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File:Barnardo boy ploughing C 1900.gif

boy ploughing at Dr. Barnardo's Industrial Farm, Russell, Manitoba, Canada 1900

Home Children is a common term used to refer to the child migration scheme founded by Annie Macpherson in 1869, under which more than 100,000 children were sent to Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa from the United Kingdom.

Australia has recently apologized for their involvement in the scheme, and UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown made a formal apology to the affected families in February 2010. Conversely, on November 16, 2009, Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney issued a statement that Canada will not be apologizing to child migrants.

History of British child migration

The practice of sending poor or orphaned children to British settler colonies, to help alleviate the shortage of labour, began in 1618, with the rounding-up and transportation of 100 vagrant children to the Virginia Colony.[1] Labour shortages in the British colonies also encouraged the kidnapping of children for work in the Americas, and large numbers of children were forciblly emigrated, mostly from Scotland. This practice continued until it was exposed in 1757, following a civil action against Aberdeen businessmen and magistrates for their involvement in the trade.[2]

The Children’s Friend Society was founded in London in 1830, as "The Society for the Suppression of Juvenile Vagrancy, through the reformation and emigration of children". The first group of children was sent to the Cape of Good Hope and Swan River Colony in Australia in 1832 and in August 1833, 230 children were shipped to Toronto and New Brunswick, Canada.[2]

The main pioneers of child migration in the nineteenth century were the Scottish Evangelical Christian, Annie McPherson, her sister Louisa Birt, and Londoner, Maria Rye. Whilst working with poor children in London in the late 1860s McPherson was appalled by the child slavery of the matchbox industry and resolved to devote her life to these children. In 1870 she bought a large workshop and turned it into the "Home of Industry", where poor children could work and be fed and educated.[3] She later became convinced that the real solution for these children lay in emigration to a country of opportunity and started an emigration fund. In the first year of the fund's operation, 500 children, trained in the London homes, were shipped to Canada.[3] McPherson opened distribution homes in Canada in the towns of Belleville and Galt in Ontario and persuaded her sister, Louisa, to open a third home in the village of Knowlton, seventy miles form Montreal. This was the beginning of a massive operation which sought to find homes and careers for 14,000 of Britain's needy children.[3] Template:Quote box

Maria Rye also worked amongst the poor in London and had arrived in Ontario with 68 chilldren (50 of whom were from Liverpool) some months earlier than McPherson, with the blessing of The Archbishop of Canterbury and The Times newspaper.[4] Rye, who had been placing women emigrants in Canada since 1867, opened her home at Niagara-on-the-Lake in 1869, and by the turn of the century had settled some 5,000 children, mostly girls, in Ontario.[4]

The emigration schemes were not without their critics and there were many rumours of ill-treatment of the children by their employers and of profiteering by the organisers of the schemes, particularly Maria Rye.[5] In 1874 The London Board of Governors decided to send a representative, named Andrew Doyle, to Canada to visit the homes and the children to see how they were faring.[5] Doyle's report praised the women and their staff, especially McPherson, saying that they were inspired by the highest motives, but condemned almost everything else about the enterprise.[6] He said that attitude of the women in grouping together children from the workhouses, who he said were mostly of good reputation, with street children, who he considered mostly thieves, was naive and had caused nothing but trouble in Canada.[6] He was also critical of the checks made on the children after they were placed with settlers, which in Rye's case were mostly non-existent, and said that:

Because of Miss Rye's carelessness and Miss MvPherson's limited resources, thousands of British children, already in painful circumsances, were cast adrift to be overworked or mistreated by the settlers of early Canada who, were generally honest but often hard taskmasters.[7]

The Canadian House of Commons subsequently set up a select committee to examine Doyle's findings and there was much controversy generated by his report in Britain, but the schemes continued with some changes[8] and were copied in other countries of the British Empire.[9]

In 1909, South African born Kingsley Fairbridge founded the "Society for the Furtherance of Child Emigration to the Colonies" which was later incorporated as the Child Emigration Society. The purpose of the society, which later became the Fairbridge Foundation, was to educate orphaned and neglected children and train them in farming practices at farm schools located throughout the British Empire. Fairbridge emigrated to Australia in 1912, where his ideas received support and encouragement.[10] According to the British House of Commons Child Migrant's Trust Report, "it is estimated that some 150,000 children were dispatched over a period of 350 years—the earliest recorded child migrants left Britain for the Virginia Colony in 1618, and the process did not finally end until the late 1960s." Though it was widely believed that all of these children were orphans, it is now known that most had living parents, some of whom had no idea what had happened to their children after they were left in care homes, with some led to believe that their children had been adopted somewhere in Britain.[11]

Child emigration was suspended for economic reasons during the Great Depression of the 1930s but was not completely terminated until the 1960s.[11]

As they were compulsorily shipped out of Britain, many of the children were deceived into believing their parents were dead, and that a more abundant life awaited them.[12] While many children were welcomed into loving homes, some were exploited as cheap agricultural labour. Many of the home children were denied proper shelter and education and were often not allowed to socialize with native children. It was common for home children to run away, sometimes finding a caring family or better working conditions.

