Some people may find content on this website distressing. Read more
Western Australia - Event

Child and Youth Migration to Western Australia (1913 - 1968)

  • Departures from Britain and Malta Slideshow

    Departures from Britain and Malta Slideshow, 1940s - 1950s
    Details

From
1913
To
1968
Categories
Policy

Children and young people under the age of 21 have been sent to Australia as unaccompanied child migrants since the 1800s. Western Australia was the major destination for post-World War II child migrants to Australia, with 48 per cent of the children from Britain and Malta coming to the State. The Commonwealth Immigration (Guardianship of Children) Act 1946 made the Commonwealth Minister for Immigration the child migrants' legal guardian. This guardianship power was delegated to the relevant state-based organisations. British, Maltese and State Governments subsidised the program financially.

Details

The British Child Migration Scheme to the British Empire lasted 350 years with the final group of children departing for Australia in 1967. British religious and benevolent institutions saw emigration as a means of creating opportunities for abandoned children, many of whom had been placed in institutions because they were 'illegitimate'. To be categorised as an orphan was deemed to be preferable to that of illegitimacy.

After World War II the concept of rescuing 'war babies' and underprivileged children from orphanages in war-torn Britain and offering them a new life in Australia was consistent with the broader immigration program. The belief was that children would be more adaptable and better able to be 'assimilated' into the Australian community.

The Western Australian Department for Family and Children's Services defined 'child migrant' in the context of Western Australia as children between the ages of 8 and 13 from the United Kingdom and Malta who were sent to that state between 1913 and 1968. Juvenile and or youth migrants were typically young men aged 15-19 years of age. They came without parents and had no family ties in Australia.

Unaccompanied child migrants came to Western Australia from the 1830s under various schemes. The Fairbridge Society was however, the first government-assisted scheme, with the first group of 13 child migrants arriving in 1913. World War One slowed the the expansion of the Fairbridge project and child migration was halted temporarily. It resumed in 1920.

In 1922 the Empire Settlement Act made financial provision for child migrants. By 1922 the Catholic Church became involved in child migration. The Christian Brothers established a farm school at Tardun and brought the first boys there in 1937. Between 1938 and 1939, the Christian Brothers brought 114 boys to their orphanages in Western Australia.

Prior to World War II it has been estimated that 1,290 child migrants were sent to Western Australia, and of these, 1,174 went to Fairbridge. Immigration ceased with the outbreak of World War II.

The Fairbridge Society, the Catholic Church, the Church of England and the Methodist Church played major roles in post-war child migration to Western Australia. In 1947, the first post-war child migrants (nearly 500) were sent to Australia, most of them (over 300) received by the Christian Brothers in Western Australia. The Christian Brothers cared for children sent by UK Catholic agencies together with 300 Maltese child migrants. This order operated four institutions that received child migrants; Tardun, Bindoon, Clontarf and Castledare. Throughout the years of Catholic child migration, the Christian Brothers received approximately 1140 children.

The Church of England Society arranged for the emigration of 273 children to Swanleigh. Fairbridge received 346 post war child migrants. Eight children emigrated to the Methodist Home, Mofflyn. From 1947-1950 Catholic women's religious orders, the Sisters of Mercy and the Sisters of Nazareth, entered the field of child migration. Child migrants were initially sent to one of ten receiving agencies. They were Nazareth House (96), St Joseph's Leederville, (110), St Vincent's (30), Tardun (220), Bindoon,(224), Castledare (250), Clontarf (190), Mofflyn (8), Swanleigh (273) and Fairbridge (1, 520). In total 1,651 children emigrated under the post-war child migrant schemes.

Allegations of abuse suffered by people who were sent to Australia under child migration schemes were publicised in WA newspapers almost 30 years before campaigns to redress this began in earnest. In August 1967, The Western Mail weekend edition ran a three-page article on complaints of physical, sexual and emotional abuse experienced at Fairbridge Farm School Pinjarra, Bindoon, and Nazareth House. The issues were discussed in Letters to the Editor in the following week.

