Catholic organisation ‘not made aware of any abuse of child migrants’ sent to Australia

A religious organisation involved in a child migration programme was not informed of any abuse or poor conditions for children sent to Australia, the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry has heard.

Mary Gandy, a former general secretary of the Catholic Children’s Welfare Council (CCWC), told the inquiry that inspection reports on migrated children’s welfare that arrived from Australian local authorities were “good and encouraging”.

A 1998 parliamentary inquiry found many migrant children were subjected to systematic abuse in religious institutions in Australia.

Jane Rattray, counsel to the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, asked what information the CCWC had on the children who migrated with the organisation.

Mrs Gandy said: “The CCWC were very much concerned with the welfare of migrated children, they were keen for feedback on individual children.

“There was unease expressed at various points but the reassurances from Australia seem to have been enough to deal with their doubts.”

The CCWC requested reports on the welfare of each child, which were promised but not produced, the inquiry heard.

Mrs Grandy added: “Child migration and the legal arrangements were that it was the authorities in Australia who were responsible for the welfare for the children that they took.

“So there wasn’t any legal responsibility to have feedback but the feeling there was they’d like to be reassured.

“The reassurances coming from the bodies in Australia – in those days it would have been very difficult to have disbelieved those reassurances.”

Ms Rattray highlighted one account from a grandmother who received a letter from her grandson asking for socks and shoes to be sent over as he was running around barefoot.

Mrs Grandy said it was accounts such as these that led the CCWC to put a stop to nominating children for the child migration programme in the mid-1950s.

Ms Rattray asked if the CCWC was made aware of any reports of abuse from migrated children.

Mrs Grandy replied: “No, anything in Australia wasn’t communicated to the UK – they were not made aware of the abuse in a broad sense.

“The institutions were inspected regularly but they were given advanced notice. The reports were always good and encouraging.

“What was presented in the inspection was very favourable.”

The inquiry’s case study into examining the abuse of children who were part of child migration programmes began in December 2019.

It has examined a range of care providers including religious and voluntary organisations since it began hearing evidence in 2017.

The inquiry, before judge Lady Smith, continues.

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