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Tasmania - Event

Fact Finding Mission on Child Migration (1956)


The Fact Finding Mission on Child Migration, led by John Moss, a British child welfare expert, took place in Tasmania in February 1956. One of its purposes was to decide whether Britain would continue to support migrant children after May 1957, when the British Empire Settlement Act, which provided for their maintenance, ceased to operate.


John Moss, formerly of the Kent County Welfare Office, had served on the British Curtis Committee, which had investigated British out of home care in 1946. Moss was also a member of the British Central Training Council in Child Care. Later, he became an Assistant Under-Secretary of State in charge of the Children's Department of the Home Office.

Moss brought with him Miss CM Wansborough-Jones, Children's Officer at Essex County Council, Mr WG Garnett, the former Deputy-High Commissioner in Australia, and Mr RH Johnson, who acted as secretary.

In Tasmania, they inquired into the Big Brother Movement and visited Clarendon Children's Home, Boys' Town, and Hagley Farm School. They found that Boys' Town needed a more 'feminine influence' and that the boys needed to participate in more indoor games. The buildings and surroundings were 'very good'. The Mission did not criticise Clarendon.

Moss told a meeting in Canberra that he was especially concerned to report to the British government about the 'upbringing' of the children and to know whether they were 'adapting themselves to life and conditions in Australia'. He said that the Mission's brief was to 'collect facts, not to report on the desirability or otherwise of child migration'. He also told them that in Britain, large children's institutions were gradually being replaced with cottage homes and foster care, also known as boarding out. Children in foster care did the best. They were:

better balanced psychologically and emotionally than the child who was reared in an institution. It was believed that the foster home provided something more in the nature of normal family conditions, whereas the institutional child had to face considerable adjustment when he left the Home to make his own way in the world.

He suggested that in Australia it would be better if migrant children were placed in foster Homes. However, the Chairman of the meeting told him that:

some organisations would no doubt find it difficult to accept this principle since it would involve a radical alteration in the conduct of the Homes and the abandonment of long-cherished traditions.

Moss told the officials that Britain was sending fewer children to Australia since those placed in British foster homes because of neglect would eventually return to their families. Children living in institutions needed to remain in Britain to stay close to their relatives.

The itinerary and correspondence associated with the Fact Finding Mission's Visit are in the Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office.


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Prepared by: Caroline Evans