Fairbridge Farm School and its Betrayal of Britain's Child Migrants to Australia
One of 2007’s Australian non-fiction bestsellers
In 1959 David Hill’s mother – a poor single parent living in England – reluctantly decided to send her sons to Fairbridge Farm School in New South Wales where, she was led to believe, they would have a good education and a better life.
David was lucky – his mother was able to follow him out to Australia – but for most children, the reality was shockingly different. From 1938 to 1974 thousands of parents were persuaded to sign over legal guardianship of their children to Fairbridge to solve the problem of child poverty in Britain while populating the colony. Now many of those children have decided to speak out. Physical and sexual abuse was not uncommon. Loneliness was rife. Food was often inedible. The standard of education was appalling.
Here, for the first time, is the story of the lives of the Fairbridge children, from the bizarre luxury of the voyage out to Australia to the harsh reality of the first days there; from the crushing daily
routine to stolen moments of freedom and the struggle that defined life after leaving the school. This remarkable book is both a tribute to the children who were betrayed by an ideal that went terribly awry and a compelling account of an extraordinary episode in Australian–British History.
“This book is a heartbreaker you can’t put down, a calmly narrated and impeccably researched tale of children from poor British families transported to Australia not in the eighteenth but in the twentieth century; of their bewildered and graphic adventures under the emotional and physical parsimony of the Fairbridge Farm School ... The reader yearns to reach out to the children who, say, are given guns to shoot rabbits and use them to suicide instead. For Hill to be able to detail the story in such clinical detail is itself a triumph of spirit and craft and humane forgiveness.’ TOM KENEALLY”
“‘This is the story of upper-crust do-gooders who did bad: dreaming of Empire, they sent the children of the poor to a world without love. David Hill amasses evidence of the brutality and slavery to which they turned eyes blinded by their own righteousness. A compelling and moving account of how institutional cruelty was covered up by secrecy and wishful thinking.’ GEOFFREY ROBERTSON QC”