Child Migrants, memories, photos

From the eyes of an eight year old

by Rupert Hewison (guest author) on 30 May, 2011

Rupert Hewison a former Child Migrant from Britain shares the photographs he took as an eight-year-old at Fairbridge House, Tresca, Exeter, Tasmania.

Rupert explains:

I was in Tresca from October 1964 to October 1965.

As a farewell gift when leaving England in 1964 my second cousin Alan Hewison gave me a small camera. My mother paid for the film and developing and encouraged me to take photos. I was eight in November 1964 so these are an eight year old’s idea of what would make a good photo at the time. As a child I was known by my middle name, John. These days I use my first name, Rupert. My mother died peacefully in Canberra late last year aged 82. Thank you Jean for having the courage to leave behind all your family and friends to give us a better life in the Promised Land.

Child Migrants, documents

Child slave labour

by Oliver Cosgrove (guest author) on 17 May, 2011

Oliver Cosgrove writes in response to personal histories about child slave labour in children’s homes. He refers to a photograph on this website (below) of children building the swimming pool at Clontarf Boys’ Town. Oliver notes that such work contravened the International Labour Organisation Convention.

In relation to slave child labour in children’s homes, Oliver Cosgrove writes:

 It is salient to note the International Labour Organisation Convention C5 of 1919. In essence it requires that children under the age of 14 not be used on industrial undertakings.

ILO Convention 33 refers to the minimum age of working children in non-industrial employment, and notes that children under the age of 14 who are still required to be at school shall not be employed unless otherwise provided for in the convention. The main such provision was that of Article 3 which allowed the use of children over the age of 12 for work outside of fixed school hours provided that the work was light.

This means that the time available for children to do so-called ‘light work’ in the institutions was one hour and 35 minutes on a school day and two hours on a non-school day.

In respect of the photograph of the children doing excavation of the swimming pool it is patent that:

  • some children are under the age of 12
  • they are bare-footed
  • they are doing excavation work, and the fact that some groups of boys are carrying bags of sand indicates that the workload is heavy.

An article in the West Australian newspaper, 19 March, 1958, indicates that the swimming pool was built within three months. Work  ‘… began soon after Christmas Day, and the first swimmers plunged into the water on Monday [17 May 1958]. The capacity of the pool was said by Brother Doyle to have been 150,000 gallons.’ An internet website converted 150,000 UK gallons to 681.913 m3.

The average maximum temperature in Perth for January is 30.6°C; for February 31.3°C and for March 29.2°C.

The State Records Office holds the Clontarf Swimming Pool file and contains a letter dated September 3, 1957 from Brother Maloney of Clontarf who stated that:

‘under the supervision of our Manager, Rev Brother Doyle, we hope to build with the aid of twenty senior boys a swimming pool… We would greatly appreciate the guidance of your Dept. and any little help you would permit.’

The Director of Works wrote back and in paragraph 7 he stated:

‘I was informed that some £3000 to £4000 is available for this project and also that all the materials for the concrete, except the cement, will be a free gift. This amount of money should be ample to construct the pool as all the labour will be free.’

Below is the relevant excerpt from the International Labour Convention 33:

C5 Minimum Age (Industry) Convention, 1919

Article 1

1. For the purpose of this Convention, the term industrial undertaking includes particularly–

(a) mines, quarries and other works for the extraction of minerals from the earth;

(b) industries in which articles are manufactured, altered, cleaned, repaired, ornamented, finished, adapted for sale, broken up or demolished, or in which materials are transformed; including shipbuilding, and the generation, transformation, and transmission of electricity and motive power of any kind;

(c) construction, reconstruction, maintenance, repair, alteration, or demolition of any building, railway, tramway, harbour, dock, pier, canal, inland waterway, road, tunnel, bridge, viaduct, sewer, drain, well, telegraphic or telephonic installation, electrical undertaking, gas work, water work, or other work of construction, as well as the preparation for or laying the foundations of any such work or structure;

(d) transport of passengers or goods by road or rail or inland waterway, including the handling of goods at docks, quays, wharves, and warehouses, but excluding transport by hand.

2. The competent authority in each country shall define the line of division which separates industry from commerce and agriculture.

Article 2

Children under the age of fourteen years shall not be employed or work in any public or private industrial undertaking, or in any branch thereof, other than an undertaking in which only members of the same family are employed.

Article 3

The provisions of Article 2 shall not apply to work done by children in technical schools, provided that such work is approved and supervised by public authority.

Child labour site, Clontarf Boys Town, c. 1956
Child Migrants, film

Oranges and Sunshine #2

by Adele Chynoweth on 9 May, 2011

You can access the preview to Oranges and Sunshine, the forthcoming movie about the establishment of the Child Migrants Trust on YouTube.

