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
Forgotten Australians, memories, photos

Parkerville photos

by Bob McGuire (guest author) on 9 May, 2011

Bob McGuire shares his recent photographs of Parkerville Children’s Home, WA.

Bob says,

Some cottages are gone, sadly, as a lot of us go back for a look at the place. The dining room is one of the main photos as everyone remembers the beltings we would get in that place with the cane, just prior to having to sit down for a meal….sobbing uncontrollaby from the pain…….it has been renamed Worthington Hall, but that doesn’t hide the shame.

If the Anglican Church done the right thing, then they would build a nursing home and aged housing, with first preference to those that were there, and show that they now care.

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.

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)

articles/lectures, documents, Forgotten Australians, Stolen Generations

Welfare refutes slander against Good Shepherd Home

by Oliver Cosgrove (guest author) on 12 April, 2011

How did abuse happen in institutions without anyone knowing at the time? In 1944, a Mrs Grundy in Perth knew. Her letters of complaint against child slave labour at the Convent of the Good Shepherd were published by the Catholic newspaper The Record, on Wednesday, 20 September 1944.  In the reply, the editor published the response of Welfare. Oliver Cosgrove kindly made available to the National Museum this excerpt from The Record, headlined Child Welfare Department Refute Malicious Slander Against Home of the Good Shepherd:

Mrs Grundy, Perth:

The next letter is from Mrs Grundy, Perth. She writes: Dear Sir – Will you please answer the following question?

Q: Why are such corrupt and diabolical institutions as the (so called) Convent of the Good Shepherd, where the inmates are mainly slaves, and where the industrial laws of the country are flouted, exempt from Government inspection?

A: In view of the startling and damaging nature of your revelations, your letter was shown to an official of the Child Welfare Department, so that the matter could be investigated and the abuse corrected if necessary. The following reply was received:

“All industrial homes, including the Home of the Good Shepherd Convent must be approved by the Governor through his representative, before they are allowed to function and all are subject to inspection by Government officials at any time. So far as the Home of the Good Shepherd is concerned, a full inspection covering buildings, living and working conditions, food and books of admission and discharges is made every three months by officers of the Child Welfare Department, who also interview the children and make individual reports upon them to the Secretary of the Department.

“The Child Welfare Department regulations require the institution to provide industrial training, such as needlework, washing, ironing, housework, cooking, gardening, and where cows are kept, dairying. This is necessary for the rehabilitation of the children. The same regulations control the hours of work.”

The next question from Mrs Grundy is this:

Q: The prisoners in our common gaols get a little remuneration for their labour, but in your Good Shepherd reformatory all they receive is plenty of hard work, hard living and blows. No wonder the poor unfortunate girl delinquents prefer the State prison to the sheltering care of your Convents.

A: Once again I quote the letter of the Child Welfare Department official;

“The committal of children to the Home of the Good Shepherd is not made as a punitive measure, but as a constructive one, and every effort is made to train their minds as well as their hands.

“Regular remuneration is not given because the Home is run for the comfort and care, not only of those who work under supervision, but also for those who for various reasons cannot work, some having to be nursed.

“State prisons are a Government responsibility, the overhead cost of running them being met by the taxpayers.

“As for girls preferring State prisons to the Home of the Good Shepherd, this may be said by an incorrigible girl out of bravado, but is far from the truth.

“The conditions of living at the Home of the Good Shepherd are such that many children, both ex-wards of the State and private girls, return there of their own free will, rather than remain in homes or in positions. Government regulations allow that corporal punishment may be administered for offences against morality, gross impertinence, or for persistent disobedience, but not for trivial breaches of discipline or dullness in learning. However, corporal punishment is not resorted to in the Home of the Good Shepherd.”

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)

events, Forgotten Australians, memories

Making memories – for life

by Julie Forrest (guest author) on 10 March, 2011

Julie Forrest, the daughter of an orphanage survivor, is holding a function to honour her mother and her friends from the Home.

Any other WA former residents of Homes are invited to attend. Julie says:

Come and join in celebrating the good thing about being in these orphanages etc, which are the lifelong friendships that have been formed and that they survived and have each other to lean on. We are celebrating and not dwelling,

but we are acknowledging and validating what has happened.

 

Poster advertising an event called 'Making memories'
Poster advertising an event called ‘Making memories’