First permanent English settlement at Jamestown,
Virginia, on the north American coast.
Labour shortage. The Privy Council sanctions the
transportation of convicted felons to Virginia and the West Indian
island colonies such as Bermuda.
London Common Council and the Virginia Company
consider sending ‘vagrant’ children (street kids) to Virginia.
First 100 vagrant children rounded up and despatched
to Virginia; venture declared a success; second group planned.
(January) Opposition to child migration; first group
sent illegally, but 31 January the Privy Council authorises child
migration. Second 100 children sent to America.
Indian massacre of 350 settlers in Virginia in the
wake of which another 100 vagrant children were sent among the
Corporation for the Propagation of the Gospel in New
England arranges the emigration of some 200 poor children (not,
however ‘vagrants’) to North American colonies. The children were
escorted to the colonies by members of the society. ‘Spiriting’ (ie
kidnapping) children for work in Americas had grown to meet the
perennial labour shortage in the colonies. Bristol the main port of
emigration. Parliament passes an ordinance to make spiriting a
An office was created, under Roger Whitely, to
register intended emigrants leaving British ports for the Americas.
Spiriting continues; registering not a success.
Privy Council creates another department to register
young persons leaving for the colonies to counter the activities of
unscrupulous emigration agents and ‘spirits’.
(September) Flying Post newspaper reporter claims he
observed ‘about 200’ kidnapped boys held on a ship in the Thames
awaiting departure for the colonies.
Aberdeen (Scotland) and environs saw some 500 young
people kidnapped for the colonies.
Marine Society founded by Jonas Hanway and Sir John
Fielding to train ‘boys from 12 to 16’ found roaming the streets for
service in the Royal Navy.
The Extraordinary Adventures of Peter Williamson
exposes kidnapping of children in Scotland for service in the
Americas. The book led to a celebrated civil action against certain
Aberdeen businessmen and magistrates for complicity in the traffic.
American War of Independence confirms the Declaration
of Independence of the Thirteen seaboard colonies in North America;
end of adult convict transportation to the American colonies.
New South Wales established as a penal colony; many
of the convicts transported were under eighteen years of age.
French revolutionary wars; Napoleon Bonaparte. The
wars involved many thousands of young men who would formerly have
gone – freely or otherwise – to the North American colonies.
Captain E P Brenton founded the Children’s Friend
Society whose policy was reformation plus emigration for outcast
youth. In the 1830s the Children’s Friend Society despatched some
700–800 boys as child migrants to the Cape Colony with a few
children going to Toronto in Upper Canada (Ontario).
Parkhurst prison established on the Isle of Wight
where convicted boys under sixteen years of age passed some of their
sentence before (possible) emigration to a British colony. Some
Parkhurst boys went to New Zealand; others to Western Australia.
Ragged School Movement founded with Earl of
Shaftesbury as President.
Ragged Schools received a grant of fifteen hundred
pounds to send 150 children to New South Wales.
Parliament allowed the Poor Law Guardians with the
consent of the Poor Law Board to fund the emigration of any child in
St. Pancras Poor Law Guardians emigrated small
numbers of children to the British colonies in the West Indies.
In New York, the Congregational Minister, Rev. C L
Brace, founded the Children’s Aid Society.
The Children’s Aid Society sent its first group of
‘orphans’ from New York – by train – to be adopted or indentured to
farming families in the middle west states of Iowa, Michigan, Kansas
and Ohio. Between 1854 and 1930 the Children’s Aid Society and the
New York Foundling Hospital sent between 150 000 and 200 000
children on the ‘Orphan Trains’ to the western farming states.
Scottish-born evangelist, Annie Macpherson, opened
her Home of Industry at Spitalfield in the desperately deprived East
End of London. The more famous Thomas Barnardo also commenced his
work for the poor in London.
Macpherson escorted her first party of one hundred
children to Ontario, Canada. Rev. Charles Brace of ‘Orphan Train’
fame was, in part, her inspiration. Her centre in Ontario was at
Belleville; her receiving home’s name was ‘Marchmont’. Father Nugent
of Liverpool pioneered Catholic child migration to Canada.
Macpherson opened two additional Canadian receiving
homes at Galt in Ontario and Knowlton in Quebec. She arranged
emigration parties from Barnardo’s, the Orphan Homes of Scotland (Quarrier)
and the Smyly homes of Dublin as well as from her own London ‘Home
Senior Poor Law Inspector, John Doyle, reported
unfavourably on some aspects of child migration to Canada,
especially that arranged by Maria Rye. The result was that fewer
workhouse, industrial school and reformatory children were sent as
child migrants; most young emigrants came from private care
Dr Barnardo embraced child migration wholeheartedly –
he was already the dominant child care personality of the age – his
organisation sponsored 20 000 children to Canada by 1930.