You can view the clip here. You can also view an interview with the real-life Margaret Humphreys here.  Subsequent to this interview, in 2010, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced £6 million family restoration fund so that former Child Migrants could re-unite with their families. More information about the Family Restoration Fund may be found on the Child Migrants Trust website.

articles/lectures, Child Migrants, documents, Responding to the National Apology

Orphaning experiences #2

by Oliver Cosgrove (guest author) on 27 April, 2011

In a recent post on this website, Godfrey Gilmour, writes about his experience as a former Child Migrant. He remembers Father Cyril Stinson visiting his school in Malta in order to recruit boys to migrate to Australia. Oliver Cosgrove kindly contacted the National Museum with information about Father Stinson.

Father Cyril Stinson was the Director of the Catholic Episcopal Migration and Welfare Association Inc of Western Australia, an association that comprised the Archbishop of Perth, the Bishop of Geraldton, the Abbot of New Norcia, and the Vicar Apostolic of the Kimberleys. He was also, in 1952, the Australian representative in UK of the Federal Catholic Immigration Committee. Both of these organs worked to bring Catholics to Australia (including children).

A summary of one of Father Stinson’s radio braodcasts was published in the Times of Malta, 15 October, 1952.

articles/lectures, Child Migrants, documents, events, Forgotten Australians, Stolen Generations

Rally for children’s safety

by The Benevolent Society (guest author) on 21 April, 2011

Carolin Wenzel from The Benevolent Society lets us know about two current ways to support children’s safety. Members of the public are invited to suubmit their view to the Senate Inquiry into Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2011 [Provisions]. There is also a Rally for Children’s Safety at Parliament House, Canberra, on Wednesday 25 May 2011.

Carolin Wenzel from The Benevolent Society writes:

I’m writing to let you know about two opportunities to support improving the Family Law Act to make it safer for children and parents who are victims of  domestic violence.

You have probably heard about the Senate Inquiry into the Government’s Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill, which was introduced into the House of Representatives by Attorney-General Robert McClelland on March 24th.  Whilst this amendment is a positive step in the right direction,  The Senate Inquiry is an opportunity to present a case for further changes to protect children and their carers under threat of ongoing violence from an ex-partner.

It’s very important, once again to get as many strong submissions to this Inquiry as possible.  They won’t have any access to the submissions that were sent to the Attorney General in January. Submissions close on Friday April 29th – so please act now.

The other exciting development is that several groups are working together to hold a

Rally for Children’s Safety  at Parliament House Canberra on Wednesday May 25

Speakers lined up so far are:

  • Helen Cummings, author of “Blood Vows”
  • Dr Lesley Laing, author of the No Way to Live Report
  • Women’s Refuge Movement Executive Officer, Cat Gander
  • Benevolent Society CEO Richard Spencer
  • Bikers United Against Child Abuse

and we are working on several more, including parents who have harrowing experiences of poor parenting arrangement outcomes under the current Family Law Act.

We also feel it’s very important that the experiences and voices of children are a focus of this Rally.

We invite anyone who’s children have experienced trauma or feel unsafe about court imposed parenting arrangements to create a drawing or artwork respresenting how they feel, and to write a few words on another sheet of paper expressing their thoughts and feelings. They can just write their age (not their name so they are not identifiable)

If possible it would be great to laminate these and either bring them with you to the Rally or send them to me (address in signature below)

We would love you to come to the Rally, and The Benevolent Society is booking a bus to take up to 50 people from Sydney to leave early and be back in Sydney by 6pm that day.

We are working on an e-flyer and a place to link to info about the Rally online – so stay tuned for further updates.

Please pass on this message to anyone you think would be interested, and invite them to send me their email address so that I can include them in further updates.

I will ensure that individual emails are not revealed in any mail out.

Warm Regards,
Carolin Wenzel

Child Migrants, memories, photos

Orphaning experiences

by Godfrey Gilmour (guest author) on 13 April, 2011

“I may not have been an orphan in the real sense of the word, and my experience at Clontarf as a state ward, however, was full of orphaning experiences”. Godfrey Gilmour, a retired Anglican priest, noticed himself as a child in a photograph, published on this website, taken by Mick O’Donoghue at Clontarf Boys Town in the 1950s. Here, he shares his experiences as a child migrant from a loving family in Malta to the harsh conditions at Clontarf:

I was born in Malta in 1944 in wartime. My mother was Mary Tonna and my father Geoffrey was an English soldier recently transferred to Malta from the North Africa campaign. My parents met sometime in late 1942 or early 1944. It was a wartime love affair and did not come to light til my mother became pregnant and her parents became involved. It was then discovered that Geoffrey was married and that despite my grandfather’s attempt to sort something out, it came to no avail. The army then intervened and sent Geoffrey away to the Italian campaign. My mother never heard from him again and her registered letters to him containing photographs of me went unanswered.

After the war, I lived with my mother and grandparents. It was a comfortable and culturally enriching life. I was close to my grandparents and extended family and I still have very happy memories of that period of time.

