Tresca, run by the Fairbridge Society, opened in Exeter in 1958. It was a Home for child migrants, most of whom arrived under the parent following scheme. Tresca closed in 1976.
Tresca, built between 1909 and 1911 by Eric Reed, was one of the first and most substantial houses in the West Tamar area. Reed established an orchard and farm there. It became a meeting place for local groups such as the Masonic Lodge, the Country Women's Association, the local drama club, and music society. The Department of Education bought it after World War Two and established an area school on part of the property.
Tresca was officially opened as a Home for child migrants by the Governor, Sir Ronald Cross, in March 1958. The first five boys were already in residence. They had arrived before preparations at Tresca were complete and stayed on the estate at Beaufront, Ross, for two weeks. The owner, Sir Donald von Bibra, was a leading member of the Fairbridge Society and the Big Brother Movement.
The Fairbridge Society had established Tresca because the flow of child migrants to Australia had begun to slow. The parent following scheme, by which the child or children came first and the parent, usually a single mother, arrived later, was a way of increasing their numbers. Tresca was the only institution in Tasmania to be formed solely for child migrants.
Tresca was run by a British couple, Harry and Lily Richmond. The couple maintained Reed's tradition of using Tresca as a meeting place for local groups and the first Carols by Candlelight in Exeter was held on the verandah. In her article about child migration to Tasmania, Laura Williams writes that the home had a 'bright, cheerful colour scheme'. Some local people apparently thought that the surroundings were too good for children they considered to be 'delinquent'.
In 1959, when the Commonwealth government decided that the children should be handed over to their parents as soon as they arrived, a dispute occurred. The Society wanted to decide when to release the children. In May, it refused to return children to two mothers. The government eventually agreed to a contractual agreement whereby the children remained in the home for three months after their parents' arrival. Parents could also make a verbal agreement for another 18 to 24 months.
In 1960, the British Home Office decided that the parent following scheme could only continue if the parents and children travelled to Australia together. The separation would take place after they arrived. The Australian legislation did not deal with this situation. This meant that the Fairbridge Society was not answerable to the government, a particular problem because of their reluctance to release children. They appear to have relaxed over this issue in the mid 1960s. The first family arrived in 1961. Most children arriving after that came with their parents.
Historians of child migration mostly agree that the last child arrived in Australia in 1967. However, Tresca accepted five unaccompanied children in 1970. It closed in 1976, the same year that the Commonwealth government decided to phase out the assisted passage which most of the parents used. A total of 67 children went to Tresca, 13 of them unaccompanied. The rest migrated with their parents or were reunited with them under the parent following scheme.
In 1991 with the approval of the President of the Fairbridge Drake Society, London, the Tasmanian records of the society were deposited in the Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office.
In 2013, Tresca is used as a community centre.
In 2021, the Commonwealth and Tasmanian 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: Coldrey, Barry, Good British stock: child and youth migration to Australia, National Archives of Australia, 1999, https://www.naa.gov.au/help-your-research/research-guides/good-british-stock-child-and-youth-migration-australia; Ombudsman Tasmania, Review of claims of abuse from adults in state care as children - Final Report - Phase 2, June 2006. Also available at https://stors.tas.gov.au/au-7-0057-00034; Williams, Laura, 'Good British stock: British child migration to Tasmania after 1945', Tasmanian Historical Studies, vol. 5, no. 1, 1995/6, pp. 155-177.
Prepared by: Caroline Evans
Created: 18 January 2011, Last modified: 5 November 2021