Drapers' Hall was established at Crafers in 1962 by the Fairbridge Society Incorporated. It accommodated children from Britain between the ages of 6 to 16 who had been brought to Australia as part of the Fairbridge Family Migration scheme. Up to 20 children lived at Drapers' Hall at one time. Drapers' Hall closed in 1981 and became a respite care facility for people with an intellectually disability known as the Crafers Community Unit.
In 1962 the Fairbridge Society, which had been operating farms and institutions for migrant children in other states for decades, opened its last institution at a property on Fairview Road, Crafers, formerly known as 'Craig-ard'. It was renamed Drapers' Hall in recognition of the Drapers' Company of London who funded the Society's purchase of the property. The oldest portion of the building dated from 1874, and consisted of six rooms. An additional nine rooms had been added by later owners.
Drapers' Hall catered solely for children who came to Australia as part of Fairbridge's Family Migration scheme. As these children were accompanied by one or more parent on the journey from England they are often not considered part of the history of Child Migration. However, these children were separated from their parents immediately upon arrival and spent months or sometimes years in the Drapers' Hall institution before being reunited with their parents.
The Hall accommodated up to 20 children at a time and over the course of its existence housed more than 200 children. Children were generally between the ages of 6 and 16, however, the 1971 Fairbridge Society Annual Report lists the youngest child to 'join them' that year was a boy of only 4 years of age.
Primary aged children attended Crafers Primary School and secondary children went to Heathfield High School . The Hall provided accommodation for eligible children for as long as required. In the late 1960s and 1970s admission was arranged directly through the Warden of the Hall or through the South Australian Secretary of the Fairbridge Society.
Drapers' Hall closed in 1981 and became a respite care facility, known as the Crafers Community Unit, run by the Strathmont Centre for people with an intellectual disability. In the late 1980s the building was sold and became a private home.
In 2021, the Commonwealth and South Australian governments have agreed to be a funder of last resort for this institution. This means that although the institution is now defunct, it is participating in the National Redress Scheme, and the government has agreed to pay the institution's share of costs of providing redress to a person (as long as the government is found to be equally responsible for the abuse a person experienced).
Sources used to compile this entry: The Fairbridge Society Annual Report 1970, The Fairbridge Society, 1970; 'Health Commission Proposal for 'Drapers Hall'', The Courier (Mount Barker, South Australia), 11 March 1981; 'History under the Hammer', The Courier (Mount Barker, South Australia), 24 June 1987; George, Karen, Finding your own way, Nunkuwarrin Yunti of South Australia Inc., 2005, http://nunku.org.au/resources/; Grant, Elspeth, 'Latecomers: The Fairbridge Society in South Australia', History Australia: journal of the Australian Historical Association, vol. 9, no. 2, 2012, pp. 48-68; The Fairbridge Society, The Fairbridge Society 1909-1971, Fairbridge Society Incorporated, London, 1971; The Fairbridge Society Annual Report, 1970.
Prepared by: Gary George and Karen George
Created: 16 February 2011, Last modified: 7 December 2021