At the age of seven I was placed in St Patrick’s School in Sliema which was a boarding school where I experienced abuse for the first time, my family was unaware of this, and  I felt unable to tell them about the events at St Patrick’s for I was fearful of the repercussions that might ensue. I was eager to leave the place and always longed to see my father.  Some time in 1952 Father Cyril Stinson came to the school in Malta from Western Australia to recruit boys to migrate to Australia. I always remember that he had a florid face and smelt of whiskey. Along with other boys I was told how wonderful Australia was, and the wonderful school we would be going to. My mother along with other parents was also told similar things and also thought this would be a good thing especially as she was also advised that she could also follow me to Australia. In my child’s mind, I thought that somehow, I would be closer to England and that I might see my father. I had no idea Australia was on the other side of the world.

In July 12th 1953 I migrated to Australia. When I arrived at Clontarf, I immediately felt that this was a dark place. And it proved to be so almost from day one. It felt as though I had landed like on the dark side of the moon. I didn’t fit in at Clontarf; I had come from a cultured family in Malta. My mother had a wonderful singing voice. I always had plenty of reading matter, at night, in Malta; she would sing me to sleep with operatic arias that she had learnt. But at Clontarf, I experienced a great deal of deprivation especially in the early years. I was to experience emotional, physical and sexual abuse almost the very first days. There was a predatory culture at work at Clontarf and at Castledare; young boys were preyed upon by particular staff and also older boys. My first nights in one of those large cold dormitories were miserable and I recall crying myself to sleep wondering when my mother was going to arrive and take me away.

From the first days I witnessed and then personally experienced the harsh discipline and the use of the infamous straps made of several layers of leather and reinforced with metal to make them weightier and more painful. The staff carried these up the sleeves of their cassocks and used them with terrible efficiency. In the absence of their straps staff resorted to sticks, canes and fists even on very young  boys and those who were maimed through accidents. The attitude of some staff was sadistic.

There was also this process of depersonalisation at work at Clontarf and a loss of identity. I soon became a number. My Christian name was never used, only my number and surname. My personal belongings were soon taken away from me, my books were burnt, and my mail home was censored. We were forbidden to speak Maltese.  Being bi-lingual I was at times told to translate letters from Malta to Maltese boys for the principal in case information about Clontarf was getting back to Malta. There was a lack of respect for the individual, the well-being of the institution mattered more.

The food was so awful after the Mediterranean diet I was used to; hunger was a constant reality, and boys resorted to raiding the pig bins for food. The enforced nudity, the lack of privacy [even the toilets lacked doors], the constant hard work that we had to engage in, often in dangerous conditions, made inroads into our health and well-being also affected of academic performance. Many boys failed academically and were put to work at an early age and were functionally illiterate on leaving Clontarf.

My mother came out to Australia in October 1954. Catholic welfare found her work at a Catholic presbytery in Fremantle. In early 1955 my mother found employment at Castledare, the junior orphanage that fed into Clontarf. She became uncomfortable with the violence that she saw. On raising this with one of the brothers, he said, “I didn’t want to be here. My parents forced me to become a Christian Brother”.
My mother was asked to leave Castledare and moved to Perth and worked there. In 1957 my mother married Jack Gilmour. He immediately wanted to adopt me legally and immediately ran into obfuscation both by the authorities and also the staff at Clontarf. People did not readily question authority in those days. Unbeknown to them, I was legally a state ward. My step father then took steps to change my name by deed poll. This was done much to the chagrin of Brother Doyle, the principal, who in an interview with my parents at which I was also present raised objections. My parents insisted that I should now be known as Godfrey Gilmour. Already out of favour with Brother Doyle this latest issue made life difficult, ever more difficult for me.

My final year at Clontarf was spent in Br Doyle’s class. It was a devastating year for me. I was brutalised and humiliated by this man all year. I was at times hit over the head by this man and had my spectacles broken after being hit across the face. He took a dislike to my accent and constantly drew attention to what he described as my ‘plummy accent’ and humiliated me in front of my peers. I became an anxious boy, I developed a speech impediment, had sleep problems and even experienced bouts of enuresis, [bed wetting] something I had never experienced in my life. At the end of the school year I was simply told to leave and not come back. I virtually left in the clothes I was standing in. I was still a ward of the state and yet my parents received no support whatever for my transition to life outside the orphanage. After several years my mother received a letter from the Child Welfare Department in Perth, advising my mother that she could now adopt me.

Such was my experience in care in Western Australia, I may not have been an orphan in the real sense of the word, and my experience at Clontarf as a state ward however was full of orphaning experiences. Putting the past behind me I forged a career in education, family welfare and ministry.

PS: I was to meet my father in the UK, shortly before he died we were reconciled. I also met 9 siblings and large family. My mother did not live to see that day. She died in Malta.

Godfrey with mother Mary Tonna, 1955, WA
Godfrey (circled) at swimming pool construction site, Clontarf, WA
Child Migrants, memories

I learn not to show my emotions

by Raymond Brand (guest author) on 13 April, 2011

Former Child Migrant Raymond Brand writes about his experience as a child migrant from Britain, growing up in Castledare and Bindoon, WA. Ray describes the abuse he suffered and how education and medical care were low priorities at Bindoon.

