Child and Youth Migrants: 1924 – 1976

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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.

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