The Northcote Farm School was established at Glenmore, near Bacchus Marsh, Victoria, in 1937. It was the only institution in Victoria to have been constructed specifically for child migrants. From 1937 to 1958, the Northcote Farm School received a total of 273 child migrants and from 1962 it accepted local children, including wards of the state. Northcote Farm School had accommodation for approximately 200 children. It was run by the Northcote Trust until the Social Welfare Department took over in 1976. It closed in 1979.
The Northcote Farm School was established at Glenmore, near Bacchus Marsh, Victoria, in 1937. The Farm was established as a result of a bequest by Lady Northcote, an admirer of Kingsley Fairbridge and his Farm School initiative. The Farm School was based on Fairbridge principles.
Although the Northcote Farm was established independently of Fairbridge it soon developed a close relationship with the Fairbridge Society, with the Society agreeing to select and send children from Britain to the farm school.
The Northcote Farm School received 273 child migrants in total, between 1937 and 1958 (Lost Innocents Report, Table 3.2 Numbers of Fairbridge Child Migrants).
A group of 28 children (16 boys and 12 girls, the first girls to be placed at the farm school) arrived on the Largs Bay ship on 17 May 1938, bound for the Northcote Farm at Bacchus Marsh. The Age newspaper reported that many of these children were related to the first group of migrant boys who arrived at Northcote Farm in July 1937.
Eric Goldspink was part of the sixth group of British child migrants to arrive at Northcote Farm School in 1939. He described a typical routine, with days starting with a cold shower at 6am, making your bed and undertaking household duties in the dorm of your cottage.
‘In the morning, everyone had a job to do, whether it was cleaning the dining room, sweeping the dormitory or cleaning the bathroom – the jobs always changed’.
Children would then rush out to a paddock to take part in military-style exercises, before eating breakfast – porridge, bread and jam -and departing for school.
‘It was more or less a seven-day week. Every day was housework; we had five days of school, sport on Saturday and Sunday School and church on Sunday. ‘You got out of the village whenever you could, most of the time we went hunting, as we’d make money from selling rabbit skin’ (Moorabool News, 2017).
The start of World War Two halted the supply of child migrants from Britain, which was suspended between 1939 and 1948. A number of children were sent from Northcote Farm to the Fairbridge Farm School at Molong, New South Wales. Eric Goldspink was one of 18 boys who stayed behind at Bacchus Marsh, tending to the farm.
From 1948 until 1958, 17 more groups of child migrants were brought to the Lady Northcote Children’s Village. As child migrant numbers were in decline, children coming out on ‘One Parent’ and ‘Two Parent’ schemes were sent to Northcote in 1959 (Victorian Heritage Database). These were schemes where the children either came to Australia accompanied by, or in advance of, one or both of their parents (Lost Innocents report, 2001).
A 1959 report by an inspector for the Child Endowment scheme noted that Northcote Farm School had accommodation for 200 children. However, it stated that due to the changes in policy in England and the reduction in numbers of child migrants being sent to Australia, there were only 140 children at the Home at that time, and there had been no new admissions since August 1957. The report also stated that after they had been admitted to the Home, very few children were discharged or transferred to other Homes before their 16th birthday. The majority of those that did leave prior to this time were either discharged to foster parents or returned to England.
The Northcote School Act was passed in 1960, making it possible for other children, including Victorian wards of state, to be placed at the Home. According to the preamble of the Act:
Despite this change that led to state wards being accommodated at Northcote Farm School, the institution continued to be run by the Northcote Trust. In the mid 1970s, the Northcote Trustees sold part of the farm school site at Bacchus Marsh in Victoria and gifted the village to the Victorian Government (the terms of this sale were set out in the Northcote Trust Fund Act 1975).
From 1976, Northcote School was run by the Victorian government as a departmental children’s home. Children were housed in cottages in a campus setting. It was government-run until it was closed in 1979. Funds were redirected to replacement family group homes and to support other regional family service programs. The property was transferred to the Department of Sport and Recreation to be used as the Lady Northcote Recreation Camp.
Since 1997, the site has been known as the Lady Northcote Discovery Camp, and is owned by Sport and Recreation Victoria. It is managed by the YMCA who use it for adventure and recreation camps.
One of its remaining buildings, House 12, was granted to the ‘Old Northcotians’, the former residents’ society, along with a financial grant to assist in the repair of the building. .
In October 2008 the Lady Northcote Recreation Camp was included in Victoria’s Heritage Register for its cultural heritage significance. It is the only institution in Victoria to have been constructed specifically for child migrants.
In 2021, the Commonwealth and Victorian governments have agreed to be a funder of last resort for this institution. This means that although the institution is now defunct, it is participating in the National Redress Scheme, and the government has agreed to pay the institution’s share of costs of providing redress to a person (as long as the government is found to be equally responsible for the abuse a person experienced).
Lady Northcote Farm School
Lady Northcote Recreation Camp
Northcote Children's Home
1937 - 1979
The Northcote Farm School was located at Glenmore Road, Glenmore, near Bacchus Marsh, Victoria (Building Still standing)