Edinburgh child abuse victim was shipped to Australia after defending himself against orphanage worker who tried to sexually assault him

The victim told the inquiry that, until his teenage years, he had no knowledge his parents were alive...

Thursday, 5th December 2019, 1:06 pm
Updated Thursday, 5th December 2019, 1:30 pm

An Edinburgh child abuse victim who was in care from the age of one has said he was shipped to Australia after defending himself from a staff member at an orphanage who tried to sexually abuse him.

The witness, known as Gavin, told the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry he was sent to an Australian orphanage by the care home worker he kicked during an attempted sexual assault.

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Lady Smith, chair of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry. Pic: Nick Mailer.

Knowing Mr Smoothy had abused other boys at the orphanage when he tried to molest him, Gavin kicked him and fought him off. He was then beaten as punishment.

In his evidence, he described the Barnardo's worker as a "constant threat" and suggested he was chosen to sail to Australia for care because the culprit "wanted to get me out of there".

Gavin, speaking via video link from Australia, told the inquiry about the sexual advances and said: "I was already warned by my friend because Mr Smoothy had done things like that to him.

"I was prepared, I suppose, and I just kicked him - and that's when I got the cane again."

Sent to Australia

With the prospect of being sent to Australia - and at this point having no knowledge his parents were both alive in Scotland - Gavin said he was happy to make the trip.

"I said 'yes' because I wanted to get away from Mr Smoothy.

"I had this vision of riding horses to school and kangaroos jumping up and down the street. It was exciting."

His two best friends at the orphanage were not allowed to go to Australia, because one was black and Australia would only allow white people of European origin in at the time, while the other was known to wet his bed, even though Gavin sometimes did the same.

Reflecting on why he was the only one to be able to go, he said: "The fact that I wet the bed, if (the other boy) couldn't come, why could I?

"I thought Mr Smoothy wanted to get me out of there."

Gavin was sent from Edinburgh to London before sailing to Western Australia, where he spent the rest of his childhood in two large orphanages - Greenwood followed by Pictons.

At the former, Gavin recalls the staff hitting him repeatedly on his private parts with a cane, once involving six strikes because boys in the dormitory had a pillow fight.

'I thought I was an orphan'

Gavin also told the inquiry that, until his teenage years, he had no knowledge his parents were alive and said: "I concluded I was an orphan."

He later discovered he was born out of wedlock, his father had seven children from another marriage and he was given up as a baby.

Gavin wrote to his mother - who had since got married to another man and had three more children - after finding out she was alive but was told to stop contacting her.

"I sent her a letter and she didn't answer so I sent another which she replied to, to tell me not to write again," he said.

"I just surmised she hadn't told her husband about me."

Despite never seeing his mother again, Gavin made contact with his sister many years later and, in 2005, finally returned to visit Scotland.

"I went to my mum and found her grave, and that's the only time I had anything to do with her," he said.

A woman, known as Cath, explained how she went from Scotland to Australia as a child following the death of her father and brother.

During her time in care at Fairbridge, the girl was regularly chastised by her "cottage mother" for not speaking with a Scottish accent, leaving her anxious and "miserable as hell".

"I was too scared to open my mouth because I didn't speak English," Cath said.

Describing some of the abuse, she said she was told: "You're a stupid, stupid girl, why don't you speak English? No-one can understand you."

"I was walking on eggshells," she said, adding: "Within a fortnight I was scared to talk or go anywhere."

The inquiry, chaired by Lady Smith, continues.