On their Own: British Child Migrants

An Immigration Discovery Centre Reference Sheet

During the late 19th and 20th centuries Britain sent over 100,000 child migrants across the British Empire to populate its dominions with ‘good white stock’.
From the 1860s, children were sent from Britain to Canada, Australia and other Commonwealth countries through child migration schemes. They were sent by charitable and religious organisations, with government support, in the belief that their lives would improve, and that they would provide much-needed labour and increase the population.  Many of these children came from families who were unable to care for them and only very few were orphans.  The majority of children were sent to Canada, but more than 7000 came to Australia. The scheme was criticised and Canada ended the program after the Second World War; Australia continued to accept child migrants until the 1960s.

Four children bound for Fairbridge Farm School, Molong 1938
Four children bound for Fairbridge Farm School, Molong 1938.
Reproduced courtesy Molong Historic Society

The exhibition is the collaboration of the Australian National Maritime Museum and National Museum Liverpool, UK.  The Immigration Museum has worked with The Child Migrants Trust and The International Association of Former Child Migrants and their Families (IAFCM&F) to provide additional material showcasing the stories of former child migrants in Victoria and Tasmania.

On Their Own is supported by the National Collecting Institutions Touring and Outreach Program, an Australian Government program aiming to improve access to the national collections for all Australians.

Immigration Discovery Centre Reference Collections

Auden, F.E., Little Brother, catalogue number 304.894042 A899

Bean, P., 1989, Lost Children of the Empire, catalogue number 362.73 B367

Bailey, J. & Sabin. R., 2010, The long way home, catalogue number 304.894042 B 154

Clough, L.M., Northcote: Our Heritage, catalogue number 304.8940086945 C647

Coldrey, B., 1999, Child migration under the management of the Australian and British governments: National Archives of Australia files, catalogue number 016.3252410994 C688

Coldrey, B, 1992, Child migration, the Australian government and the Catholic Church, 1926-1966, catalogue number 325.2410994 C688

Davey, G., 1986, A strange place to go, Child Migrants to Australia, a resource book, catalogue number 305.230994 D248

Gill, A, 1998, Orphans of the empire: the shocking story of child migration to Australia, catalogue number 362.730994 G476

Gill, A., 2005, Likely Lads and Lasses, youth migration to Australia, 1911-1983, catalogue number 304.894041 G475

Hill, D., 2008, The forgotten children: Fairbridge Farm School and its betrayal of Britain's child migrants to Australia, catalogue number 304.894041 H 645

Kershaw, R. And Sacks, J., 2008, New Lives for Old: the story of Britain’ child migrants, catalogue number 304.809 K41

Richards, E., 2004, Britannia’s Children, emigration from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland since 1600, catalogue number 325.241 R514

Sherington, G., and Jeffery, C., 1998, Fairbridge : Empire and child migration, catalogue number 325.24083 S552

Stocker, J, The lady Northcote Children's Farm School, Glenmore, Bacchus Marsh, Victoria : a home and training farm for British child migrants 1937-1976, as experienced by one of them, catalogue number 304.8940086945 S864

Contact the Immigration Discovery Centre

If you require further assistance with your research contact the Immigration Discovery Centre.

Phone us:
+ 61 3 9927 2726

Find us on the Museum website

Write to us:
Immigration Discovery Centre
Immigration Museum
GPO Box 666
Melbourne 3001 Vic


Comments (7)

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thomas balliel 8 May, 2012 22:23
me and my daughter visited the excibition january, 2012 during our holydays down under. we are living in german and can say we were pretty impressed.
Abbey, charley and Olivia 9 May, 2012 14:57
Your website really helped us with our immigration project!!!!!!! Thanksxxxxxxx
Anis 9 May, 2012 22:24
Hey there!! I visited the excibition in January as a tourist. Honestly, I am 16 years old and I always try to avoid museums on my trips because I think it's quite boring. But in Melbourne I gave it a chance and wow, I was so impressed! I read every single discription and I watched the documentary whole way through. I've really never seen such a great excibition. I highly recommand it. Thank you very much to those who got involved in that. Good on ya's! P.S. For those who haven't been there yet shouldn't miss it out!!!
Bellulah 22 May, 2015 10:45
Hey there!!!!!!! I vicited the excibition as well, it was soo rad. I turnt up at the musueum expecting to be so board!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! but it was acullay so intersting, the curator was v nice and he really loved child migrants like me,he had lots of interesting pictures in his office.
cludine 7 November, 2013 18:12
this is sad
jack and group 18 November, 2016 15:00
Thanks for this it's really helped me and my group with our research for a project on it
charlie 8 May, 2017 12:14
thank it was intresting
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Internet Resources

On their own - Britain's Child Migrants

The Child Migrants Trust - reuniting families, reclaiming identity, restoring dignity

The National Archives of Australia, Child migration to Australia fact sheet

State Library of Victoria research guide, family history for adopted people, Forgotten Australians and child migrants 

Australian National Maritime Museum, child migration research guide