Download Ray’s story (PDF 6.9mb)

Child Migrants, memories

Northcote Farm School remembered – 70 years later

by Graham Budd (guest author) on 29 March, 2011

Graham Budd recalls the influential staff at Northcote Farm School during his residence from 1939: Colonel Heath as a man in the wrong place, “but a man for all that”, old Wally the bootmaker, and Mrs Odgers, with a great affection:

As far as I personally am concerned Northcote Farm School was dominated by two extraordinary people. Lt Colonel Sydney John Heath MC, DSO, OBE, MVO ex-British army, boxing heavyweight champion, joined the army as a 14 year old drummer boy, worked his way up through the ranks. A feat that would have taken some doing back in his day. Lost one arm in WWI. Six foot, two inches, a personality that dominated everyone around him. A pair of grey green eyes that would light up with uproarious laughter and at other times become as cold as ice and seemed to be looking into your very soul. Almost instinctively most people feared him. A fierce disciplinarian with a voice that could clearly be heard half a mile away. The majority of children feared him intensely, some hated him. I did neither, I think that even at that young age I recognised him for what he was – a man among men, a man that it would be most unwise to argue the point with. He was a soldier who had never known any other sort of life. Whether such a man should ever have been put in such a position is perhaps an arguable point, but the fact was he was there.

The second personality that concerned me was Mrs Patricia Violet Odgers, nee Herr. My cottage mother. Married an Australian army officer after WWI, they moved onto a bush block at Renmark SA, cleared the block and planted it down for grape vines, he was filling in his time doing odd jobs during that period of time waiting to pick his first crop. No-one knows exactly what happened but he was putting gravel on his driveway using a shovel and a horse and dray. He was found lying on the driveway – the dray had gone over his head.

The settlement commission decided that Violet could not manage the block and that since they had not paid for the block perhaps it would be best to send her back to her parents and give the block to someone else. This is as far as I know what happened. Her father Mr Warren Herr, a well known Melbourne business man, a fine example of the ultimate Victorian gentleman, didn’t want a weeping woman under his feet all day so sent her off on a world tour which lasted quite a long time. While having breakfast in a London hotel one of the quests told her of this strange children’s home in Kensington where young children were collected into groups and sent off to Canada, Australia or South Africa.  Violet found it hard to believe so set out to find the place. I remember the day she visited us. Mainly because we got very few visitors and those that did come spent their time talking to the staff and only looked at us kids in the manner of an auctioneer looking over a mob of cattle. Violet did the reverse and spent the day talking to us. She told me years afterwards that she was horrified at what the children said to her that day and decided somebody should do something about them. In the end the penny dropped and she thought, “Why not me?”, a decision that I firmly believed saved me from going barmy.

She volunteered to help supervise a gang of 28 boys and girls of whom I was one, being sent to Northcote School, Bacchus Marsh, Victoria. Upon arrival, January 6 1939, she asked Col. Heath for a job. He of course was delighted, Violet being a very different type of person usually found in such places. Well educated, old enough to have experience, in her forties, young enough to keep up with the kids. Obviously wasn’t there because she had to work somewhere and couldn’t get any other type of job, which would describe most of them. She was given No. 12 cottage, 16 boys of whom I was one. A very lonely boy of 11 years. A country boy as opposed to the city breed type, which was the average. Very homesick. Missed my Grandfather, who had opposed very strongly my being sent away. Missed by stepfather a TPI from WWI who had died in March 1938, a man I was strongly attached to. He had been a sergeant in the Coldstream Guards and I adored him. I think that is why I took a different attitude to the Colonel, there was a similarity between them. Mrs Odgers quickly recognised that I wasn’t interested in sports or skylarking as most boys are but I lived in a world of books. She did everything possible to encourage me.

The place was run on a presumption that “an idle boy is a troublesome boy” which is true, but Northcote took it to extreme lengths. The only time we got to ourselves was from 1pm to 5pm on a Sunday. A period spent wandering all that area between the Werribee Gorge and the Brisbane ranges. Sometimes even wandering as far as Bacchus Marsh, a distance of a very hilly 7-8 miles by the shortest but hardest route. It was of course a region considered “out of bounds” and beyond all the youngest of us. The rest of the week was rise,  7am cold shower, do whatever work you were rostered for after making your bed military style. The work would be half an hour of housework, then 20 minutes physical exercise down near the central dining room, run by the Colonel himself. Then community breakfast, plate of porridge with milk but no sugar, two rounds of bread and dripping, one glass of milk. Back to cottage on the double, nobody ever strolled. Finish whatever you started before the physical jerks session, collect school books, homework, etc. and off to the state school, a half mile down the road.  At 12 pm back to dining room dinner, mutton stew with rice and tapioca, alternate days except Sunday when it was dried apricots and custard. 1pm back to school. 3 pm hurry home put school books away in your personal locker, which contained just about nothing else, bags etc. were unknown. Out at the run where the Colonel stood blowing his whistle. Then all working together under his watchful eye planting trees, digging drains, digging gardens, building a tennis court, cleaning drains, etc., etc. After which, back to the cottage evening meal at 5pm. Two rounds bread and dripping, two rounds bread and jam, melon and lemon – I cannot remember anything else. One glass of milk.  At this meal we were permitted to talk at the other two, silence was the rule. But in your cottage we all listened to The Argonauts children’s session on Mrs Odgers’ wireless. I think it was actually given to us by her father. The meals never varied the three years I was there as far as I remember.

