Forced child migrants and survivors of abuse at Christian Brothers-run residences in Western Australia say a royal commission will give them a measure of release and justice.
“My life was just getting belted. And to me I thought that was normal. It wasn’t a good life, it should have been a good life,” survivor Joe Isherwood told SBS.
“I think people [who are] willing and able should be compensated somehow or other for what’s occurred.”
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse opens at the Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission in Perth on Monday.
“We want to see justice – justice is the end word,” said Tony Costa, who as a child was sent to Bindoon Boys Town in 1953.
“We don’t want the next generation to suffer as we did 60 years ago.”
Mr Costa, a spokesman for the International Association of Former Child Migrants, said he was still angry more than 60 years after he was separated from his family.
“One is angry but as the years go on it’s like a wine – you mature,” he said.
“You have to get on with life. Some poor beggars, some of my fellow survivors, have fallen along the way be it through broken marriages, alcoholism, drugs and so on.
“But each and every one of them has a story to tell and so I don’t want to judge anybody harshly.”
Monday’s hearings are the 11th case study by the royal commission examining how Australian institutions responded to child sexual abuse.
The Perth inquiry will investigate the responses of the Christian Brothers and relevant Western Australian State authorities to the abuse allegations at the residences.
It will also look at the experience of people who went through the Catholic Church’s Towards Healing process, Redress WA, civil action and/or directly to the Christian Brothers for compensation or assistance.
Archbishop Timothy Costelloe of the Archdiocese of Perth last week wrote an open letter in which he reiterated his full support for the work of the commission.
In his letter he expressed “horror and deep shame” at what happened and asked forgiveness from those whose lives which had been badly damaged.
Mr Costa said victims had received apologies before by the British government and other institutions.
“How do you right the wrongs of 60 years ago?” he asked. “Words are cheap.”
Care Leavers Australia Network (CLAN) spokeswoman Carolyn Frawley said the royal commission ensures everyone will hear about what people suffered.
“With the royal commission everyone is hearing about it now,” she said. “We’re not down in the back blocks.”
Ms Frawley said she wanted laws changed to allow for a longer statute of limitations on child sexual abuse.
“For us, it’s a release,” she said. “When you’re abused as a child it lasts with you forever. Believe me, there are some people who are so angry they can’t see the daylight.”