Professor’s expert evidence on the failings of child migrant schemes

Cases of sexual abuse have been reported in at least a third of the residential institutions to which British child migrants were sent in Australia in the years up to 1970, according to evidence presented by Gordon Lynch to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.

Professor Lynch, Professor of Modern Theology, Department of Religious Studies in the School of European Culture and Languages, explained that sexual abuse of these children was also likely to have been historically under-reported. Former child migrants have given a number of accounts of how disclosures of sexual abuse led to them being ignored, punished and even subjected to further acts of abuse.

Professor Lynch has been presenting evidence as an expert witness to the on-going Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) investigation of the sexual abuse of British child migrants which is focusing particularly on the experiences of more than 3000 children sent overseas after the end of the Second World War. In these initial hearings, the Inquiry Panel has heard harrowing evidence of sexual abuse from former British child migrants as well as on the effects of abuse on former child migrants by the Director of the Child Migrants Trust, Dr Margaret Humphreys.

Evidence from Professor Lynch, and his fellow expert witness, Professor Stephen Constantine from Lancaster University, has helped to place these experiences in historical context by explaining the origins of these migration schemes and the relationships between the different governmental and voluntary organisations involved in delivering them. They have also summarised a range of criticisms made of the child migration schemes during the period in which they were operating, including ways in which the schemes fell short of increasingly accepted post-War standards of child-care.

Professor Lynch will continue to work with the investigation which will re-convene further public hearings in July when it will consider more detailed evidence about the organisational contexts in which sexual abuse took place.