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Stories of Britain’s child migrants explored

10 May 2012

The WA Maritime Museum will display an exhibition dedicated to the extraordinary stories of children who migrated from Britain to Australia, Culture and the Arts Minister John Day announced today.

Mr Day said On Their Own: Britain’s Child Migrants recounted the child migration schemes established by charitable and religious organisations in Britain in the latter part of the 19th century and the profound impact it had on the lives of child migrants. 

“From the 1860s, more than 100,000 British children were sent to various Commonwealth countries, including Australia,” he said.

“Through personal stories, photographs, letters and poignant mementoes, the exhibition tells the story of how this experience changed the lives of these children; some succeeded in creating bright new futures, while others suffered lonely childhoods and the loss of identity.

“These stories are of children from orphanages - some as young as three years old - as well as those from families considered by the authorities, or sometimes by themselves, unable to provide for their own. Many would never see their families or their homeland again.

The Minister said child migrant schemes were established to combat the social and economic changes that occurred in Britain in the 19th century by addressing the over population and poverty sweeping the country.

“The schemes were seen as a solution to child homelessness and neglect, offering children a better way of life as well as a means of increasing the populations of Commonwealth countries and supporting their growth,” he said.

The exhibition, a collaboration between the Australian National Maritime Museum and National Museums Liverpool UK, is supported by the Federal Government’s Collecting Institutions Touring and Outreach Program, aiming to improve access to the national collection for all Australians.

On Their Own: Britain’s Child Migrants is a free exhibition on display at the WA Maritime Museum, Fremantle from May 19-August 14, 2012. Entry fees apply to the museum’s permanent exhibitions.