Child and Youth Migrants: 1924 – 1976


Many children were deported to Tasmania from Europe unaccompanied by their parent, carer or guardian as part of a series of State and Commonwealth government-funded schemes, or through various societies. These children were generally regarded as either Child Migrants or as Youth Migrants if they were old enough to start work as soon as they arrived in Tasmania.

This guide is aimed at assisting people who are seeking information and records documenting the circumstances of their own arrival in Australia as a Child or Youth Migrant, or that of a close relative. It will focus on the years from 1924 to 1976 in Tasmania.

For support services, advice and assistance with record searches and finding information about family, please contact the Child Migrants Trust.

The Find and Connect organisation provides support and counselling.

This guide will assist you by:

This guide is closely paired with our guide on Adoption, Fostering and Out-of-Home Care, and you will find that there are many cross-overs in information, particularly around out-of-home care. We strongly recommend that you consult both of these guides.


There were two major waves of child and youth migration, both of which occurred after the two world wars; the first major scheme began in 1924, when 71 boys arrived as part of the Youths for Farm Work Scheme. These boys were aged between 14 and 16 and were deployed to farms around Tasmania with the aim of learning agricultural skills and providing a much-needed labour boost in rural areas.

The second major scheme ran from 1949 to 1976, and is estimated to have brought around 300 child migrants to Tasmania. Two societies, The Big Brother Movement and the Fairbridge Drake Society, actively arranged and supported the relocation of children to Tasmania.

These children were predominantly from Britain and Malta, but also Belgium and Greece, with many placed initially with out-of-home care providers. Some children were later adopted by Tasmanian families, however, the vast majority were to remain living in these homes throughout their childhood.

Many children and youth migrants suffered very serious institutional abuses. National Apologies by the Australian Government and the British Government acknowledged systemic faults and abuses. In November 2009, the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull came together to issue a National Apology to Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants. This apology speaks to ‘the particular pain of children shipped to Australia as child migrants – robbed of your families, robbed of your homeland, regarded not as innocent children but regarded instead as a source of child labour.’

This was followed in February 2010 by a National Apology to former Child Migrants and their families made by the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. In this apology the Prime Minister acknowledged that the policies of child migration that were practised in Britain caused great suffering and hurt. A Family Restoration Fund was created to support family reunions.

This fund is administered by the Child Migrants Trust.

Different sorts of records

We understand the great importance of records to Child and Youth Migrants, many of whom were provided with misleading information about their families and the circumstances that led to their deportation to Australia.

For support in searching for records from the child’s birthplace and place of origin, please contact The Child Migrants Trust. This may include a full birth certificate, child health records, migration records, and departure records. There may also be records for various parents and other family members.

The National Archives of the UK have a useful guide to child migrant records. The National Archives of Australia also have a useful guide on Child migration to Australia.

A range of different sorts of records were created at various points during the process of relocating children to Tasmania between 1924 and 1976.

Each of these different sorts of records have different ways and means of accessing them. In general, we can separate records on child and youth migrants into two broad categories, State records and Non-State records:

It is important to remember that Child Migrant records are not collated together in one file under one name: there might be three or four separate files. It is likely that your files might exist across both State and Non-State collections, and that even within these, there might be several files in different series. For example, you may have been a Ward of the State but placed into a Non-State care home.

Accessing State Records

Many Tasmanian State records about Child Migrants and their care are restricted access, most commonly for 75 years calculated from the most recent date recorded. This is to ensure that sensitive personal information remains private.

For example, the Tasmanian Archives holds the following series of Welfare files in our collection that contains information about individual child migrants:

How can I access my State records?

Searching the Tasmanian Archives and The Tasmanian Names Index

First, we would recommend that you search the Tasmanian Archives and The Tasmanian Names Index as many open social welfare files and migration files have been digitised and are available in our catalogue. You can search for these records using the individual’s name.

For further tips and information on searching our catalogue, please consult our information page. You can also view a video.

Closed Records

If you do not find any records after searching using an individual’s name in the Tasmanian Archive catalogue and Tasmanian Names Index, then it is highly likely that the record is closed.

While the Tasmanian Archives is a starting point to finding out about your childhood story, we will need to refer you to the Department for Education, Children and Young People, Tasmania, or Adoption Information Service to access closed State records. That agency will assess your application to see closed records, search for items on your behalf, and may then provide access to these records to you.

Accessing Welfare and Ward of the State files

To access Welfare and Ward of the State files you will need to contact the Department for Education, Children and Young People, Tasmania, and complete a Right to Information application form.  The online RTI form is available on the Department for Education, Children and Young People website. The department will assess your application and may then provide access.