Mrs Odgers received the newspaper The Argus sent in the mail each day and she contrived to see that I had time to read it each day. I was the only one that received this luxury. The evenings were spent attending scouts, boxing lessons run by the Colonel, farm lectures from the farm manager – we had 3600 acres. Choir practice, Mrs Odgers was the organist, or anything else anyone could think up to keep us occupied. 8 pm bed. The beds were army style cots, no glass in the windows just fly wire with a canvas blind that was not allowed to be lowered unless it was actually raining. No talking in bed. That was that. We had to write home once a month. I discovered years later that they did not receive a single letter neither did I receive a single reply. What happened to our letters is anyone’s guess.

After leaving 8th grade, moved to No 8 cottage where 14 boys were  kept to provide weekly labour working in  the kitchen, the Colonel’s personal garden, the bootmakers staff dining room, laundry etc. etc. A year at that then moved down to the farm a quarter mile away in opposite direction to the state school. Then we milked 100 cows. Northcote is listed in dept agriculture records as one of only two dairies that milked over 100 cows in 1938/39 in Victoria. Worked a large piggery, several hundred pigs. , a chicken farm, grew all our own vegetables and killed six sheep a week, hence the mutton stew. The 20 biggest boys did all that sort of work, aged 14 to 16 years, all living in what was known as the Bunkhouse with a married couple in charge. These boys were paid 6d per week. The younger ones were paid 2d, 1d must be put in Sunday’s church plate. Boy-girl relationships were strictly taboo. A rule which concerned me seriously as Dorothy Barber was my best friend. Much effort was put into keeping us apart. A thing we both strongly objected to. Mrs Odgers came to the rescue after I left her cottage by occasionally invited the two of us to her cottage for Sunday night’s tea, not sure the Colonel was game to take her to task for it. I eventually married her. We had nine children, not having a family of her own, Dorothy was determined to create one. Looking back I think we overdid it a bit, but Dorothy was happy. Unfortunately she died in 1976 in a road accident and took our youngest daughter with her. I have never forgotten her.

This gives something of the skeleton of our lives. It of course, raises many questions but Northcote’s main faults if one can call it that was total lack of personal relationships with anybody. Unless you were lucky enough to have a brother or sister then the feeling of being deserted by the world was very strong. Mrs Odgers realised that. It was perhaps the thing that differentiated her from the run of the mill staff. The fierce, physical punishment dished out to some of the boys was criminal to say the least. But that was the standard old fashioned army way. But we were children, and children who had many hurdles in life to jump over at that. I never received any such treatment at the hands of the Colonel, in fact, I got along well with him, but I witnessed many of his sins which horrified me, especially as no-one ever bothered to tell us what the victim had actually done. Neither did I ever witness or knew about any sexual crimes, rumours of which surface now and again. But Dorothy did fill me in about things like that many years later. So they did happen. Twice, however, I was physically bullied by adult men on the staff and once threatened by a school teacher in the staff dining room when working as a waiter there. She demanded I serve her first as she had to get back to school.

I replied, “So do several people”.

She jumped to her feet and threatened me.

Old Wally the bootmaker spun around in his seat and glared at her and said, “You touch that boy and I’ll box your ears until they fall off. If you’re in such a goddam hurry, why don’t you go get it yourself? No-one is stopping you!”, a speech that forever fixed him in my memory.

by Graham Budd, February 2011.


Child Migrants, documents, Forgotten Australians

Barriers to justice

by Oliver Cosgrove (guest author) on 25 March, 2011

This month, a US federal judge threw out of court a class action filed on behalf of an estimated 10,000 former Child Migrants. U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty dismissed the case because:

  • the statue of limitations had expired
  • the Order of the Sisters of Mercy is not a legal entity
  • there is no evidence that the Christian Brothers in Australia were acting under the authority of Rome

You can read more about the case at the Courthouse News Service website. Click on Ex-Child Migrants Missed the Mark, Judge Rules

Child Migrants, documents, Forgotten Australians

Report fails Christian Brothers

by Oliver Cosgrove (guest author) on 23 March, 2011

Below is a copy of the report on the visit, in July 1948, to Castledare Junior Orphanage, WA, by the Secretary of the Child Welfare Department, State Migration Officer and two inspectors also from the Child Welfare Department.

