9th MARCH 2017
A SCOT who was sexually abused after being forcibly transported to Australia almost 60 years ago is return to his homeland to expose the historic failures of the care system at the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry.
Melbourne-based grandfather Hugh McGowan, 68, spent three months travelling across the world as a vulnerable 13-year old after falling into state care when his mother’s family disowned her for becoming pregnant out of wedlock.
Initially the offer of a life in Australia appealed to the young teenager, but when he later changed his mind there was no way back.
“I was told – you’re going,” he said. “I later found out they had written a letter telling my mother [that I was emigrating] but it had never reached her. So they sent me without my mother’s approval.”
Mr McGowan was one of 4,000 child migrants who was sent to Australia and other Commonwealth countries from 1947 to the 1970s.
He claims to have faced indiscriminate sexual and physical abuse throughout his life in institutions but he never breathed a word to his loved ones for 40 years.
He spent his earliest days with his mother, the youngest of nine siblings, in The Knowe in Albert Road in Glasgow, a home for unwed mothers, and when they had to leave because of his age she could not manage to look after him without the support of her family, and he began 11 years in care.
“I never got to meet my mother,” he said.
Only a blurry memory persists: he as a tearful infant and a woman waving at him whom he thinks may be his mother.
It is understood Mr McGowan’s mother died aged 52.
After arriving in Australia, the 13-year-old was posted to the infamous Dhurringile Rural Training Farm for Boys in Tatura, Victoria.
He claims he again suffered sexual and psychological abuse, and was threatened by one abuser to keep quiet or facing being imprisoned in a detention centre.
For many years he bottled up the abuse, not telling anyone, even his wife.
The retired public service worker, who has two sons and three grandchildren, said: “While I had a good job and was not out of work very often, I struggled with relationships with colleagues because I didn’t know how to react with them. They found it difficult with me some of the time.”
Many victims of abuse, he said, have been unable to overcome the impact and have been engulfed by social problems, falling into addiction or struggling with mental health difficulties.
Mr McGowan came back from the edge after being plagued by with an addiction to alcohol.
He said: “That would have been me if it wasn’t for my family. They are my absolute reason for living.”
He added: “I do have a good life, but it was tough.”
Inquiry officials are to interview Mr McGowan this month over presenting his evidence to the inquiry.
“My intention is to attend the inquiry. The fact that they dispatched me to Australia when I didn’t want to go and that they didn’t have the approval from my mother, it’s not good at all. The British Government failed us. They (care workers) had good intentions, but they failed in their duties. I’m not particularly looking for compensation, but I do think it is appropriate. I think we need acknowledgement by the governments (UK and Australian), particularly the British Government, that what they did was completely wrong.”
Mr McGowan tells his story tonight in the BBC 2 programme Growing Up in Scotland: A Century of Childhood. http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/15143015.Scot_taken_from_mother__sent_to_Australia_and_abused_to_testify_at_inquiry/ https://archive.is/WqNk6
GROWING UP IN SCOTLAND SERIES http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08h4qb5
9 March 2017
Investigator Margaret Humphreys tells UK inquiry that slavery, abuse, identity theft and lies, were human rights violations
The deportation of thousands of British children to Australia, Canada and Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), created the most catastrophic child abuse legacy in living memory, the national inquiry into child sexual abuse has been told.
The author and social worker Margaret Humphreys, who exposed the scale and suffering of tens of thousands of British children taken from families under the child migrant scheme – a policy that relocated children to areas of the Commonwealth, from the 40s to the 70s – said the physical and sexual abuse, conditions of slavery and terror, removal of identities, and lies that suggested the youngsters’ parents were dead, amounted to a catalogue of crimes against the children.
The removal of the identity of each child, and the fact that the children were taken so far away from anyone they knew and told they were orphans, aided the abuse, Humphreys said.
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA ), in full public hearings, is investigating the sexual abuse of children who were removed from British institutions and families between 1947 and the 70s, and taken to Australia and Canada by various charities and churches, including Barnardos, the Fairbridge Society, and the Sisters of Nazareth.
The children, once abroad, were kept in farm schools, where they suffered brutality and sexual abuse, were used as slave labour and deprived of a proper education.
Humphreys, who set up the Child Migrants Trust in 1987 has done more than any other individual to expose the way British children were taken from families and deported. In the last 25 years she has reunited more than a 1,000 individuals with their families in the UK.
Humphries said deported British children suffered the “greatest betrayal” because they were told their parents were dead when they were not. When she began helping individuals to find their families she started by looking for death certificates.
Telling the children they were orphans, she said, took away all hope that anyone would come and get them, and stopped them asking questions.
Humphreys met one mother who told how she would visit her son every week in a children’s home in Liverpool. “She told me she went to see her child regularly every Saturday in the children’s home, she used to go with sweets. But on this particular Saturday she went and no children were there … someone told her they had gone to Australia.”
She found out they had left just one and a half hours before her arrival. She managed to get to Lime Street railway station as the train carrying the children was pulling away. “She ran on to the platform and saw the children on the train … she was screaming and crying, ‘get the children off, stop the train’. Her boy put his face to the window and shouted, ‘I’ll never forget you mum.’”
When Humphreys later traced other children who had been deported with the boy, they described seeing a woman running and screaming on the platform as the train pulled away. When the boy arrived in Australia he was told his mother had died in the war. But he knew that was wrong.
It took Humphreys and the Child Migrant trust a month to find the mother after the former child migrant, as an adult, turned to her for help.
“So all of those years, when he was growing up, when he was an adult, when he was getting married, having children, she was there all the time – but missing from his life.” The IICSA inquiry continues.
2nd MARCH 2017
1st MARCH 2017
- Number of CSA claims overwhelming police, says lead officer 28 Feb 2017 https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/feb/28/child-sexual-abuse-claims-overwhelming-police-says-lead-officer https://archive.is/uiLXe
- Child abuse victims call for public hearing to drive inquiry forward 25 Nov 2016 https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/nov/25/child-abuse-victims-urge-public-hearing-drive-inquiry-forward https://archive.is/FFgiz
- Former abuse inquiry lawyer calls for clarity on alleged sexual assault 24 Nov 2016 https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/nov/24/former-abuse-inquiry-lawyer-calls-for-clarity-on-alleged-sexual-assault https://archive.is/n4uUp
- 24 Nov 2016 https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/nov/24/let-child-abuse-inquiry-do-its-work-says-victim-chris-tuck https://archive.is/p9OVN