Department for Education, Children and Young People,
Children, Youth and Families division, Tasmania 
Phone: (03) 6166 3594

Accessing State Immigration Office files

Files created by the State Immigration office are now the responsibility of Premier and Cabinet, so you will need to contact the Department of Premier and Cabinet and complete a PIP form. The Department of Premier and Cabinet took over the responsibilities of the State Immigration office when it ceased in 1982 and immigration responsibilities were fully taken on by the Commonwealth government.

Department of Premier and Cabinet
Phone: 1300 135 513

Accessing adoption and fostering records

It is important to note that records about adoption and fostering are permanently closed to the public. Child Migrants who were adopted or in foster care as a child will need to contact the Adoption Information Service to discuss the process, and to find out if they are eligible. Only certain people under the Adoption Act (1988) can access information from the record.

Adoption Information Service
Phone: (03) 6166 0422

Find & Connect has a useful overview explaining your rights to information and the privacy laws that govern what records can be accessed, how they can be accessed, and what can be amended. See Applying for Records: Your Rights and the Law, which provides links to the original legislation.

State Records on Child and Youth Migrants

Multiple Tasmanian state departments were involved in child migration and the children’s care. The records of the State Immigration Office document the nomination and arrival of the Child Migrant. The State Immigration Office also approved and frequently communicated with Child Migrant out-of-home care providers.

There were four approved care providers for migrant children in Tasmania: Clarendon Children’s Home in Kingston (1922 – 2004), St John Bosco Boy’s Town in Glenorchy (1945 – 1956), Hadley Farm School (1936 – 1976?), and Tresca at Exeter (c. 1958 – 1976).

The Tasmanian Archives holds various correspondence files and fact finding mission files that accessed State Immigration Office’s assessment of out-of-home care providers. Records created after the children’s arrival in Tasmania are in the case files of the Department of Social Welfare.

The main open record series created by Government agencies for Child and Youth Migrants are:

State Immigration Office (TA168)

1955-56 M3793 Fact Finding Mission on Child Migration (AA59/1/3034)

1946-1981 Index to personal nominations (AA60)

1953-1962 M1283 [1] St John Bosco Boys Town (AA59/1/1126)

1948-1958 M1283 [2] St John Bosco Boys Town (AA59/1/1127)

1946-1962 M135 Hagley Area Farm School (AA59/1/109)

1946-1957 M82 Mr J.S. Maslin, Hagley Area School (AA59/1/68)

1952-1960 M903 [2] Big Brother Movement of Tasmania (AA59/1/821)

Department of Education: Hagley Farm School (TA1456)

1879-1979 Admission Register (AD304)

1909-1972 Record Book (AD305)

Department of Agriculture (TA370)

1912-1924 Immigration and Intelligence Branch – Forms of Nomination of Persons to Migrate to Tasmania on Assisted Passages Nos 1-297 (SWD15)

1959-1962 19/1D1 No.1 – Agricultural Matters and Extension Work – Intending Settlers – “Big Brother Movement of Tasmania” (AD9/1/16958)

Department of Social Welfare (TA88)

1920-1943 Correspondence of the Immigration Office Concerning the Nomination Arrival and Settlement of Migrants (SWD4)

1945-1951 M133 Legal Guardianship Migrant Children (AA59/1/108)

The main closed record series for Child and Youth Migrants, for which you have to contact the relevant government agency are:

State Immigration Office (TA168)

Please note that access to these files are through the Department of Premier and Cabinet.

1946-1981 Migrant files case files of all nominated migrants (AA59)

1973 M6505 Clarendon Children’s Home [nominator] (AA59/1/5499)

1947-1971 M903 [1] Big Brother Movement of Tasmania (AA59/1/820)

Department of Social Welfare (TA88)

1950-1989 Record cards of ‘non-citizen’ children (AD256)

1915-1994 General welfare case files (AA226)

1939-1972 Case files of the child welfare division (SWD66)

1949-1954 6/15/1(B)-St John Bosco Boys’ Town, Glenorchy-Child Migration (AD203/1/1587)

1976-1987 6/18/1-Tresca-Fairbridge Home-Exeter (AD203/1/1595)

1956-1976 6/18/1 Tresca Fairbridge Home-Exeter-Child Migration (AD203/1/1594)

1956-1968 14/7/1-Big Brother Movement-Child Migration (AD203/1/2153)

Accessing Non-State Records

The Tasmanian Archives does not directly hold the administrative and admission records of the four main Child Migrant out-of-home care providers.

