Since the 1990s, across many countries, inquiries and truth commissions into various forms of historical abuse have proliferated. This has given rise to a new interdisciplinary field of scholarship, which seeks to elucidate complex questions in relation to the form, function and scope of inquiries and their potential to redress historical injustices and foster social transformation. However, despite a growing body of research, to date there exists no corpus of historical abuse inquiries globally and there remains limited delineation of the ways in which different types of inquiries may be classified.

Beginning with a focus on historical institutional child abuse inquiries, this pilot project – The Age of Inquiry: A Genealogy of Inquiries Into Historical Abuse, funded by the ‘Transforming Human Societies’ Research Focus Area (RFA), La Trobe University (2016–2017) – aims to map the rise of historical abuse inquiries internationally. It will develop a typology of inquiries and produce a database that will lay the foundation for a significant new online public knowledge resource. The project will make critical contributions to the fields of inquiry research and eScholarship and advance theorisation of historical child abuse inquiries in relation to local developments, transnational flows and international trends.

Project Team

Dr Katie Wright, La Trobe University (Lead Chief Investigator)
Professor Shurlee Swain, Australian Catholic University
Professor Johanna Sköld, Linköping University, Sweden


Katie Wright, Shurlee Swain, and Johanna Sköld, 2017. The age of inquiry: a global mapping of institutional abuse inquiries, La Trobe University, Melbourne: doi:

Katie Wright, Johanna Sköld, and Shurlee Swain. 2018, ‘Examining abusive pasts: reassessments of institutional violence and care through commissions of inquiry’, Traverse: Zeitschrift für Geschichte / Revue d’histoire, vol. 2018 no. 3, pp. 162-178.

Shurlee Swain, Katie Wright, and Johanna Sköld. 2018, ‘Conceptualising and categorising child abuse inquiries: from damage control to foregrounding survivor testimony‘, Journal of Historical Sociology, vol. 31, no. 3, pp. 282-296.

Select Presentations

Katie Wright. ‘The age of inquiry: lessons from international child abuse inquiries’, Mechanisms for dealing with the legacy of historical child abuse: international lessons for new approaches, Ulster University, Belfast, 21 September, 2018.

Katie Wright. ‘Remembering childhood and investigating past abuse in an age of historical abuse inquiries’, Keynote address, Placing children in care. Child Welfare in Switzerland (1940-1990). Olten, Switzerland, 5-6 October, 2017.

Katie Wright. Therapeutic authority, childhood trauma, and historical abuse inquiries’, Tema Barn, Child Studies, Linköping University, Sweden, 3 October, 2017.

Katie Wright. ‘Why all the royal commissions? The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse’, National School of Arts, Australian Catholic University, 24 October, 2016.

Katie Wright. ‘Public inquiries and the common good’. Presentation to the Transforming Societies, Sustainability and Social Justice Research Cluster, La Trobe University, 16 August, 2016

Katie Wright. ‘Remembering difficult childhoods: historical abuse and public inquiries’. The Social, Biological and the Material Child, 6th International Conference of the Centre for the Study of Childhood and Youth (CSCY), 5-7 July, 2016.

Katie Wright. ‘The age of inquiry: mapping historical abuse inquiries for an online public knowledge resource’. Transforming Human Societies Digital Methodologies Forum, La Trobe University, 2 June, 2016.