Related Events

Related Organisations

Publications

Books

  • Bean, Philip and Melville, Joy, Lost Children of the Empire, Unwin Hyman, London, 1990. Details
  • Coldrey, Barry M., The Scheme: the Christian Brothers and Childcare in Western Australia, Argyle-Pacific Pub., O'Connor, W.A., 1993. Details
  • Gill, Alan, Orphans of the empire : the shocking story of child migration to Australia, Millenium Books, Alexandria, NSW, 1997. Details
  • Hawkins, John Patrick, The bush orphanage : recollections of a British child migrant and the truth about Australia's human trafficking past, Jolo, Docklands, Victoria, 2009. Details
  • Humphreys, Laurie, A Chip off What Block?, Laurie Humphreys, Samson, Western Australia, 2007. Details
  • Plowman, David, Enduring Struggle, Scholastic Press Australia, Broadway, Nedlands, Western Australia, 2003. Details
  • Sherington, Geoffrey and Jeffery, Chris, Fairbridge : Empire and child migration, University of Western Australia Press, Nedlands, Western Australia, 1998. Details
  • Taylor, Robert Bernard, Who am I?, Chargan My Book Publisher, Perth, Western Australia, 2011. Details
  • Wagner, Gillian, Children of the Empire, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1982. Details
  • Welsh, Lionel P, Geordie: orphan of the empire, P&B Press, Perth, 1990. Details

Journals

  • Catholic Church, Archdiocese of Perth (ed.), The Record, 1874-. The Catholic newspaper ‘The Record’ has many articles about the Catholic Migration Scheme. Details

Newspaper Articles

  • 'Bob breaks silence on sad Bindoon past', Community Newspaper Group, 2 June 2011. Details

Online Resources

Photos

Departures from Britain and Malta Slideshow
Title
Departures from Britain and Malta Slideshow
Type
Video
Date
1940s - 1950s

Details

Child Migrants at Bindoon
Title
Child Migrants at Bindoon
Type
Image
Date
1944
Place
Western Australia

Details

Group of Child Migrants at Bindoon
Title
Group of Child Migrants at Bindoon
Type
Image
Date
1947
Place
Western Australia

Details

Seven Child Migrants from Britain, Bindoon
Title
Seven Child Migrants from Britain, Bindoon
Type
Image
Date
1948
Place
Western Australia

Details

British Child Migrants, Bindoon
Title
British Child Migrants, Bindoon
Type
Image
Date
1948
Place
Western Australia

Details

005071D: Migrant Girls at Home in Victoria Park, 1950
Title
005071D: Migrant Girls at Home in Victoria Park, 1950
Type
Image
Date
1950
Publisher
State Library of Western Australia

Details

005070D: Child Migrants at Home in Victoria Park, 1950
Title
005070D: Child Migrants at Home in Victoria Park, 1950
Type
Image
Date
1950
Publisher
State Library of Western Australia

Details

005064D: Child migrants on the Asturius, 1950
Title
005064D: Child migrants on the Asturius, 1950
Type
Image
Date
October 1950
Publisher
State Library of Western Australia

Details

005079D: Man talking to a group of children, 1950
Title
005079D: Man talking to a group of children, 1950
Type
Image
Date
November 1950
Publisher
State Library of Western Australia

Details

John Moss C.B.E. U.K. Child Welfare Expert. Visit to Australia. Part II
Title
John Moss C.B.E. U.K. Child Welfare Expert. Visit to Australia. Part II
Type
Document
Date
1951 - 1952
Note
The John Moss Visit to Australia file Part II documents the reasoning behind many post-World War II child migration practices and policies.

Details

010787D: Cottage for migrant children, Fairbridge, 1953
Title
010787D: Cottage for migrant children, Fairbridge, 1953
Type
Image
Date
1953
Publisher
State Library of Western Australia

Details

Girls at a cookery lesson, Fairbridge, 1953
Title
Girls at a cookery lesson, Fairbridge, 1953
Type
Image
Date
1953

Details

010789D: Boys at the Fairbridge forge, 1953
Title
010789D: Boys at the Fairbridge forge, 1953
Type
Image
Date
1953
Publisher
State Library of Western Australia

Details

Woodwork class, Fairbridge, 1953
Title
Woodwork class, Fairbridge, 1953
Type
Image
Date
June 1953

Details

The Leaving of Liverpool
Title
The Leaving of Liverpool
Type
Video
Date
1992

Details

A Chip off What Block?
Title
A Chip off What Block?
Type
Image
Date
2007

Details

Prime Minister says sorry
Title
Prime Minister says sorry
Type
Video
Date
15 November 2009

Details

Sources used to compile this entry: Coldrey, Barry, 'Submission No. 15 Inquiry into Child Migration', in Inquiry into child migration, Senate Community Affairs Committee, Commonwealth of Australia, 2001, http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Community_Affairs/completed_inquiries/1999-02/child_migrat/submissions/sublist.htm. p.15.; Parliament of Australia Senate, Lost Innocents: Righting the Record Report on Child Migration, Community Affairs References Committee, Senate Printing Unit, Canberra, 2001, http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Community_Affairs/completed_inquiries/1999-02/child_migrat/report/index.htm. A definition of child migrants relevant to WA can be found in Chapter 2 at paragraph 2.8..

Prepared by: Rosemary Francis and Debra Rosser