Nuns changed child migrant’s name

The name of a child migrant was changed by nuns before he sailed from Northern Ireland to Australia in an effort to ensure he could not be traced, a public inquiry has heard.


Seasick children vomited from the decks and cried on their way to a new identity and life in a country they knew nothing about.

One nun said: “I hope that ship sinks on the way out there as punishment for misbehaving.”

Once they arrived some children were subjected to sexual and physical abuse by members of the Christian Brothers Catholic religious order at Clontarf in Western Australia, the inquiry has heard.

The decision to change the name of one child was signed by a senior nun (mother superior) in Northern Ireland on behalf of the Catholic Council for Child Welfare, the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry was told on Tuesday.

He was told not to change it back when he arrived in Australia following the month-long passage from Northern Ireland. A witness statement said he was never asked did he want to go.

“I had no idea where Australia was, my mother was never told about going there.”

The nuns fitted him out with clothes for the trip.

“The last thing they did was change my name.

“I think they wanted to ensure I could not be traced.”

Some participants in the child migration scheme were told they were going on holiday and had no idea how far it was.

A boy said he had no chance to say goodbye to his father and was one of eight in a cabin, spending most of the time below deck, with passengers often going up only to be sick.

When he arrived in Fremantle he asked a nun when he would be going home.

“She hit me a clout over the ear.

“We did not realise how far Australia was from Ireland. We did not at any stage realise that we would not be going home.

“We were just orphans in their view and had to do what we were told.”

The inquiry’s public hearings run for three weeks.