A public inquiry into historic institutional child abuse in Northern Ireland is to send a specialist team to Australia after almost 60 alleged victims or witnesses now living in the country made contact.
The probe has discovered that around 110 children were sent to Australia from residential facilities in Northern Ireland between 1947 and 1956 as part of a controversial UK government child migration policy.
Of the 355 people to come forward to the inquiry alleging abuse in institutions such as borstals and state or church-run children’s homes, 57 are from Australia – more than one in seven.
That is 10 more than the 47 people who have applied to engage with the investigation from Great Britain. There have been 224 applications from Northern Ireland and 17 from the Republic, with five from other countries and five incomplete forms.
The surge in contact from Australia follows February’s launch of a targeted outreach and awareness raising campaign in countries where many former residents were believed to have settled.
To assist the potential witnesses from the southern hemisphere in giving evidence, a team from the inquiry will fly to Australia next month.
The probe was set up by the Executive to investigate institutions run by the state and church and also those owned by the private sector or voluntary bodies from 1922 to 1995.
At least 35 institutions have been identified as sites of alleged abuse. These incorporate 15 state-run children’s homes, 13 institutions run by Catholic Church orders, four borstals or training schools and three institutions run by Protestant denominations or voluntary sector organisations.