William Quarrier, founder of the Orphan Homes of
Scotland, Bridge of Weir, near Glasgow, started his own Canadian
receiving home called ‘Fairknowe’ at Brockville, Ontario.
The Custody of Children Act (so called ‘Barnardo’s
Act’) legalised the work of the private emigration societies where
previously they had acted in a legal grey area.
Catholic child migration was centralised through the
Archdiocese of Westminster ‘Crusade of Rescue’. Its leaders in
London included Fathers Richard Seddon and Archibald Douglas and in
Birmingham, Father John Hudson.
Australian colonies federated as the Commonwealth of
Australia. Immigration Restriction Act enshrines the principle of a
‘white Australia’. The Pacific Island Labourers Act was passed under
which all Pacific Islanders on contract in the colonies were to be
returned to their places of origin by 1906.
The tone of child migration rhetoric was becoming
less religious and more imperial. A new departure came when Mrs.
Elinor Close advocated the training of workhouse children in
Canadian farm schools before their placement with Canadian farmers.
No support from Poor Law Board, but some private assistance.
Training farm established in Nova Scotia.
Kingsley Fairbridge popularised the farm school
movement with the support of an Oxford-based committee and an offer
of land near Perth by the Western Australian Government. The
Dreadnought Trust – with Government assistance – subsidised youth
migration to Australia, mainly to New South Wales. The youths were
intended for farm work after an initial three-months training at the
Scheyville centre near Windsor.
Thomas Sedgwick popularised the benefits of youth
migration to Australia or New Zealand for farm work. Youths sent
were often around 15–19 years of age; child migrants were under
fourteen years of age. Sedgwick’s first party of 50 youths selected
from London and Liverpool was sent to New Zealand.
The first home sponsored by the Child Emigration
Society of Oxford was established at Pinjarra, some forty kilometres
south-east of Perth by Kingsley and Ruby Fairbridge. The first few
years were an epic struggle for survival.
First World War ended all emigration from Great
The British care societies recommenced sending
children to Canada, but their efforts were on a smaller scale than
The Joint Commonwealth and States Scheme allowed for
new cooperation in the field of immigration between Federal and
State governments in Australia. The Commonwealth took responsibility
for recruiting, medical examination and transport of immigrants to
Australia, while the states advised the Commonwealth on the number
and type of immigrants required and arranged reception, employment
and after-care. Directors of Immigration were appointed both in
Australia and London.
The Empire Settlement Act provided monies for the
British Government to assist emigration, including child and youth
migration. The first Barnardo’s child migrants arrived in New South
Wales. Kingsley Fairbridge received substantial assistance from the
Overseas Settlement Board in London to place his farm school at
Pinjarra on a permanent footing.
Kingsley Fairbridge died but the farm school movement
was accepted as a superior approach to child migration as a result
of his work. Sir Richard Linton founded the Big Brother Movement in
Sydney to encourage youth migration on a large scale.
Catholic leaders in Perth plan for a farm school at
Tardun, west of Geraldton, as an extension of Clontarf Orphanage,
and staffed by the Christian Brothers.
In the wake of the Great Depression, child migration
to Canada ended, except to the Fairbridge Farm School in British
Columbia, which was established later. Most immigration to Australia
was severely curtailed although Fairbridge was permitted to bring
children to its Pinjarra farm school and Barnardo’s to continue with
its work at Mowbray Park, Picton, NSW.
New farm schools on Fairbridge principles were
established at Molong, near Orange, New South Wales and at Bacchus
March near Melbourne. This latter was the Lady Northcote Farm
School. Renewal of the Empire Settlement Act for a further fifteen
The first 114 child migrants under Catholic auspices
arrived in Western Australia as part of the Tardun scheme. This was
part of a partial renewal of assistance schemes by the Commonwealth
The outbreak of war in Europe in 1939 led to the
suspension of child and youth migration schemes.
There was fear of a German invasion in Britain and
the Children’s Overseas Reception Board arranged to send 577
children to Australia for the duration before the risk of submarine
attack rendered the scheme unworkable.
The fear of Japanese invasion led the Government to
plan for large-scale immigration after the war. Child and youth
migration was to be a major part of this effort.
The Curtis Committee Report in the UK heralded a
different thrust in child care principles.
War ended. For two years no ships available to bring
migrants to Australia. Meanwhile, social change meant that few
British children were available for child migration. Youth migration
to Australia was much more popular. However, the Dreadnought Scheme
did not survive the war.
