On their own - Britain's child migrants

The schemes dig in


First group of post-war child migrants from Asturias arrive in Fremantle 1947.
Reproduced courtesy State Library of Western Australia, The Battye Library 816B/C1253

"We spent our lives on our knees, either praying, cleaning or being punished." Anonymous

Child migration to Australia resumed in 1947, with the Government actively encouraging the schemes in its post-war ‘populate or perish’ immigration policy.

The Catholic Church expanded its involvement in child migration to keep up with the Protestant Fairbridge scheme, now firmly established at Pinjarra, Molong and Glenmore. Almost half of post-war child migrants were sent to Christian Brothers institutions in Western Australia including the notorious Bindoon.

In 1948 the Child Welfare Act was passed in the UK and child migration schemes came under scrutiny. Two investigations were carried out by British Government officials – John Moss in 1952 and a Home Office team led by John Ross in 1956. While Moss was supportive of child migration as a welfare strategy, the Ross Committee was highly critical of the notion of institutional care. The Committee singled out five institutions for special condemnation. Yet child migration was to continue for another decade.


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