On their own - Britain's child migrants

The shift to Australia

landscape with boys tending to fires
Boys burning off at Fairbridge Farm School, Pinjarra. Reproduced courtesy State Library of Western Australia, The Battye Library 4648B/5

The 20th century focus on Australia was spearheaded by the Fairbridge Society and Barnardo’s, which sought ‘good British stock’ to populate, settle and defend the continent. The British and Australian Governments contributed funds to train children at farm schools in Western Australia and New South Wales until two world wars temporarily halted the passage of children.

During World War II, nearly 3,000 children were evacuated from Britain to Commonwealth countries to keep them safe, until Volendam and City of Benares were torpedoed in 1940 en route to Canada, the latter with heavy loss of life. This practice of wartime evacuation would lead to a new focus on children’s welfare in the UK and contribute to the development of social work as a profession.

Listen to children singing the Fairbridge song here:

This will be replaced by the SWF.

striped tie
Tie lent by Old Fairbridgians Association Museum.

Before leaving Britain, Fairbridge boys were outfitted in smart blazers, shirts, shorts, leather shoes and brown and gold striped ties. This fine wardrobe was taken from the children on arrival and replaced with khaki work clothes and bare feet.

"When we arrived at Bindoon they took our clothes away. They left us without underwear. It was degrading." Graham

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