First post-World War II child migrants arrive in
Australia. The majority were placed in Western Australian
institutions and about one-half now came under Catholic auspices.
Big Brother Movement, NSW and Tasmania, renewed its youth migration
to Australia and during the 1950s brought some 400 young men per
year, fifteen to eighteen years of age, to Australia. Overall, some
12 500 teenagers came to Australia under this scheme since its
inception in 1925.
Maltese child migrants – all boys – arrived in
Australia for the first time. All were placed in the Christian
Brothers institutions in Western Australia. Eventually about 280
Maltese child migrants came to Australia.
John Moss, retired Home Office Inspector, and member
of the Curtis Committee, toured Australian child care institutions.
In general, Moss remained sympathetic to child migration for certain
deprived British children.
Home Office Fact-Finding Committee
visited Australia to study Australian institutions taking child
migrants as the Commonwealth Settlement Act was due for renewal the
following year. Committee’s secret report to the Home Office was
very critical of some Australian institutions and cold to the whole
idea of child emigration. British Catholic care institutions
terminated all plans to send further children to Australia.
The Commonwealth Settlement Act
was renewed by the British Parliament but few child migrants arrived
in Australia, although small numbers arrived under Barnardo’s and
Fairbridge auspices. In all, some 3,500–4,000 child migrants came to
Australia after World War II.
The last nine child migrants came to Australia by air
with the Barnardo’s organisation.
The new Labor Government ended preference for British
migrants in Australia’s immigration.
Big Brother Movement ceases to sponsor youth migrants
Nottingham social worker, Margaret
Humphreys, received her first request from a former child migrant
for assistance in finding her relatives and commenced her efforts to
reunite former child migrants with their families. This initiative
led to the formation of the Child Migrant Trust (CMT) with some
financial support from the Nottingham City Council, together with
the British and Australian Governments over time.
Margaret Humphreys’ research
visits to Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne. In both Western Australia
and the United Kingdom the child migration controversy commenced in
the media with a series of major articles in The Observer. In Perth,
Western Australia, the Child Migrant Friendship Society was founded
as a support group for former child migrants.
Research visits to Canada and Zimbabwe by Margaret
Philip Bean and Joy Melville
publish Lost Children of the Empire which was soon afterwards filmed
and distributed as a television documentary. Both publicised child
migration widely and encouraged popular and academic interest in the
subject. Thousands of calls received on help lines following the
screening of this documentary.
Child Migrant Trust receives a
three-year grant from the Australian Department of Immigration and
Child Migrant Trust opens an
office in Melbourne, Victoria and appoints qualified and experienced
The ABC and BBC co-produced a
mini-series, The Leaving of Liverpool, which explored the child
migration phenomenon. In Perth, the VOICES organisation was
established to press for compensation for former residents of
Christian Brothers Boys homes in Western Australia.
In July, The Leaving of Liverpool
was shown in the UK by the BBC. Nottinghamshire County Council
provided free telephone help lines staffed by the CMT for two
evenings. Computer monitoring revealed that over 10 000 calls were
made. The Christian Brothers published nationwide a public apology
in regard to physical and sexual abuses committed in their Western
Australian homes and provided a counselling service and travel
assistance to some former child migrants to visit the UK.
CMT Director’s book Empty Cradles was launched at a
function at the House of Commons in London.
Following the CMT’s submission,
citizenship fees were waived for former child migrants, thus
effectively recognising their unique position in Australian society,
as well as the expertise of the Trust in verifying the bona fides of
former child migrants seeking Australian citizenship. The Trust
opens an office in Perth, Western Australia.
The civil action sponsored by the VOICES organisation
was settled out of court with $3.5 million distributed among some
250 former students, many of whom were former child migrants. A
Western Australian parliamentary committee investigated child
migration. Over the next three years, the Christian Brothers
produced a raft of measures to meet the needs of former child
migrants which included: funding for a project to produce a
computerised index to records of former child migrants who came to
Australia under the auspices of the Catholic Church; and
commissioning a survey of accommodation needs among former residents
of Christian Brothers homes.
The United Kingdom Health Committee announced an
inquiry into the welfare of British former child migrants, after ten
years of campaigning by the Child Migrant Trust.
A UK Parliamentary Committee on Child Migration
visited Australia to investigate this former aspect of British
social policy. Its report, issued in August, was critical of child
migration policy in general and of the treatment many former child
migrants experienced in Australia, especially in certain Catholic
homes in Western Australia and Queensland. The Western Australian
Legislative Assembly passed a motion on 13 August apologising to
former child migrants for any abuses they suffered in the state’s
institutions during their childhood.