 July 2017 164-171
  83. CCS000395; Keenan 18 July 2017 183-186.
  84. FHN000082_005-0012.
  85. CCIICSA Closing Statement, [45], [46], [74].
  86. CHC000538_005; Stock 18 July 2017 32-35.
  87. CCIICSA Closing Statement, [60]-[62].
Back to top