Child migrants/deportees from Britain to the Empire

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Child migrants/deportees from Britain to the Empire

#1

Post by Sniper1946 » Mon Nov 05, 2012 2:39 pm

“On Their Own - Britain’s Child Migrants” is a collaborative exhibition that came out of the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney and the National Museums Liverpool in the UK.

An organisation known as the Church of England Central Home for Waifs and Strays opened for business in 1881. By 1905 the Society had 93 homes throughout England and Wales, accounting for 3410 children in care. Two thirds of these lived in Society's homes, a few hundred in affiliated homes, and the rest were fostered. Because there weren't enough beds for all the children needing assistance, many of these young British citizens were sent to Canada. The National Children's Homes, a Methodist organisation established in 1869, also emigrated over 3,000 of the children they took into care.

Under the Empire Settlement Act of 1922 and 1937, the British Government formally assisted private organisations to help people who wanted to settle in His Majesty’s Overseas Dominions. Most were adults. But some 130,000 children were also sent from Britain to Canada, Australia and other Commonwealth countries through child migration schemes.

The child migrants were largely lied to; they were told their parents were dead so that they were being sent on holiday to a place where the sun always shines and fruit can be picked off the trees. But few of the children were true orphans; many had originally been placed in the British orphanages because their parents had been unable to care for them, temporarily or for the long term.

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Child migrants from Fairbridge, setting out for Australia, 1938.
Photo from Merseyside Maritime Museum, Liverpool

Child migrants were sent abroad without passports, social histories or full birth certificates. Thus it was easy to tell the children that their parents had died and that there was no member of the family who could ever care for them or adopt them. And as the majority of the transportees were only between seven and ten years of age, they were in no position to have argued with the authorities.

The British government thought that they would offload their needy families and save the British economy a fortune. But the charitable and religious organisations in Britain often had a more moral and less financial motive. The Fairbridge Plan for caring for British child migrants originated with Kingsley Fairbridge’s “vision splendid”. He was truly appalled at the conditions of the thousands of under-privileged children with no future other than poverty. He wanted to transplant such children to the wide-open spaces in the colonies; the orphanages agreed and were very happy to send their charges overseas.

For their part, the Australian and other British Empire governments hoped these schemes would supply them with much needed population and labour. They could have imported cheap labour from any country, but they wanted sound, British stock. “Stock” was always the word that was used. In 1913 the first children arrived in Western Australia to take up residence on The Fairbridge Farm near Pinjarra, south-east of Perth. In 1937, The Fairbridge Farm Schools were opened in New South Wales.

"This is not a charity", declared the Prince of Wales in 1934 of the work of the Fairbridge farm schools... "it is an Imperial investment".

The Britain’s Child Migrants Exhibition’s own documentation notes that the lives of these children changed dramatically and fortunes varied. Some succeeded in creating new futures for themselves. Others suffered lonely childhoods, brutalised and exploited by the church organisations that were supposed to protect them. All experienced disruption and separation from their families and from the British towns they grew up in.

Exploitation and misery were not exclusively the fate of those children sent to Australia. The Child Migrants Trust said that while children in New Zealand were often placed with foster parents, those in Canada could be entrusted to the care of farmers, often without sufficient supervision. Some Canadian farmers were charged with manslaughter, such was the extent of their cruelty. Very few children were legally adopted in Canada and the vast majority spent their entire childhoods in farm schools or large, impersonal institutions which accommodated up to 350 children.

These child migration schemes received poor publicity from the outset, yet they continued until the 1960s. So why didn’t the schemes attract the critical attention of historians and welfare workers until the 1980s? And even then it was accidental. Margaret Humphreys was a social worker in Nottingham, specialising in child protection. One day an Australian woman contacted her, saying she had been taken from a children’s home in Nottingham and sent as a toddler to Australia by boat after WW2. Could Humphreys help her find her mother?

Humphrey’s pursuit of the scheme took her all over the British Commonwealth. To her very great credit, Humphreys also founded the Child Migrants Trust, to help those who suffered under the policy. What seems improbable to me was that Margaret Humphreys was the first concerned professional to raise the issues of involuntary child migration. Perhaps she was just the bravest. Or perhaps the others had been turned away by obdurate government officials.

