Northern Ireland

Historical Abuse Inquiry: Second visit to Australia

Sir Anthony Hart at HIA press conference
Image caption The HIA inquiry was formally set up in May 2012 and is chaired by retired judge Sir Anthony Hart

A team from Northern Ireland's Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry will visit Australia for a second time to talk to more potential witnesses.

The inquiry was set up to examine the extent of child abuse in the Catholic church and state-run institutions.

About 70 witnesses have so far given evidence in public hearings that began earlier this year.

Last September, the team met 30 out of the 65 people in Australia who applied to speak to the inquiry.

The lawyers, support staff and panel members will hold interviews in Perth and Melbourne with the rest of those who still want to engage with the biggest child abuse public inquiry ever held in the UK.

The interviews are due to begin on 29 May.

Documentation examined by the inquiry has revealed that between 1946 and 1956, at least 129 children were sent from institutions in Northern Ireland to institutions primarily in Western Australia as part of the UK government's child migration policy.

The Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIA) inquiry was first announced in 2010 and was formally set up by Northern Ireland's first and deputy first ministers on 31 May 2012.

Its aim is to establish if there were "systemic failings by institutions or the state in their duties towards those children in their care".

Campaign for justice

It will also determine if victims should receive an apology and compensation.

The inquiry was established as a result of a campaign for justice, which gathered momentum in 2009 following the damning findings of a similar institutional abuse inquiry in the Republic of Ireland.

The first phase of public hearings have focused on St Joseph's Home, Termonbacca, and Nazareth House children's home, both in Londonderry.

The inquiry's chairman, Sir Anthony Hart, said these hearings were expected to be completed "at the latest by early June".

He said the inquiry involved a "great deal of preparatory work", and the visit to Australia was a major part of the second phase of hearings that would begin in September.

While some applicants will speak to the inquiry's acknowledgement forum that records the experiences of people who claim they were abused, Sir Anthony said a "significant number" had to be seen by the inquiry team.

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