10 Mar 2017

UK inquiry hears children sent to NZ were mistreated

8:41 am on 10 March 2017

Britain's public inquiry into historical child sex abuse has heard claims children sent to New Zealand were mistreated.

Thousands of children were sent from the UK to New Zealand, Australia and other parts of the former British Empire from the 1920s to 1974.

Child Migrant Trust founder Dr Margaret Humphreys

Dr Margaret Humphreys, founder of the Child Migrant Trust, giving evidence to the inquiry. Photo: Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

The child abuse inquiry began public hearings last month and has begun by investigating the abuse of children sent to Australia.

But Margaret Humphreys, who set up a trust to support former child migrants, told the inquiry she also had concerns about the way children were treated in New Zealand and other countries.

The inquiry heard 549 children were sent to New Zealand between 1948 and 1954.

Dr Humphreys said the children were generally put in foster care, rather than into big institutions such as the farm schools British children were sent to in Western Australia.

But some were ill-treated, and were moved around to many different foster homes.

Former child migrants described harsh labour conditions, working 18 hours a day, and one said they did not get medical treatment they needed, the inquiry heard.

The migration scheme to New Zealand ended earlier than the one for Australia. Between 7000 and 10,000 children were moved to Australia after WWII.

In 2009, the Australian government apologised for the cruelty shown to the child migrants.

Britain also made an apology in 2010. The apology contained no specific mention of sexual abuse.

The first phase of Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) is looking at the way organisations have protected children outside the UK.

The long-awaited inquiry was set up after the death of Jimmy Savile in 2011 when hundreds of people came forward to say he had abused them as children. It started after a number of delays due to the resignation of several of its chairs, including the New Zealand judge Dame Lowell Goddard.