Oliver Cosgrove kindly made this report available to the National Museum. He notes:

Castledare was the junior orphanage in the so-called ‘quadrangular scheme’ of the Christian Brothers.

It is singularly worth noting that this report was issued in July 1948, less than 10 months after the first post-war child migrants arrived on the SS Asturias.
I cannot but wonder at the perspicacity of the writer’s last sentence.

Consider the following observations in the report:

dingy sleeping cubicles
floors stained under beds by urine
salty crusts of dried urine under beds
wire mattresses rusted by urine
torn mattresses

sagging beds and mattresses
cramped dormitories
miserably thin mattresses (ex US forces) and totally inadequate
pyjamas grubby, dirty, and damp with urine

good sized wardrobe lockers – an asset to the institution – but not used

hot-water system not working in shower

overcrowded schoolrooms,
insufficient ventilation

recreation hall only place that could provide warmth

Download a copy of the Castledare Report (PDF 152kb)

Child Migrants, events, Forgotten Australians, Stolen Generations

Compensation users forum

by Adele Chynoweth on 18 March, 2011

Victims Services from the NSW Government Department of Justice and Attorney General will be holding a Compensation Users Forum on 27 April 2011.

The intention is for Victims Services to hold regular forums where people working in the area and accessing the services can attend and discuss recent trends and issues.

The aim is to make the process of applying for compensation and counselling easier for the people working in the area and more accessible to victims of crime.

Solicitors who work in victims compensation matters and any agencies or groups interested can attend on that day.

It will be held at 10.00am on Wednesday 27 April 2011 Level 4, Justice Precinct Building 160 Marsden Street Parramatta

The Forum will be hosted by the Director, Victims Services and the Registrar, Victims Compensation Tribunal.

Child Migrants, documents, events, Forgotten Australians, Responding to the National Apology

Forced adoption

Adele Chynoweth  15 March, 2011

The Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs is conducting an inquiry into former forced adoption policies and practices.

Submissions should be received by 31 March 2011 and may be sent to:

Committee Secretary
Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs
PO Box 6100
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Further information, including submissions made to the inquiry, may be found at the Senate Inquiry website.

Child Migrants, Forgotten Australians, objects

St Benedict for Bindoon boys

by Oliver Cosgrove (guest author) on 7 March, 2011

Here Oliver Cosgrove shares the St Benedict’s Medal which was given to all the boys at Boys’ Town, Bindoon, WA as well as an article from 1955 written about the Medal. The article sadly makes light of child slave labour at Bindoon.

In the August 21, 1955 edition of the publication Pax (Latin for “peace”), an article reads:

…a Freemason had insisted that the possession of the Medal Cross of St Benedict had been the cause of much good luck at the Races! The Freemason was indeed sincere. But when today in fact was related to us from Bindoon we felt that this was more in keeping with what we would expect from the great Patriarch.

At Boys’ Town, Bindoon, all lads had been issued with St Benedict’s Medal by the chaplain, and one lad at least certainly wearing his treasure round his neck. While at work on the first floor of one of the new buildings some fifteen feet from mother earth, this lad fell. To make matters worse it was not mother earth who received the falling boy, but a heap of rough-edged rocks. The spectators were greatly alarmed and expected serious injury, to say the least. But what was their surprise when they saw the lad pick himself up immediately – and on enquiry they got the reply: ‘I’m alright – of course I’m alright. I’m wearing the Medal of St Benedict.”

Two medals, one a chain, next to a five cent piece

Also from Pax 31 July, 1955:

St Benedict’s Medal Described

(By Dom Justin Bruce O.S.B., N. N.)

The essential parts of the Medal of St Benedict are the Cross, the image of St. Benedict, and certain letters which we mean to explain. The shape of the Medal is evidently not important. To avoid confusion we must remember that one Medal, known as Ordinary Medal of St Benedict was approved, and richly indulged by Pope Benedict XIV in 1742, and a second was struck and approved by Pope Pius IX in 1877 in anticipation of celebrations in honour of St Benedict on the 14th centenary of his birth, which occurred in 1880.

A glance at the Ordinary Medal of St Benedict will show a Cross engraved on one side, on the arms of which certain letters appear, while more letters are seen in the angles of the Cross, and also in the border around the edge of the Medal. On the other side there is an image of St. Benedict. These are the essentials for the Ordinary Medal is genuine.

The letters: In the angles of the Cross we read the letters C. S. P. B. which stand for Crix Sancti Patria Benedicti (“The Cross of the holy father benedict”). On the perpendicular bar of the Cross are found the letters C. S. S. M. L. They signify: Crux Sacra Sit Mihi Lux (“May the holy Cross be my light”).

The letters on the horizontal bar of the Cross are: N. D. S. M. D. Non Draco Sit Mihi Dux (“May the devil never be my guide”).

