British girls at an Australian orphanage told a visiting archbishop they were being beaten by its mother superior, the Independent Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) has heard.
An anonymous witness told the inquiry the girls were “thrashed” with a chair leg after telling the then Archbishop of Adelaide Matthew Beovitch.
The former child migrant said “she was beaten into submission” by the time she left Goodwood Orphanage near Adelaide.
She was sent to Australia in 1949.
She was one of thousands of children moved from the UK to Australia after World War Two.
On the fifth day of the IICSA public hearing, the witness gave evidence that during her time at the orphanage, the institution was visited by the Archbishop of Adelaide.
The girls had been told that if asked whether they were happy, they should say that they were.
However the British girls “got together” and decided to tell the truth.
The inquiry heard that when he asked they said “mother superior beats us all the time with her strap”.
He said “is this correct?” to the mother superior and they shouted “she’s got the strap in her pocket”.
The archbishop demanded the strap, asked the nun to promise she would not hit the girls and then asked “are you happy now children?”
The inquiry has not discussed whether further action was taken.
But after telling the archbishop, the girls were “thrashed” with a wooden chair leg by the mother superior. The witness said she was unable to sit down for a week after the incident.
A key area of this inquiry will be what the institutions involved in child migration knew about the mistreatment of the children they were responsible for the care of.
This week, the inquiry has heard harrowing evidence of sexual and physical abuse, none of which was reported to the police.
Friday’s witness also described being sexually abused by a man in the cabin of the ship that was transporting her to Australia.
By contrast with the institutions, the captain of the vessel took the girl through its decks looking for the man, who she identified carrying a tray in the dining room.
The inquiry will be given further evidence about what action was taken.