On their own - Britain's child migrants

Bill Cunningham

Reproduced courtesy David Prest.

Listen to an interview with former child migrant Bill Cunningham.

This will be replaced by the SWF.


Bill came to Australia with the National Children’s Home (now Action for Children) in 1950. In this interview he speaks about his experiences and what it was like to run with the Olympic torch at Melbourne Olympics in 1956.


For me personally, and that’s all you can really respect, is it has been a very good experience. Who knows, one may have had those opportunities in England but in my judgement that wouldn’t be the case.

I believe Australia has held opportunities for young people; young families for many, many years and particularly around those war years and so forth, when migration was at high levels. Employment out here, you could almost pick whatever job you would want, that’s for those migrants coming from all sorts of different countries.

So overall my experience has been a positive one. I am very much a supporter of the National Children’s Home. I can’t speak for any of the others, your Doctor Barnado’s, your Fairbridge, it appears to me on what I’ve read that really it was in the – and I’m not saying this in any derogatory sense of various religions – but it seems to me that there was much more hassles in the Catholic institutions and so forth, which are not associated with the National Children’s Home.

So overall my experience has been a positive one and I’m thankful I guess that really I was one of those that came out from England and had the opportunities I’ve had.

Although I am very, very much proud to be and Englishman, you will never find me barracking for any other country but the Poms in any sport and I’ve been involved in sport basically all my life. I ran with the Olympic Torch in 56. I along with a few other English, Dutch and a couple of other nationalities sort of formed the first soccer club in Bendigo, which is a country town, about two and a half hours out of Melbourne. They had to nominate representatives from all the sporting facilities and teams and so forth and then we had to go and see if we could run a mile, and it was a mile in those days, and they had 2,000 runners in all and we finished up getting a bronze medallion each and so forth.

And my run was during a night time, I think it was about 9:30 at night, but yeah it was just one of exhilaration and dare I say it, at about 200 yards to go it was not exhilaration, it was damn near death. But my ears singed trying to move the thing across as well because it was heavy.

I mean I was very English at that stage within myself but I saw myself though running with an Olympic Torch for an Olympic Games and I guess that was my biggest thrill. I was absolutely thrilled to the back teeth to be successful in doing that, I really was.

I do have that sense of pride and that will never go. I mean once an Englishman always an Englishman as far as I’m concerned and that has remained with me.


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