“Abuse inquiry: Australian orphanage was ‘feast of kids'” & related articles

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BBC News

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



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.”

Marcelle O'Brien never knew she was the subject of a royal intervention but the her case made headlines in Australia.

Marcelle O’Brien never knew she was the subject of a royal intervention but the her case made headlines in Australia.   Source:Supplied

Marcelle O'Brien said she was mentally and physically abused at Fairbridge Farm School in WA.

Marcelle O’Brien said she was mentally and physically abused at Fairbridge Farm School in WA.     Source:Supplied

A letter from one of the former Queen’s ladies in waiting in 1951 asking if Marcelle could be brought back to the UK.

A letter from one of the former Queen’s ladies in waiting in 1951 asking if Marcelle could be brought back to the UK.  Source:Supplied

Child migrants picking peas at another school run by the Fairbridge Society in NSW in 1950s. Pic National Archives of Australia.

Child migrants picking peas at another school run by the Fairbridge Society in NSW in 1950s. Pic National Archives of Australia.Source:Supplied

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.

Despite working and living on a dairy farm, children at Fairbridge Farm where kept starving, witnessed told the UK inquiry into sexual abuse. Picture: From "On their Own — Britain's Child Migrants" an Australian National Maritime Museum

Despite working and living on a dairy farm, children at Fairbridge Farm where kept starving, witnessed told the UK inquiry into sexual abuse. Picture: From “On their Own — Britain’s Child Migrants” an Australian National Maritime Museum   Source:Supplied

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.

14 Responses to “Abuse inquiry: Australian orphanage was ‘feast of kids'” & related articles

  1. Geenda says:

    Beyond disgusting.. but not too different from the stories at mount cashel. I recall a man who wrote to me as a government official, the details were part of his application for a federal benefit. Without giving away too much, he described being subject to horrendous sexual and physical abuse by the Christian brothers while a very young child. He waited for the day the Bishop came to visit, and he managed to tell him his story. Later he was called to meet the Bishop, who beat and sexually assaulted him too. He was a broken man, I never forgot that story so similar to my own. I DESPISE what the Church has done in the name of Catholicism, and the recent stories of County Galway the home for unwed mothers and orphans, and the 800 children buried there, is no surprise to me! Those nuns like the priests, were vile horrible women devoid of any human love or compassion. What surprises me the most is the lack of outrage and action by the church.

  2. Mike Fitzgerald says:

    Glenda – it IS so discouraging. It’s all about money, power, and political influence.
    What is hidden really, is the fact that the vast majority of clergy are good, holy people. Their lack of good, Christian leadership from their superiors is what is blatantly transparent! Mike.

    • JoeB says:

      I struggle with the idea that the majority of clergy are good holy people. I have known 6 priests in my lifetime…… 1 sexually abused me, 3 covered up for him, 1 was accused of being involved in a large theft of money from his parish, and yet another has recently been sentenced for sex crimes against children(this one I am related too). I am really starting to doubt that there are any good ones at all!

      • Lina says:

        The majority of clergy are good and holy men who are not allowed or afraid to speak up.

        If there is a majority of these clergy why don’t they get together and organized themselves.

        You would think there would be strength in numbers when facing the Bishop.

        It’s more likely it’s a few good priests who do not have the backing of the majority of their brother priests.

  3. Mike Fitzgerald says:

    I can understand your feelings, Joe. Like I said earlier in a post, I was there (as you are) about 5 years ago. At that time I was convinced , in my anger, that ALL priests were criminal perverts.
    I was wrong! Since that time, I have sincerely attempted to re-kindle and re-claim my old faith. I have received help from an old friend (a priest) and have spoken to several others who are the good guys.
    What’s happening here is the majority of the good and holy men in the priesthood are not allowed (or afraid) to speak up. Remember, obedience to the bishop is “de rigour” and if he says shut up, you shut up!!!
    Don’t get me wrong here, I still have a box-car full of anger and resentment over my abuse by a priest. I have chosen not to target the entire church with my anger; I chose instead to pressure the “bosses” and others who have enabled and encouraged this criminal deviancy to go on for hundreds of years.
    It’s high time they were stopped! Our judiciary has shown that they are somewhat unwilling/unable to mete out appropriate sentences to these criminals – they raped the souls of hundreds, if not thousands of young persons over the years, and in the end all they get is Pope Francis’ “mercy” and a slap on the wrist because they are now old and feeble!
    Write your bishop, and do not hold back. As long as you speak or write the truth, you should not feel any guilt or shame. Just don’t be surprised if you do NOT get a response. Mike.

