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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.
This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Swain, S, Wright, K, Sköld, J. Conceptualising and Categorising Child Abuse Inquiries: From Damage Control to Foregrounding Survivor Testimony. J Hist Sociol. 2018; 31: 282– 296., which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions.


School of Arts

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Open Access Journal Article

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Open Access

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License