Image
Fairbridge Farm children on the SS Ormonde, 1950
Photo from the State Library of WA

Even so, it took until 1999 for the British government to set up and endow a travel fund to be spent on onetime visits for family reunions. Unfortunately there were so many restrictions that only 300 of the 10,000 post-WW2 migrants to Australia were able to go back home. The travel fund expired in 2002, but in any case, how many mothers and fathers who placed their children in care in 1938-46 would still have been alive in 2002? Formal apologies from the Australian Government in 2009 and British Government in 2010 were late, but were welcomed by the transportees.

The Australian National Maritime Museum has suggested the following reading list:

1.Bean, Philip & Melville, Joy Lost children of the Empire. London; Sydney Unwin Hyman, 1989.
2.Coldrey, Barry M Good British stock: child and youth migration to Australia. National Archives of Australia, 1999
3.Gill, Alan Orphans of the Empire: the shocking story of child migration to Australia. Milsons Point Vintage, 1998.
4.Humphreys, Margaret Empty Cradles. London Corgi Books, 1995.
5.Sherington, Geoffrey & Jeffery, Chris Fairbridge: Empire and child migration. University of Western Australia Press, 1998
6.Wagner, Gillian Children of the Empire. London Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1982.
7. Wheeler, Charles Carried away, in BBC History, October 2003. Great article!
Months after writing this particular post, I saw the film Oranges and Sunshine, starring Emily Watson as the Nottingham social worker Margaret Humphreys and directed by Jim Loach. The film, which opened in Britain in April 2011 and in Australia in June 2011, focuses on the individuals' experiences of Britain's semi-secret child migrant programme to Australia. I say semi-secret because, although the relevant government ministers and church authorities thought they were doing the best thing for the unfortunate children, they destroyed the children's paperwork on purpose and lost the children's true identities. The film skilfully depicts the impact of this loss of identity, 50 years or more after the children had been deported from their homeland.

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Young migrant children put out to labour in the fields,
source: http://melbourneblogger.blogspot.co.uk/ ... in-to.html
Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney
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Re: Child migrants/deportees from Britain to the Empire

#2

Post by Sniper1946 » Mon Nov 05, 2012 2:40 pm

Child migrants: 'I didn't belong to anybody'
Harold Haig was among thousands of child migrants who were deported to Australia and subjected to horrific physical and sexual abuse. A new film depicts their plight
read more: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/ ... shine-film
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Re: Child migrants/deportees from Britain to the Empire

#3

Post by Sniper1946 » Mon Nov 05, 2012 2:42 pm

Lost children of the Empire...
and how uncovering their story has torn my family apart..

On a summer's day in 1947, four small children excitedly boarded a huge ship. The
O'Rourkes lived at a children's home in Belfast, and the nuns who ran it said they
were sending them to England on a two-week holiday.
Instead, the SS Asturias finally docked at Fremantle, Western Australia, where a
new group of nuns stripped and deloused the children, and announced they would
never go home: their parents had been killed. It was a cruel lie.
The family was then split up: the eldest Ellen, aged ten, was sent to an orphanage
with her younger sisters - Hannah, six, and seven-year-old Lil. The baby of the
family, five-year-old Michael, went to another orphanage, one run by the Christian
Brothers.
I discovered the O'Rourkes' story a few years ago while trying to find out about my late mother's mysterious
background.
Mary McCauley was an orphan and obsessively secretive about her childhood, but it seemed that Ellen, her
sisters and brother might be the children or even grandchildren of my mother's long missing uncle, Hugh
O'Rourke.
Last week, an event in the news reminded me that my mother's silence was wiser than I realised. Knowing
all the horrors I now do, I look back and wonder if she was trying to protect me.
read more: http://lisburn.com/pdf_files/child-migrants.pdf
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Re: Child migrants/deportees from Britain to the Empire

#4

Post by Sniper1946 » Mon Nov 05, 2012 2:43 pm

After World War II the British Government devised a plan to unburden 'overflowing' childrens' homes. Children were shipped to Australia 'to be adopted by loving families' only to find that they were used as cheap labour. The first vessel to transport these children was the SS Asturias in 1947 with a 'cargo' of 147 boys and girls. Many of them were told (falsely) that they were orphans and consequently never saw their families again.
http://www.ssasturias.net/the_lost_children.html
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Re: Child migrants/deportees from Britain to the Empire

#5

Post by Heini » Mon Feb 18, 2013 9:10 am

The inhumanity of governments toward their own vulnerable citizens is baffling. The working class had no voice because only money talked.


