Menu
News

Children sent to Australia abused by paedophiles

A picture of some of the boys from Bindoon Boys Town taken from a book by Lionel Welsh, Called Orphan of the Empire. Source: News Corp Australia
A picture of some of the boys from Bindoon Boys Town taken from a book by Lionel Welsh, Called Orphan of the Empire. Source: News Corp Australia

THEY were told they were going to a place filled with sheep, where they could ride horses, pick fruit from the trees and have picnics all day long.

Instead they faced decades of sexual abuse at the hands of the men caring for them, were beaten, forced to work like slaves and rummage in pig bins for food.

Now the first-hand accounts of men and women sent to Australia as children will be heard as part of an independent inquiry into child sexual abuse.

Beginning in London this week, a panel will hear from some of the estimated 10,000 children sent to Australia in the post-war decades as a cheap way of populating the country and solving the problem of how to care for young British orphans.

The Australian story is just part of a much bigger picture that saw an estimated 150,000 children sent overseas to mainly Commonwealth countries over a 350-year period. In a world without air travel and internet, many of them never saw home again.

This week marks the start of an enormous undertaking in the UK that will cover exactly what happened inside the government, schools, hospitals, military and the BBC, among other institutions, and whether children were knowingly sent into dangerous situations.

On Monday, Imran Kahn, speaking on behalf of former child migrant Oliver Cosgrove, who went to Australia in 1941 said the scheme to "populate the empire with good, white British stock" led to physical and sexual abuse for countless children.

"This was a systematic and institutional problem," he said.

Overlooking Bindoon, one of the places British kids were sent to live.
Overlooking Bindoon, one of the places British kids were sent to live.

The UK team is working with Australia's Royal Commission into Institutional Responses into Child Sexual Abuse to find out where things went wrong and make sure it never happens again.

But it's men and women sent to Australia that will be heard first due to their advancing age and a desire to ensure justice is done.

While some witnesses will remain anonymous, one of those expected to testify is Marcelle O'Brien, 71, who was told she was going on a picnic at age four.

She has since been reunited with her parents through the Child Migrants Trust run by UK social worker Margaret Humphreys who inspired the 2011 film about the lost generation, Oranges and Sunshine.

Previous testimony at the Australian Royal Commission has revealed how boys sent to schools in Western Australia run by the Christian Brothers suffered sexual abuse at their hands and were forced to work and endure beatings while being kept on a near starvation diet.

In 2014, Clifford Walsh, now 72, told how he was assaulted from the second day he arrived including being punched, beaten and sexually abused.

Boys at Bindoon Boys Town, WA 1952. This is one of the sites where one man, Clifford Walsh, told the Australian Royal Commission he suffered abuse as a child. Picture: Reproduced courtesy of State Library of Western Australia.
Boys at Bindoon Boys Town, WA 1952. This is one of the sites where one man, Clifford Walsh, told the Australian Royal Commission he suffered abuse as a child. Picture: Reproduced courtesy of State Library of Western Australia.

Christian Brothers in four separate schools including Castledare, Contarf, Tardun and Bindoon in Perth were named by children as abusers.

He also recently told the BBC the UK government had sent young children to a "living hell" that put them in the care of paedophiles, 100 kilometres from the closest town.

"I was not good looking and I was badly sexually abused," he said. "How badly were the ones that were better than me?"

"They sent us to a place that was a living hell ... These paedophiles must have thought they were in hog heaven."

Inquiry lead Professor Alexis Jay OBE said "the largest and most ambitious inquiry in the UK" will help authorities understand where things went wrong so it can never happen again.

"This inquiry is a once in a lifetime opportunity to expose and understand how as a society we have failed to protection children from sexual abuse," she said.

The Australian and UK governments have both issued apologies to survivors of sexual abuse over the way they were treated in government institutions.

For more information, read the independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse website.

Topics:  child abuse inquiry migrants paedophiles

News Corp Australia

Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Footy dad: I can hold my head high

Geoffrey Whittaker says it's 'awesome' to see justice served after enduring a trial this week. He was found not guilty of assault.

'I'm glad I'm not the one that looks like the idiot any more'

Footy fight: Coach accused of spiteful, 'vicious' act

Geoffrey James Whittaker, who has pleaded not guilty to assault charges at a football carnival.

'Sometimes it's appropriate to defend oneself by striking first'

Dad 'head-butted' footy coach during kids' rugby carnival

Geoffrey Whittaker has pleaded not guilty two assault charges. The offences are alleged to have occurred during a children's football carnival in 2016.

Geoffrey James Whittaker pleads not guilty to two assault charges

Local Partners