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Research Guides

Good British Stock: Child and Youth Migration to Australia

The Presbyterian Church

The Presbyterian Church was involved in child migration in a small way and for a few years only. In 1947, prominent members of the Church in Tatura, northern Victoria purchased a country mansion at Dhurringile in October 1947 for use by British child migrants. The mansion already had an exotic history, most recently as a prisoner of war camp and internment centre.

The home was administered by the Presbyterian Church of Victoria, and was that denomination's only foray into child migration. The youngsters were sought from the welfare services of the Church of Scotland and the Quarrier Homes at Bridge-of-Weir near Glasgow. Quarrier had sent many children to Canada before World War I and during the 1920s.

The first 29 boys arrived in December 1950 and for a few years some 50 boys were in residence. Thereafter, numbers dropped rapidly and the venture was ended in 1964.

Child and youth migration under the direct auspices of the Presbyterian Church was small-scale. The files reflect this, and those who arrived and those who cared for them are probably all mentioned somewhere among this material.

Series: A445
Quantity: 22.5 metres
Recorded by: 1951–55: Department of Immigration (CA 51)
United Protestants Association of NSW 'Melrose', 1951–53 [c.100 pages]
In 1951, the United Protestant Association was anxious to make its facilities available to receive child migrants. Mr T Agst, its General Secretary, informed the Immigration Department that the UPA had received from the Church of England Council of Empire Settlement in London promises to find suitable children for placement in its NSW home, 'Melrose' near Parramatta. Heyes replied that everything would be done to 'secure early recognition of the Melrose Home as suitable for the purpose of child migration'. In the meantime, renovations would be necessary for the 25 British girls for whom application had been sought. There is some correspondence and reports concerning the UPA's plans and the situation of Melrose Home. However, there were delays in securing 'approved status', in gaining a clear idea of the number of children available, and in securing financial assistance from the NSW and Commonwealth Governments for the renovations at Melrose. In essence, the UPA had come late into the child migration field, the Council of Empire Settlement was having great difficulty in securing suitable children, and there were communication gaps between the Council, the UPA, the Immigration Department and Australia House. This is a more important file than it might appear as it provides the background to the development of the so-called 'One Parent' schemes during the last phase of child migration.
A445, 133/2/51
United Protestants Association of NSW – 'Melrose Home', Pendle Hill. Part 3, 1952–55 [c.150 pages]
This overlaps with, and then continues the developments discussed in the previous file. Since the Council of Empire Settlement could not provide the 25 girls which the United Protestant Association sought for Melrose, the UPA indicated on 6 June 1952 that it was quite prepared to accept children who had one parent alive and who planned to follow the children to Australia. Melrose remained empty and the governments 'tentatively approved financial assistance' to render it satisfactory for use. There is much discussion of the arrangements, financial and otherwise, vis-a-vis an association such as the UPA and any parents who might arrive in Australia in the wake of their 'child migrants'. Finally, some boys arrived at Melrose in 1953 and there were 14 there by 22 May of that year. One has the impression of incredible work – and some considerable expense – to place so few children in a new child migration venture as the policy was becoming obsolete.
A445, 133/2/117
United Protestants Association of NSW, 1945–51 A445, 133/2/50
Dhurringile Farm School for Migrant Boys. Part 1, 1948–50 [c.150 pages]

This opens with Mr A G Harrison, Superintendent of Social Services, Presbyterian Church, writing to the Minister for Immigration, Arthur Calwell on 27 May 1948, saying that the church was interested in bringing child migrants to its property Dhurringile near Tatura, Victoria. An agent of the Presbyterian Church was in Scotland to select suitable boys. Calwell replied encouragingly but indicated the formalities which would have to be satisfied before Dhurringile was accepted as suitable for unaccompanied children. However, time passed with little action. In July 1949, almost a year later, Mr Harrison wrote to Calwell:

I have just returned from the Goulburn Valley, the work of migration is gripping the local people… we hope, ultimately, to make Dhurringile a Farm College for migrant boys.

However, in August there was a further setback. Mr A Duncan arrived back from Scotland 'without any boys or the promise of them'; nor was the place yet recognised as an 'approved institution' for the reception of child migrants. Moreover, the property required extensive renovations and there is much discussion over these and their cost among the correspondence. Mr R H Wheeler, an officer of the Immigration Department wrote, 8 November 1949:

in view of the past activities, or inactivities, of the Presbyterian Church in regard to the recruiting of 25 boys for Benmore (WA), it is extremely doubtful whether any large numbers can be recruited in the UK for Dhurringile.

Finally, almost another year passed before 'approved status' was gained and close to the end of the file is a cutting from The Age(Melbourne), 9 December 1950 noting the imminent arrival of the first party of boys for Dhurringile.

A445, 133/2/25
Dhurringile Farm School for Migrant Children. Part 2, 1950–53 [c.200 pages]

The first folio lists the 22 boys who sailed on the MV Cheshire from London for Dhurringile and requests the equipment allowance for each. Much of the correspondence concerns the efforts of the Presbyterian Church to recruit child migrants, a task which proved exceptionally difficult and often unrewarding. Rev. L L Cameron, Chair of the Church of Scotland Committee on Emigration, explained on 22 January 1951, to Australia House:

The response to enquiries regarding the availability of children for emigration has been poor. Young children, five to eight years old, for Kildonan Home, Burwood (Victoria) are unlikely to be available in Scotland… in each case the Committee seeks the consent of the Scottish Home Office to the children's emigration… this consent is often withheld in the case of young children on the grounds that they are not old enough to form or express an opinion on the proposal that they should emigrate.

However, some children arrived; there were 31 boys at Dhurringile by March 1952, but few in terms of the financial assistance granted for the renovations on the property. There is a sprinkling of newspaper cuttings around the arrival of the children and the official opening of Dhurringile, 31 July 1951. The remainder of the material concerns considerable effort to recruit child and youth migrants for the Presbyterian homes but with limited success. Rev. A A Bell was in Scotland and Northern Ireland, October to January, 1952–53 but 'the direct response to his work has been very disappointing', Australia House reported to Canberra. An approach was made to Cyril Bavin and the Overseas League for assistance, again without success. There is a copy of the pamphlet, His Future, concerned with Dhurringile.

A445, 133/2/106
Series: K403
Quantity: 49.56 metres
Recorded by: 1959–73: Department of Immigration, WA Branch (CA 962)
Benmore Presbyterian Home – policy, c.1959–84 K403, W59/77
Benmore Presbyterian Home – equipment allowance, 1961 K403, W59/78
Series: PP6/1
Quantity: 20 metres
Recorded by: 1945–50: Department of Immigration, WA Branch (CA 962)
Presbyterian Children's Home Council, 1948–53 PP6/1, 1950/H/1361
Series: D400
Quantity: 435 metres
Recorded by: 1948–66: Department of Immigration, SA Branch (CA 959)
Morialta Protestant Childrens Home Inc., 1956 D400, SA1956/5708
Series: J25
Quantity: 1652.67 metres
Recorded by: 1946–74: Department of Immigration, Qld Branch (CA 958)
Marsden Home for Migrant Children, Kallangur, Qld, 1950 J25, 1959/5346
Shaftesbury Homes – General File, 1946–66 J25, 1953/6188
Series: A462
Quantity: 52.93 metres
Recorded by: 1951–55: Prime Minister's Department (CA 12)
Proposed Establishment Child Migrant Organisation – Shaftesbury Homes, 1951–56 A462, 663/7


Chapter 3
Guide to the Records