N Ireland children shipped to Australia painted black 'for entertainment'

By Henry McDonald

September 9, 2014

Children abused in Northern Ireland's children's homes and orphanages who were shipped to Australia were painted black in order to entertain passengers on their voyages, a victim told an inquiry on Tuesday.

A former child migrant who was transported from a care home in Derry to western Australia revealed at the historical institutional abuse inquiry that "our faces were painted black to make us look like [Indigenous Australians]" as part of on board "entertainment" for paying passengers.

The man is now in his 70s and asked for anonymity when he gave evidence to the inquiry at Banbridge courthouse in County Down. He had to wipe away tears as he described the humiliation on board the ship and later the abuse he suffered in an Australian care home. After being abused in the Termonbacca care home run by the Catholic church in Derry he was sent to Australia in 1953. 

Describing the impact of the abuse both in the Derry home and later in Australia, he said: "I had no idea how to parent my children, or even how to cuddle and love them. I really don't know what love is."

Another witness to the long-running tribunal into decades of abuse in the region's care homes and orphanages told the courthouse that the abuse he had endured in the Bindoon home in Australia was even worse than what he had suffered in Termonbacca. The ex-Australian Air Force recruit said: "After Bindoon, Termonbacca turned out to be a holiday camp." 

This part of the largest public investigation into the abuse of children in state- and church-run homes is focusing on the treatment of 130 orphans and young people in care who were sent to Australia between 1946 and 1956. 

Sixty-six former residents of these institutions have given evidence of how they were transported across the world without their consent. Many of those who have come forward will give evidence via video link over what happened to them under the scheme.

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