Conceptualising and categorising child abuse inquiries: from damage control to foregrounding survivor testimony [accepted manuscript]

Shurlee L. Swain, Australian Catholic University
Katie Wright
Johanna Skold

Abstract

Testimony before inquiries into out-of-home care that have taken place in many countries over the last twenty years has severely disrupted received ideas about the quality of care given to children in the past. Evidence of the widespread abuse of children presented before recent inquiries internationally gives rise to the question: why didn’t we know? Part of the answer lies in the changing forms and functions of inquiries, whose interests they serve, how they are organised and how they gather evidence. Using as a case study, a survey of historical abuse inquiries in Australia, this article explores the shift to victim and survivor testimony and in so doing offers a new way of conceptualising and categorising historical child abuse inquiries. It focuses less on how inquiries are constituted or governed, and instead advances an historically contextualised approach that foregrounds the issue of who speaks and who is heard.