Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Good British Stock: Child and Youth Migration to Australia by Barry Coldrey.

Good British Stock: Child and Youth Migration to Australia by Barry Coldrey.  Paperback book (spiral bound) published by National Archives of Australia 1999.

“Between 1901 and 1983, thousands of unaccompanied young people, mainly from Britain, came or were sent to Australia as permanent settlers. For some it was a fresh start and relief from grinding poverty; for others it was a heartbreaking wrench from family. Records in the collection of the National Archives of Australia are a rich source of information about the processes of government decision—making and administrative practice on child migration, as well as the service organisations and churches that sponsored the children and provided for their education, placement, and after—care.”

Australia seems to have a never ending dodgy legacy of taking children away from their parents.  We seem to be quite good at it.  This book doesn’t look at the taking away of children from Australian families, but rather the taking away of British children from their parents in Britain and then shipping them off to Australia.  Some of the children were orphans, but not all of them.  Most of the kids were in “care” and I guess the idea was that there were fabulous opportunities for all these kids in sunny prosperous Australia.  If your living in “grinding poverty” then Australia is a reasonable concept although it’s interesting to consider what that concept may have been to a primary school child of 5.

The Youth part of this scheme weren’t in “care” and were aged between 15 and 19.  These Youths made the decision to emigrate by themselves.  Think about it.  Your 15 years of age and you decide to emigrate to Australia.  I guess it was different times back in 1983!!!

“A topic which has been aired frequently in the media over recent years is that of child abuse in certain Australian orphanages during the child migration era. There is little mention of such incidents in the records described in this guide, not through any attempt to conceal or avoid discussing them, but rather because the records in the collection of the National Archives do not mention such allegations or incidents, and since they are not discussed in the records themselves they are not covered by the guide.”

This book was published by the National Archives of Australia to assist those wishing to research/investigate this aspect of Australian history.  When I read the title the first thing I thought of was child abuse and it was only whilst writing this blog entry and delving deeply into the introduction, that I found out that this is not what the book is about.  The little disclaimer above sums up the lack of such information and from what little I know, there are numerous other books that do look at this disturbing subject.  Personally, I find the idea of being separated from my family and sent across the world as a commodity at the age of 5 disturbing enough.  

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