Obviously these words express simply a renewal of our baptismal vows, by which we solemnly declare ourselves followers of the Cross of Christ, renouncing at the same time the devil and his snares. Around the margin….are the following letters, beginning at the top right hand:

V. S. N. S. M. V.       S. M. Q. L. I. V. B.

and stand for the following verses:

Vade Retro, Satana:

Numquam Suade Mihi Vana

Sunt Mala Quae Libas

Ipse Venena Bibas

(“Begone Satan. Tempt me not with antics. What thou offerest is evil; drink thou thyself the poison”).

At the top of the same side of the Medal, can be seen the three letters I.H.S. which signify the Holy Name of Jesus.

This is the Medal of St. Benedict. If we carry it on our person, we are continuously, if implicitly, making an act of renunciation of Satan. ……..

The second Medal above mentioned is known as the Jubilee Medal. It differs from the Ordinary Medal in that it has attached to it not only the indulgences of the latter, but has others added besides. On the side which bears St. Benedict’s image we see the words: “Eius in obtu nostro praesentia muniamur” (“May we be strengthened by his presence at the hour of our death”). Also the Benedictine Motto “Pax” (Peace) will always be found engraved on the side of the Jubilee Medal which bears the Cross and the letters.

Child Migrants, Forgotten Australians, memories, objects, Stolen Generations

Cleanliness is Godliness

by Adele Chynoweth on 22 February, 2011

As a child, were you required to fulfil cleaning duties in your institution? The National Museum wishes to draw attention to this work in it pending exhibition Inside: Life in Children’s Homes. Can you help?

We are interested in learning, from former residents of Children’s Homes, about what cleaning products or objects you cleaned with.

Please feel free to post a response below or on the message board on this site.

You can also email me us at:
if you don’t want your contribution to be published online.

We understand that writing about such incidents may mean reliving them so please don’t feel obliged to share, if this is too distressing for you because your wellbeing is more important than our list!

We also have included a list of links to advocacy, support, counselling and record-finding services on the right hand side of this website. If you would like further assistance you are most welcome to email us here at and we will endeavour to locate appropriate contact information for you.

Child Migrants, Forgotten Australians, Stolen Generations

Cuts to victims compensation NSW

by Adele Chynoweth on 22 February, 2011

Victim compensation schemes are important to those Forgotten Australians who suffered harm in Children’s Homes. The dedicated website Cuts to victims compensation details current changes to the NSW victim’s compensation scheme and associated campaign events for responsible victims compensation provisions.

Child Migrants, Forgotten Australians, memories, poetry

Oh Scotland!

by William Nelson (guest author) on 22 February, 2011

William Nelson, a former Child Migrant from Scotland, shares his poem about the importance of the reunion with his family in the UK.

As a child, William Nelson travelled to Australia from Scotland in 1939 on HMS Jervis Bay, leaving his siblings who remained in Scotland. From the age of four, he had lived in the William Quarrier’s Home in Scotland. When he arrived in Australia, he was sent to the Burnside Homes in NSW. He did not see his family again until the age of 74 when he visited the UK.

Oh Scotland!

Oh Scotland! Why did ye forsake me?
Why send me from your shores?
To a land far down under
That I know nothing of
Yet still I have a yearning
To see my native land
And try to greet a family
I did nae know I had
At last the journey’s over
My family I did greet
I’ll now return to my adopted land
To live my life in peace.

William Nelson copyright, 2000

Child Migrants, memories

The Argonaut

by Graham Budd (guest author) on 16 February, 2011

Graham Budd arrived in Australia from England in 1939 and was sent to Northcote Farm School in Victoria. Here he recalls winning a national competition run by ABC Radio’s The Argonauts, and how his joy was tempered by the remarks of a cruel cottage mother.

I arrived in Australia in the Jervis Bay on 6/1/39 along with 28 boys and girls bound for Northcote farm school Bacchus Marsh Victoria. I was 11 years and 5 months old and not at all happy, although excited as I looked on the venture as an exciting experience. I was bitter at leaving my grandfather, my young half brother aged 3 years and still mourned the loss of my stepfather who had died March 1938. He was a TPI [totally and permanently incapacitated] from World War I, ex-Coldstream Guards. I was very much attached to him.

The 161 children of Northcote were scattered in about 8/9 cottages each with a cottage ‘mother’. These ‘mothers’ came in various grades of intelligence and attitudes. Looking back as an adult I realise some were close to being insane, which gave rise to the following:

In December the ABC Argonauts children’s session on the wireless launched a competition for the best original Christmas card. Our cottage were all avid listeners as their session coincided with our evening meal so we had time to listen to it. Our ‘mother’ got some of us to enter the competition, she paid for the postage stamps, and in due course I was amazed to be told I had won. An Australia-wide competition, that was quite something. The home gave me the prize, a fountain pen and pencil set, but as they opened all our mail in and out, they did not give me the letter that must have come with it. All I got was the opened box. The incident caused quite a lot of comment around the place. These ‘mothers’ carried on a sort of private war among themselves, a ‘m boys are better than yours’ attitude which gave rise to the following:

A few days later I was walking past one of the cottages when the ‘mother’ who was standing on the verandah stopped me and said, “Oh Budd, I suppose that it doesn’t matter how clever you are, the Australian government isn’t going to spend any money on you. When you finish 8th grade they won’t send the likes of you to high school. You are going to have to work for a living whether you like it or not”.