For records on Clarendon Children’s Home and St John Bosco Boys’ Town, you will need to contact the church or private institution’s research support services to gain access to your records. Our Guide to Records on Adoptions, Fostering and Out-of-Home Care explains this process in greater detail. We recommend that you consult the Find & Connect website, which has a comprehensive list of children’s homes in Tasmania that looked after migrants, as well as guides to record holdings, contact details and photographs.

The Tasmanian Archives does hold Non-State administrative records on the Hagley Farm School and Tresca, because Child Migrants cared for in these two out-of-home care providers were placed there through the Fairbridge Drake Society, whose records we hold.

However, please note that admission records for the Hagley Farm School are also held in our State collection outlined above, in the Department of Education series for Hagley Farm School (TA1456).

Fairbridge Drake Society

The Fairbridge Society was formed in 1909 by Kingsley Fairbridge with the intention of providing support for the relocation of British children around the Commonwealth to learn farming skills. Many Child Migrants were sent to Australia by this society, which later changed its name to the Fairbridge Drake Society.

Hagley Farm School and Tresca Home

The principal of the government-run Hagley Farm School, JS Maslin, was a great admirer of the Fairbridge Drake system. He developed accommodation facilities and educational resources that included farm training for students according to the Fairbridge principles, and was successful in gaining the support of the Society and the government to house Child Migrants. The first Fairbridge sponsored children arrived in 1952.

In 1957, the Fairbridge Society expanded their out-of-home care in Tasmania, acquiring a property located at Exeter, nearly Launceston, called Tresca. Many of the children at Tresca come to Tasmania under the parent following scheme, in which parents would follow their children at a later date. This allowed for people often excluded from migration, such as single mothers, to migrate to Australia with support. However, this scheme was not successful with many parents not being allowed to or having the support to follow their children to Tasmania.

Records of the Fairbridge Drake Society have access restrictions. If you lived at this home, you will need to contact us at the Tasmanian Archives for access to these records.

General Records of the Society, Fairbridge-Drake Society (NS1438), from 1925 to 1985:

1958-76 Family Register (NS1438/1/88)

1957-1973 General Administrative file (NS1438/1/15)

1925-1985 Printed annual reports of the Fairbridge Society (some years not included; see the full list)

1958 Photographs of “Tresca” at Exeter Includes official opening, exterior and interior building shots, staff and some children. Some of the photographs were taken for official publicity purposes to illustrate how the home operated. Range from NS1438/1/59 to NS1438/1/82

Big Brother Movement (1925-1960s)

The Big Brother Movement was an Australia-wide volunteer organisation that helped find Youth Migrants (called ‘Little Brothers’) placements on farms. It first began in 1925, with the first Youth Migrant arriving in Tasmania in 1949.

Big Brother Movement of Tasmania (NG2468) from 1949 to 1962:

1949-1962 Minute book (NS2933/1/1)

How can we help you?

There are many ways that Libraries Tasmania can help you find information about child migration to Tasmania.

For quick queries or help consulting various records, feel free to visit us in the Reading Room and History Room on the second floor of the State Library of Tasmania (91 Murray Street, Hobart) where staff can assist you.

You can also reach us on the telephone on 6165 5538 between 9.30am and 5:00pm Monday to Friday.

If your query requires a little bit more research or has some more challenging questions, then you can fill out an online form.

Key publications in our collection

What can I find from other organisations?

National Archives of Australia

The National Archives of Australia hold a range of records on Child Migrants, such as immigration case files, passenger lists of ships, and Naturalisation files. Please refer to their information guide on Child migration to Australia.

The National Archives of Australia also have the Immigration Photographic Archive, which includes images of child migrants and of Out-of-Home care providers for Child migrants. Examples include an image of Tresca in 1958.
Phone: 03 6165 5607

National Library of Australia

Interviews of former Australian Child Migrants were recorded between 2009 and 2012 as part of the Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants oral history project. These are available for you to listen to online. There are many Tasmanian Child Migrants amongst these interviews.

Useful contacts and support services

Child Migrants Trust

The Child Migrants Trust provides counselling, support for redress applications, and record searching. It helps facilitate family reunions and travel to places of origin.
Freecall: 1800 04 05 09

Find and Connect Support Service (Tasmania)

Helps Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants to trace their history and understand the reason they were placed into care, reconnect with family where possible and to access counselling and other supports.
Phone: 1800 16 11 09 (Freecall)

Care Leavers Australia Network

A group who supports people who have grown up in Orphanages, Children’s Home, Missions and Foster Care in Australia and New Zealand, or whose parents or other family members had this experience.
Phone: 1800 008 774

Tasmanian Family History Society

Library resources and advice.

National Redress Scheme

Phone: 1800 737 377

If you need immediate assistance, please contact: