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Good British Stock: Child and Youth Migration to Australia


The Methodist Church

The Methodist Church had not been closely involved in juvenile migration during the interwar period. However, in 1938–39 some 37 children were sent from the National Children's Homes to the Lady Northcote Farm School, Glenmore, Victoria.

In 1948, the soon-to-retire President of the National Children's Homes, Rev. J H Litten, after a long and distinguished career, was allowed a three-month pre-retirement trip to Australia to visit his married daughter and check on the possibilities for child migration through various Methodist orphanages. Litten had been a member of the 1944 Curtis Committee on Child Care.

Litten was wonderfully impressed with the prospects in Australia for the children and on his return to London arranged for the National Children's Homes to prepare a large disused rectory at Alverstoke near Portsmouth to receive parties of children prior to their embarkation. No one Methodist home in Australia was large enough to take many children; negotiations had to proceed with four institutions, each of which would take a few. Meanwhile, Litten retired and emigrated to Australia where he died suddenly in 1954.

Litten's successor as President of the NCH, Rev. J Waterhouse, and some others of the executive were not enthusiastic about sending the children. However, some plans had been made and eventually, between 1950 and 1954, 91 children emigrated in small parties to Australia and were spread among four Methodist homes in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth.

CORRESPONDENCE FILES, 1934–50
Canberra
Series: A461
Quantity: 143.82 metres
Recorded by: 1934–50: Prime Minister's Department (CA 12)
Methodist Homes for Children, WA, 1939 [8 pages]

On 2 April 1939, Mr T W Bindemann, Manager of the Methodist homes, wrote to the Prime Minister offering to commence a child migration scheme:

At Victoria Park… there is a Home for upwards of 50 children of both sexes, whilst at Werribee, there is a Farm Training School for boys accommodating thirty children… we are prepared to erect buildings to accommodate a further thirty boys and desire your approval to a scheme such as that which has been so successfully carried out by the Roman Catholic Church (bringing) orphaned boys from Great Britain.

The Secretary, Department of the Interior supported the scheme on the same lines as other similar schemes, and Bindemann replied thanking the Government for its encouragement, 12 June 1939:

I am expecting further correspondence from England within a few weeks which ought to clarify the position.

There the matter rested; the war intervened before anything further could be arranged.

A461, N349/1/7
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, ANNUAL SINGLE NUMBER SERIES, 1948–65
Adelaide
Series: D400
Quantity: 435 metres
Recorded by: 1948–66: Department of Immigration, SA Branch (CA 959)
Methodist Children's Homes, 1949–50 [34 pages]
The initiative to interest the National Children's Home in child migration after the war came from the Lady Northcote Home, Victoria to which the NCH had sent 33 boys and four girls before the war. The soon-to-retire President of the NCH, the Rev. J H Litten, visited Australia and attempted to interest the Methodist Church in child migration. The file presumes this background. On 27 April 1949, the Methodist Church General Emigration Committee agreed to despatch a party of 50 children and four escorts 'in the autumn' to four separate Methodist orphanages in Australia, Dalmar (Sydney), Cheltenham (Victoria), Magill (South Australia) and the Methodist Girls Home in Perth. At this stage the Magill home was not 'an approved institution' but the official inspection in July 1949 found everything 'very satisfactory… small numbers… boys and girls… three separate houses… state school opposite the orphanage… homely atmosphere'. Correspondence from the Rev. S Forsyth, Superintendent at Magill outlined plans to construct four new cottages and stressed that his organisation's financial position was 'sound'. However the arrival of the first party of children filled the available places in the Methodist homes and by mid-1950 no new children could be accepted until new building occurred. Meanwhile, the NCH in the UK was turning against child migration in principle.
D400, SA1955/8735
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, ANNUAL SINGLE NUMBER SERIES, 1953–
Canberra
Series: A446
Quantity: 3346.4 metres
Recorded by: 1953–74: Department of Immigration (CA 51)
Methodist Childrens Home, Magill, SA, 1948–55 [c.150 pages]

The Methodist Church Committee on Migration (Australia) appealed on 23 January 1948 to Arthur Calwell, Immigration Minister, for a grant to extend the accommodation at Magill to receive child migrants from the National Children's Home in England. There was capacity for 48 children at Magill. The submission stressed the problems the Methodist Church had in receiving British children: its homes in Australia catered for small numbers and could take only a few overseas children; there were many committees to consult, separated by vast distances, and in South Australia, Premier Tom Playford refused to give a building permit to extend the home at Magill in view of the extreme housing shortage in the state. A memorandum for the Secretary, Department of Immigration, from Australia House dated 11 October 1949 mentioned that:

Rev. J H Litten has prepared and furnished a large hostel, a former rectory, at Alverstoke near Portsmouth, with the intention of gathering together the fifty children whom he hopes to send as a first party.

Meanwhile, on 26 April 1949 the Magill institution was recognised as an 'approved Home' for the reception of child migrants. Sir Tasman Heyes wrote to the Director of Immigration (State Government), Adelaide, 28 February 1950:

The UK authorities prefer to handle the matter of maintenance payments for voluntary organisations in this country through a parent body in England.

Otherwise, the correspondence refers to problems mentioned already. By 1955, an internal memo at Australia House summarised the position for the Methodist Homes:

Recruitment prospects are poor; the CMO, London advised that the position of the NCH has been fully explored and unless their attitude changes, there is no likelihood of them submitting children for this or any other Methodist Home.

A446, 1956/67274
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, SINGLE NUMBER SERIES, 1959–73
Perth
Series: K403
Quantity: 49.56 metres
Recorded by: 1959–73: Department of Immigration, WA Branch (CA 962)
Methodist Home, Victoria Park – policy, c.1959–84 K403, W59/102
Methodist Home, Victoria Park – equipment allowance, c.1959–84 K403, W59/103
Methodist Home, Victoria Park – Government financial assistance, c.1959–84 K403, W59/104
Methodist Home, Victoria Park – general inspections, c.1959–84 K403, W59/105
GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE RECORDS, 1945–50
Perth
Series: PP6/1
Quantity: 20 metres
Recorded by: 1945–50: Department of Immigration, WA Branc (CA 962)
Methodist Home. Application for [status as] approved institution, 1950–51 PP6/1, 1950/H/2803

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Chapter 3
Guide to the Records