01 March 2017
A former child migrant, sent from Wales to an Australian orphanage, has told a child abuse inquiry how it was a “feast of kids” for paedophiles working there.
Giving evidence, the anonymous 72-year-old said Brother Lawrence Murphy took him in to his bedroom twice, forcing him to perform sex acts.
He said that if he had told anyone at the time, he would have been beaten.
Castledare orphanage near Perth, run by the Christian Brothers order, was like “a legal paedophile ring”, he said.
The witness told the inquiry: “If someone did it in the public eye, he’d go to court, he’d get sentenced and he’d serve time.
“If he’d got a habit on, if you’re a Christian Brother then it seemed to be a free-for-all.
“We knew what would happen if you told somebody, especially in authority, they would say ‘this doesn’t happen here.'”
He went on to claim that Brother Murphy was later “transferred from place to place” to effectively hide him.
He said his time at the orphanage still haunted him and was “probably something I will never forget”.
He had bottled it up for nearly 30 years and had only chosen to speak out when he found out about the inquiry, he added.
‘No pants, no shoes’
Life for the orphans involved hard physical labour including pulling down trees, clearing land, digging out a swimming pool and building a handball court by chipping bricks.
“You had to chip X amount of bricks before you can knock off, before you had something to eat,” he told the inquiry, which is looking into abuse in England and Wales.
The boys wore only a grey shirt and shorts, no matter what the weather, he said.
There were no underpants and shoes were only worn when somebody important visited, otherwise feet were bare, he added.
Brothers would be fully clothed with shoes and gloves while the boys shivered in the cold, he said.
The inquiry also heard from another former child migrant, Oliver Cosgrove, who is now in his late sixties and who also lived at Castledare.
He said the Christian Brothers, who ran the home, would visit the children’s beds at night.
“We were told at Castledare that we always had to sleep on our right hand side so that the heart was closer to heaven,” he said.
Brother Murray had fondled him and had also “come to my bed and forced me to give him oral sex,” the Inquiry was told.
Mr Cosgrove only fully remembered some of the abuse in 2014 after reading documents connected to an Australian abuse inquiry.
He said: “The memory of this caused me to have several days of sobbing in my apartment, the apartment walls are not very thick. I used to drive down to a riverside reserve which is nearby and just sob for several hours in the night.”
The first phase of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse is looking at the way organisations have protected children outside the UK.
Between 7,000 and 10,000 children were moved from the UK to Australia after World War Two.
They were recruited by religious institutions from both the Anglican and Catholic churches, or charities, including Barnardo’s and the Fairbridge Society, with the aim of giving them a better life.
The inquiry, now into its third day, will hear testimonies from child migrants over a fortnight.
Queen of England asked for Marcelle O’Brien to be returned to the UK, sex abuse inquiry hears
March 1, 201710:01pm
WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
AGE six, an angelic picture of Marcelle O’Brien was splashed in Australian newspapers.
The blue-eyed child had been the subject of a direct inquiry from the former Queen of England, asking whether the young girl could be returned to the United Kingdom.
Two years earlier, the young Marcelle had been brought to Australia by boat and placed at Fairbridge Farm in Western Australia. Now, her foster mother wanted her back and had gone to the top to help facilitate it.
News of the royal intervention led an Australian newspaper to seek the girl out, where she was photographed holding a doll with another woman she now called “mummie”. The monarch was assured she was happy and wrote that she was pleased to hear it.
More than 50 years on, Marcelle O’Brien has told the truth behind that photograph in which she was given the doll to briefly hold before being forced to give it back, saying she suffered abuse at the hands of the “sadistic” woman she called mother.
Speaking to the UK’s Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, Ms O’Brien, now 71 said she was told she was going to a “tea party” only to be ripped from her loving foster family.
“I got slapped around the head a lot, pushed in the back, put under a cold shower if they thought you weren’t doing good or locked in a cupboard with no lights or anything until they felt flit to let you out,” she said.
“[I was told] ‘you’re a bastard, you’re a bitch, you’re from the gutter, you’ve got nobody. You’ve got no parents. They’re all dead.”
Having travelled to London from Western Australia, Ms O’Brien told her story during 90 minutes of harrowing testimony on London’s Fleet Street.
Wearing a bight red beret and scarf, she spoke about being called a “guttersnipe” and “platypus” because of her big nose. She described the “cottage” style arrangement at Fairbridge Farm in Pinjarra and said children were made to clean all hours of the day with little time for school while being physically and mentally abused, forced to wear old clothes and kept in near starvation.
“We were never told anything about periods so it was a big shock when it did happen. And too bad if you bled heavily, you were only allowed one pad a day.
“When we went to high school we used to get shunned because you stunk. We couldn’t help it. We’d get chaffed. She used to check to make sure we needed another one. It was humiliating. She was a bitch.”
Later, she was molested, gang raped and forced into an unhappy marriage with an alcoholic. She said the experience has left her uncomfortable with men, manic depressive and led her to suffer a mental breakdown.
The harrowing testimony came on the first day of the UK inquiry that is similar to Australia’s Royal Commission and will examine the role of government and institutions and whether they knowingly placed children in dangerous situations.
Ms O’Brien is just one of an estimated 10,000 “child migrants” sent to mainly Commonwealth countries as a way of both populating the empire with “good white stock” and reducing the burden of caring for them on the UK state at the same time.
In many cases, mothers were unaware their children had been sent overseas. Ms O’Brien remained unaware until years later her foster mother had tried to get her back. She was told by the Fairbridge Society at the time that “uprooting” her back to the UK would be detrimental.
Another eyewitness, Peter Bagshawe, told the inquiry he was abused repeatedly in UK care homes before moved to Australia in 1963 and placed at the Pinjarra Fairbridge Farm where he was groomed for sex by a man 15 years older than him.
“I was told about riding horses, lots of sunshine, open spaces and being a farmer. It sounded better than my miserable life in Cornwall. I remember thinking, why not? I didn’t know it would mean I would never see my family again for decades,” he said.
One anonymous witness said he attended the same school between 1958 and 1963 and lived with the “sadistic, drunken, depravity of the cottage mother” where he suffered physical and sexual abuse.
“While the people and places were new, the bullying and violence was the same,” he said “Different people, different climate, same disregard for other people’s children.”
The witness said he was moved by an apology from the UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2010 which followed one made by then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in Australia, however justice for those who were abused while at their most vulnerable must follow.
“As preparation for life as a husband, a father and a friend, my childhood experiences have left me burdened and struggling at critical times and the cost is all too present in all of our lives,” he said.
“The scars of my childhood remain with me for life. The British government and the charities stole my childhood and left me instead with lifelong mistrust and loneliness.”
The inquiry continues.