The Overseas League was founded in 1910 to foster good will within the British Empire. The first Tasmanian branch formed in 1948 in Launceston with the specific aim of bringing British child migrants to the state. They do not appear to have done so. In 2014, the League is known as the Royal Overseas League.
Sir Evelyn Wrench founded the Overseas League in London in 1910.
Following a visit by the Secretary of the League, David Kinloch, a branch formed in Launceston on 8 June 1948 and in Hobart on 2 July 1948.
According to documents held by the Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office, the League aimed to promote good will between people in Britain and the British Commonwealth, to foster an interest in its issues, and to demonstrate that: 'our British heritage of freedom, justice, order and good government is the affair of every member of our far-flung Empire'. The League believed that the Empire was under threat from communism and needed protection:
The need for the spreading and encouragement of the British way of life has never been more apparent than it is today, and how better can you combat the subversive interests which would destroy our heritage than by joining an Empire society.
The League envisaged bringing British child migrants aged between 5 and 17 to Tasmania and the rest of Australia. Some would have been evacuees who had returned to Britain. The children would not come from institutions. Instead they would be surrendered by their parents or guardians. Most would come from single parent families that could not cope financially.
The migration scheme would be similar to one that the League had started in New Zealand. Children would be placed with foster parents and the Secretary of the Social Services Department would have guardianship of them. The Department would also carry out checks. Foster parents would apply to the League who would select them and then inform the Tasmanian Government Tourist and Immigration Department. Adoption at some stage was a possibility.
The League intended the children to help strengthen ties between Australia and Britain. Kinloch told a Launceston audience in 1948 that they would be 'young enough to make "good Aussies", yet old enough to retain their ties at home'.
The government wanted an approved institution for the children to be run by the League in case foster placements did not work out. State welfare departments were afraid that, without an institution, they would have to support these children. The League said that, with careful selection of children, this would not be a problem. It apparently spoke from experience as it had been sending children to Australia 'over the years'.
It is not clear from the records at the Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office or from a Trove newspaper search that the League's post World War Two scheme ever got started.
In 2014, the League's Royal Charter requires it to encourage the arts, especially among young people living in British Commonwealth countries.
Sources used to compile this entry: 'Child migrants as aid to Empire unity', The Mercury (Hobart), 2 June 1948, p. 6, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article26461898; 'Child migration proposal', Advocate (Burnie), 14 February 1950, p. 3, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article69214778; 'Scheme for child migration', Examiner (Launceston), 14 April 1950, p. 4, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article52713345.
Prepared by: Caroline Evans
Created: 23 January 2014, Last modified: 19 March 2014