• Concept

Child and Youth Migration to Victoria


Child and Youth Migration to Victoria began in the nineteenth century. The years post World War One saw a wave of youth migrants from Britain, sponsored by non-government organisations. Estimates of the number of children and youths sent to Australia after World War Two vary from 5,000 to 10,000. Most of these child migrants were sent to charitable and religious institutions. All of the child migrants destined for the state of Victoria came from Britain (other Australian states received migrants from Malta). The Director of the Children’s Welfare Department was the legal guardian of child migrants, authorised by the Commonwealth legislation, Immigration (Guardianship of Children) Act 1946-1952.

In 1949, the Victorian government made funds available for church institutions to carry out building work in preparation for receiving child migrants. Grants were made to organisations including the Church of England Boys’ Society, the Presbyterian Church Social Services Department, Kildonan in Burwood, and the Sisters of Nazareth. The state government (and the British government) would contribute to the upkeep of child migrants living in Victorian institutions.

The total number of child migrants who ended up in the state of Victoria is not clear. In the post-war period, between 1947 and 1953, Sherington and Jeffery state that Victoria received 232 child migrants from Britain. 83 of these went to the Northcote Farm School, 67 to Catholic institutions and 82 children to institutions managed by ‘Other’ denominations .

Interest in the little-known history of child migration to Australia, combined with the claims of abuse and mistreatment by former child migrants, led to the Inquiry into Child Migration in the Senate which tabled its report, ‘Lost Innocents: Righting the Record – inquiry into child migration’ in 2001.

In November 2009, the Prime Minister of Australia apologised to Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants.

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