Of course the statement was true, but the tone of voice and her general manner have stayed with me all my life. I have often wondered whatever possessed her to employ such a person in such a job. I was lucky that my own ‘cottage mother’ was different. Although she could not alter the general thrust of the place, her treatment of us under her care was excellent. I stayed in contact with her until she died, aged 84 – an association that lasted 36 years. She was in fact the only person apart from my grandfather and the ex-soldier stepfather who gave a damn about me as a person until I married at age 23. It was a lonely life.

The Xmas card incidentally was a hand-drawn picture of a warship with guns blazing and a submarine no 1939 obviously sinking but another no 1940 just coming to the surface. The warship was of course named The Argonaut – very appropriate for the time.

Graham Budd

You can hear segments from ABC’s radio show The Argonauts below:

Child Migrants, documents

Child trafficking is cheap

by Oliver Cosgrove (guest author) on 7 February, 2011

In 1950, in the United Kingdom (UK), the House of Commons Select Committee on Estimates reported that on average it cost £5.51 to keep a child with a local authority and £1.81 to board him/her out. However, page 7 of the Western Australian Child Welfare Department Annual Report to Parliament for Year Ending 30 June 1952 shows that the UK Government paid a subsidy for each child migrant sent to Australia of only 12 shillings and 6 pence!

The Pacific Exchange Rate, which shows the shows the currency conversions for each year 1948 to 2009, states that the GBP was worth $2.52. Halve that to get 10 shillings and you get $AUS1.26. Quarter the 10 shillings to get 2 shillings and 6 pence = 32 cents. So, the equivalent today is $AUS1.26 + 32 cents. = $AUS1.58. So there! The Great British Government was paying $1.58 per week to board a kid out in the Great Brown. Never let it be said that the British loved its poor!

In June 1998, in a submission to the UK Health Committee Inquiry into Child Migration, Dr Barbara Kahn OBE stated:

In 1950, only about two years after the new Departments were set up, a Select Committee on Estimates report pointed out that they were costing more than anticipated.

It was also around 1951–52 (?) to the best of my recollection, that there was a debate in the House of Commons when certain MPs urged the Government to put pressure on “these sticky fingered Children’s Officers” who were reluctant to emigrate their children. These are the words that remain in my mind. My memory is that one MP told the House they should know that whereas it then cost £5 a week for a child to be in care in Britain, if they were emigrated the cost to Britain would only be 10 shillings.

(Dr Barbara Kahn’s full submission may be read here)

Child Migrants, Forgotten Australians, memories, photos

Built by the boys

by Oliver Cosgrove (guest author) on 7 February, 2011

This photograph kindly forwarded to the National Museum by Oliver Cosgrove shows the interior of the chapel at the former Clontarf Boys Town, now Clontarf Aboriginal College.

Interior of a church empty but for one man

The interior bricks were rendered, the exterior stuccoed, and the roof timbers constructed from jarrah and karri. The parquetry floor was made from she-oak and jarrah, all securely laid in bitumen on a concrete base. The chapel was consecrated in 1941 by the Archbishop of Perth. The chapel was built in one year by the child residents at Clontarf.

Child Migrants, Forgotten Australians, memories, Stolen Generations

This’ll hurt me more than it’ll hurt you

by Adele Chynoweth on 3 February, 2011

Can you help the National Museum compile a list of punishments in Children’s Homes? We are putting together a list of ‘punishments’ that children endured in institutions – a record to remind others of the cruelty and brutality within Homes. We acknowledge that not all Forgotten Australians may have endured such treatment. Nevertheless, it is important that historical abuse be recognised.

Please feel free to post a response below or on the message board on this site.

You can also email me us at:
if you don’t want your contribution to be published online.

This is not a ‘competition’ to see who can come up with the most gruesome example. We know that to name some of the harsh treatment as mere ‘punishment’ covers up the fact that many incidents were nothing less than criminal assault. However, we are also interested in all kinds of disciplinary actions imposed by staff of Homes, even they seemed trivial. It is also OK if someone else has already posted the same punishment as you experienced. Repetition is OK because it is interesting for us to learn how widespread a particular penalty was.

It would helpful, too, if you could also let us know what year/s the punishment occurred and in which particular Home.

We understand that writing about such incidents may mean reliving them so please don’t feel obliged to share, if this is too distressing for you because your wellbeing is more important than our list!

We also have included a list of links to advocacy, support, counselling and record-finding services on the right hand side of this website. If you would like further assistance you are most welcome to email us here at and we will endeavour to locate appropriate contact information for you.