Exposure and apologies

In 1987, British author and social worker Margaret Humphreys carried out an investigation, which led to the exposure of the child migration scheme and the establishment of the Child Migrants Trust, with the aim of reuniting parents and children. However, full details of the scheme only emerged as late as 1998 during a parliamentary inquiry In Britain, which found that many migrant children were subjected to systematic abuse in religious schools in Australia, New Zealand and other countries.[13]


In Australia, such children are part of the group known as the "Forgotten Australians" or "Child Migrants". "Forgotten Australians" is a term the Australian Senate has used to describe children who were brought up in orphanages, children's homes, institutions or foster care in Australia.[14] "Child Migrants" refers specifically to the 7000 children who migrated to Australia under assisted child migration schemes. Child migrants were adopted or brought up in children's homes, institutions, orphanages or foster care. Many of these children experienced neglect and abuse while in institutional care.[15]

Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd apologised on behalf of the government of Australia on 16 November 2009.[16] As of 2009, there were an estimated 7,000 "Forgotten Australians" currently residing in Australia.The Australian government had contacted about 400 British child migrants for advice on how the apology should be delivered. Australia's Roman Catholic Church had publicly apologised in 2001 to British and Maltese child migrants who suffered abuse including rape, whippings and slave labour in religious institutions.[13] A £1m travel fund was set up for former child migrants to visit their families in the UK.


After the apology by the Australian government, the Canadian Immigration Minister, Jason Kenney, said, "There's no need for Canada to apologize for abuse and exploitation suffered by thousands of poor children shipped here from Britain starting in the 19th century ... the issue has not been on the radar screen here, unlike Australia where there's been a long-standing interest. The reality is that, here in Canada, we are taking measures to recognize that sad period, but there is, I think, limited public interest in official government apologies for everything that's ever been unfortunate or (a) tragic event in our history."[17]

United Kingdom

On Wednesday, February 23, 2010, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Gordon Brown issued an official apology for the 'shameful' child resettlement programme and announced a £6 million fund designed to compensate the families affected by the "misguided" programme.[18]

See also


Bagnell, Kenneth (22 Nov 2001). The little immigrants: the orphans who came to Canada (New ed.). Dundurn Group Ltd. ISBN 1550023705. Retrieved 25 April 2010.


  1. "A child migration timeline". The Goldonian. Goldonian Web. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Anon. "Child Emigration". Maritime Archives and Library. Liverpool UK: National Museums Liverpool. Retrieved 25 April 2010.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "Annie Macpherson was a philanthropist who is accepted as the pioneer of child emigration to Canada.". British Home Children Descendants website. Canada: British Home Children Descendants. Retrieved 24 April 2010.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Template:Harvnb
  5. 5.0 5.1 Template:Harvnb
  6. 6.0 6.1 Template:Harvnb
  7. Template:Harvnb
  8. Template:Harvnb
  9. "Annie Macpherson was a philanthropist who is accepted as the pioneer of child emigration to Canada.". British Home Children Descendants website. Canada: British Home Children Descendants. Retrieved 24 April 2010.
  10. Anon (22 november 2003). "English Orphan Transports: Fairbridge Foundation". Historical Boys Clothing. Retrieved 24 April 2010.
  11. 11.0 11.1 "Ordeal of Australia's child migrants". BBC News. 15 November 2009. Retrieved 15 November 2009.
  12. "UK child migrants apology planned". BBC News. 15 November 2009. Retrieved 15 November 2009.
  13. 13.0 13.1 "Australian church apologies to child migrants". BBC News. 22 March 2001. Retrieved 15 November 2009.
  14. Anon. Adoption & Forgotten Australians "Adoption & Forgotten Australians". Research Guides. State Library of Victoria. Adoption & Forgotten Australians. Retrieved 8 May 2010.
  15. Anon. "Adoption & Forgotten Australians - Child migrants". Research Guides. State Library of Victoria. Retrieved 8 May 2010.
  16. Rodgers, Emma: Australia says sorry for 'great evil', Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 16 November 2009.
  17. Anon (17 november 2009). "No apology for 'home children'". Metroland Media Group Ltd. Retrieved 29 November 2009.[dead link]
  18. Ralph, Alex (24 February 2010). "Gordon Brown sorry for 'shameful' colonial child resettlement programme". The Times (Times Newspapers Ltd). Retrieved 26 February 2010.

External links



vi:Home Children

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