  4. Mike Fitzgerald says:

    Good possibility, Lina! Mike.

    • Lina says:

      I recall certain actions of priests towards me during the year 2012 or so.

      It’s not that I disrupted Mass by carrying a sign saying: ‘Justice for Clergy Abuse Victims’
      I got a hold of the microphone saying: ‘What do think of our Monsignor Borne now?’. No, I didn’t do that.

      I took the advice of a priest from another parish by putting a few pennies (pennies were plentiful back then) in the church envelope protesting the way the Pembroke Diocese were not dealing fairly with clergy abuse victims.
      I also added the priest’s name who gave me the idea of the coins.
      (both priests knew each other)

      Why the extreme reactions?

      My instincts tells me these priests reacted strongly towards me because they knew there were more clergy like Bernard Prince and Robert Borne around.

      That’s the reason for the OVER THE TOP reactions, Mike.

      • John Franklin says:

        I know that teachers who have been later convicted of abuse were never in the habit of sharing their crimes with other teachers. People who do such dark stuff want no one to know about it.

        I would not assume that other priests knew a thing, unless they worked closely with the bishop in some capacity.

        • Lina says:

          I can only bring my own personal experiences, observations which includes listening to those who shared their pain and suffering they endured at the hands of degenerate clergy.

          Is there a margin for error on my part? Sure…as for the overall view, I’m right.

          I’m a better judge of me after all long period of time than anybody else because of my extensive in depth examination of conscience.

          As for teachers by all means they did the crimes against the innocent then justice should be served.

          It’s a safe bet a teacher caught would NOT be shipped to another school and continue to teach.

  5. rachaeloreilly says:

    The Roman Catholic Church must be viewed and treated as a criminal organisation. Why have public prosecutors failed to bring to justice those prelates and religious superiors responsible for permitting such heinous crimes against children and vulnerable children to be committed?

    Britain’s own commission into child abuse by institutions and others will take years to complete its work. Will prosecutors then take the lead and respond to its findings or will they hope for those involved to die and fade away- a form of establishment cover up? We only have to look at the likes of Greville Janner, Cyril Smith, Clement Freud and other politicians in Britain who were permitted to commit their crimes and die without ever facing prosecution.

    • MS says:

      My guess is because the government and inspectors, prosecutors and police are part of the cover-up. Bribes, money, threats….they work… if adults don’t see the abuse of children as a crime, then it is covered up. In my day – the 1950s to the 1980s, even incest was happening all the time, so there was sort of a silent deal. Children were powerless. No one spoke out for fear of something worse happening. I am still amazed how so many, as adults, have spoken out to try and have these criminals brought to justice. When priests cover up for their “brotherhood” they are somewhat guilty even if their hands never touched a child.

      • Geenda says:

        It is a crime under Canadian Federal Statute to knowingly not report a crime, and covering up for someone who you KNOW committed a crime, is a more serious offence. The Child and Family Services Act also compels a person to report a crime specifically as it relates to a child. Priests who cover up are NOT men of the cloth they are not holy, decent men, they are co conspirators and should be charged as such.

      • JoeB says:

        I think faith plays a big part of it with the authorities ……… how do you arrest a priest if you think they can do no wrong?

  6. Mike Fitzgerald says:

    Lina – you’re not over the top at all! You are calling a “spade a spade”, and that is what is so desperately needed right now! Thank you. Mike.

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