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Re: Child migrants/deportees from Britain to the Empire

#6

Post by Sniper1946 » Mon Feb 18, 2013 10:15 am

Thanks for the Video Heini... :thumpsup:


Margaret Humphreys, CBE, OAM (born 1944) is a social worker, author and whistleblower from Nottingham, England. In 1987, she investigated and brought to public attention the British government programme of Home Children. This involved forcibly relocating poor British children to Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the former Rhodesia and other parts of the Commonwealth of Nations,[1] often without their parents' knowledge. Children were often told their parents had died, and parents were told their children had been placed for adoption elsewhere in the UK. According to Humphreys, up to 150,000 children are believed to have been resettled under the scheme,[2] some as young as three,[1] about 7,000 of whom were sent to Australia.[3]
Saving money was one of the motives behind this policy. The children were allegedly deported because it was cheaper to care for them overseas. It cost an estimated £5 per day to keep a child on welfare in a British institution, but only 10% of that, ten shillings, in an Australian one.[3]
Humphreys' research began in 1986. As a social worker involved in post-adoption support, she received a letter from a woman in Australia who said that, at the age of four, she had been shipped from the UK to a children's home in Australia, and was now looking for help in tracing her parents in Britain.[4]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_Humphreys
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Re: Child migrants/deportees from Britain to the Empire

#7

Post by Sniper1946 » Mon Feb 18, 2013 10:16 am

Australia to say sorry to abused British child migrants
An apology is to be made to the victims of child migration schemes who were shipped from Britain to Australia, where many suffered abuse and neglect.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldne ... rants.html
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Re: Child migrants/deportees from Britain to the Empire

#8

Post by Sniper1946 » Mon Feb 18, 2013 10:19 am

Oranges and Sunshine: the story of Britain’s “child migrants”
In his first feature-length film, British director Jim Loach explores fraught terrain—the mass deportation of children from England and their incarceration by government and religious authorities in Australia’s rural outback. The film premiered in Britain last year and began a limited release in Australian cinemas last month.
http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2011/07/oran-j14.html

Oranges and Sunshine



Despite promises made to the child deportees in Oranges and Sunshine, many of them got nothing but pain and servitude.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/mov ... z2LEstbqwD
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Re: Child migrants/deportees from Britain to the Empire

#9

Post by Sniper1946 » Mon Feb 18, 2013 10:50 am

Bindoon Boys Town: The sad truth behind Britain's lost children
Australia is to apologise for the appalling treatment meted out to thousands of boys and girls shipped to its shores as orphans

Bindoon Boys Town: it sounded like an adventure camp to the pale-faced youngsters who emerged blinking into the sunlight at Fremantle, in Western Australia, after their six-month voyage from Southampton. Among them was Laurie Humphreys, looking forward to his new life in the "land of milk and honey", where food was plentiful and children rode to school on horses, so he had been told.

It was September 1947, and the SS Asturias had just docked in Fremantle with 147 boys and girls, the first to arrive under a post-war plan to empty overflowing British orphanages and repopulate the former colonies with "good white stock". Humphreys and other boys were dispatched to Bindoon, an isolated institution 60 miles north of Perth, run by the Christian Brothers, a Catholic lay order.

The first shock was the desolate landscape; the second was the place itself, an abandoned farm property. It was the boys who were to build Bindoon, and children as young as 10 were set to work, constructing schools, dormitories and kitchens. They hacked at the ground with picks and shovels, and mixed concrete by hand in the blazing heat. Those unable to cope with the back-breaking labour were flogged, sometimes until their bones were fractured.
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world ... 82544.html
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Re: Child migrants/deportees from Britain to the Empire

#10

Post by Sniper1946 » Thu Jun 22, 2017 7:13 pm

Children to be sent to the Dominions for duration of war - archive, 1940

Plans are ready for sending the first batch of 20,000 children from Britain to the shelter of the Dominions for the duration of the war. Of these 10,000 are expected to go to Canada, 5,000 to Australia, and several thousand each to New Zealand and South Africa.

As yet there is no scheme for the United States, but there are indications that the scheme will be taken up there most generously, and already offers have been received from private organisations.


Children of the wartime evacuation
Read more
Ships filled with young emigrants – who will be between five and sixteen years of age and will come from all classes of the community – will sail almost immediately. Doctors and trained nurses will be in charge. Obviously there are risks in such voyages in war-time. Complete safety cannot be guaranteed. But parents are weighing the perils of letting their children remain in a fortress such as Britain may become, with air raids and possible invasion, against the hazards of one week at sea on the way to a Dominion.
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/ ... n-war-1940
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