Irish orphans who were shipped to Australia in the 1950s were often painted black for the amusement of other passengers.
An inquiry into the historic institutional abuse in Northern Ireland has heard that children were transported to care homes in Australia without their consent. They often suffered abuse in both countries.
The Guardian reports the story of one orphan who was abused in the Termonbacca care home run by the Catholic Church in Derry.
The man, now in his 70s, gave evidence of what he and other orphans were subjected to during their journey to Australia. He said: “Our faces were painted black to make us look like [Indigenous Australians]”.
It was a humiliating ordeal for the orphans but was considered entertainment for paying passengers.
The abuse he suffered in Derry and Australia left him with lasting mental scars. 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.”
The public inquiry is investigating the treatment and possible abuse if children in state or church run homes. It is focusing on 130 orphans and other vulnerable youngsters who were sent to Australia between 1946 and 1956.
The inquiry has already heard from 66 former residents. Another witness said that the abuse got worse when he arrived in Australia and was moved to Bindoon care home. He said: “After Bindoon, Termonbacca turned out to be a holiday camp.”