Children in institutions in Northern Ireland were exported to Australia like “baby convicts,” a witness has told a public inquiry into historical abuse in Northern Ireland, reports news.com.au.
The Sisters of Nazareth were responsible for the removal of 111 child migrants aged as young as five before and after World War II, some of whom faced grave sexual and physical violence after arrival. Another 20 were sent by other institutions.
In some cases parental consent was not sought, migrants were separated from siblings, and some deprived of their real identities by withholding of birth certificates, a lawyer for the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry said yesterday.
Reasons for transport included boosting “Catholicisation” in Australia, propping up the number of white inhabitants of the Empire or saving money and emptying overcrowded workhouses, the investigation heard.
A statement from one witness said: “We were exported to Australia like little baby convicts.”
The inquiry was established by ministers in Northern Ireland following a campaign by alleged victims. Survivors have given graphic details of their ordeals, according to inquiry chairman Sir Anthony Hart.
Approximately 130 young children, in the care of religious voluntary institutions or state bodies after being orphaned or taken away from unmarried mothers, became child migrants, most in the decade after the war.
The experiences of around 50 of them will be examined in person or via video-link and their statements furnished to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Australia.
The Sisters of Nazareth, based in Londonderry and Belfast, sent 111 children between 1938 and 1956. Many were Queensland-bound in eastern Australia because it was seen as a very Catholic state and considered best for the girls. Others went to Fremantle near Perth or other parts of Western Australia.
Read full article: Historical abuse inquiry hearing evidence from Northern Ireland (news.com.au)
Photo: Historical abuse inquiry members David Lane, Sir Anthony Hart and Geraldine Doherty inside the courtroom at Banbridge, Northern Ireland