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Good British Stock: Child and Youth Migration to Australia


State youth migration

Youth migration to South Australia

South Australia was the first state to initiate Government guardianship of juvenile immigrants, the system being inaugurated under the Immigration Acts of 1901 and 1913. This plan was cut short by the outbreak of war but in 1922 the Premier, Sir Henry Barwell, revived the movement. His aim was to bring 6 000 teenagers to South Australia to fill the places of the men who were killed during World War I. The first parties were known as 'Barwell boys'. In 1923, an Immigration Act dealing with farm and domestic apprentices was passed. Under this Act, the Commissioner of Crown Lands and Immigration was appointed the legal guardian of each boy or girl immigrant who made a written declaration of their wish to come under his control. Young men from fifteen to eighteen and young women from eighteen to twenty-one were eligible; the period of Government control was three years.

As was usual with these pioneer immigration schemes, results were patchy, and controversy forced the abandonment of this phase of immigration to South Australia in 1925. A modified scheme was put into operation in 1927, under an amendment to the 1923 Act. Conditions of apprenticeship were relaxed, a greater portion, approximately one half of the total wages was paid direct to the farm apprentice and the number of boys nominated was reduced while each was allotted to a Big Brother. This system worked satisfactorily. By the end of 1928, 1 557 British youths had entered South Australia under the scheme.

There is less archival material available than the numbers who came under the scheme might suggest there should be. There is some interest for family historians among the documents in the files.

CORRESPONDENCE FILES, 1934–50
Canberra
Series: A461
Quantity: 143.82 metres
Recorded by: 1934–50: Prime Minister's Department (CA 12)
Immigration encouragement – Government schemes – South Australia – Settlement of 6000 boys, 1922–24 [c.250 pages]
This file contains correspondence between the Prime Minister's Department, the Commonwealth Immigration Office and the Premier's Department, South Australia, relating to the scheme to introduce 6 000 British boys for farm work, 2 000 per year for three years, commencing in 1922. Two trial batches of 50 boys were sent a month apart, then monthly quotas as arranged. Boys were to be at least fifteen years of age before acceptance. Press statements, cables and letters reveal some early friction between the Prime Minister W M Hughes and Premier Henry Barwell, in the working out of the details of the scheme. Information is provided on financial arrangements between governments, the terms of agreement, loans and wages for the boys, conditions of their apprenticeship and the monthly requisitions. Although early shipments of boys were well received, there were complaints over the selection process when some proved to be below expectations.
A461, P349/1/5
Immigration encouragement – Correspondence with states – South Australia – Settlement of 6000 boys, 1920–25 A461, Q349/1/5
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, MULTIPLE NUMBER SERIES, 1923–34
Canberra
Series: A458
Quantity: 49.77 metres
Recorded by: 1923–34: Prime Minister's Department (CA 12)
Boy Farm Apprenticeship Scheme, SA, 1927–28 [11 pages]
Premier, South Australia to Prime Minister, 9 August 1927:

I desire to inform you, in connection with the migration policy of this Government, it is proposed to reintroduce the Boy Farm Apprenticeship Scheme [for 15–17 year olds].

The Premier requested that the Commonwealth migration authorities in the UK commence recruiting suitable young men, but he stressed that medical inspection must be strict; must exclude boys 'subject to urinary troubles'. There were many such cases in the past; 'very great inconvenience'. Boys from certain named institutions in the UK were 'previously very unsatisfactory'. In addition, the boys should not be led to expect too much in South Australia. The Development and Migration Commission took up matters stressing that the farm apprenticeship would be three years; and while noting that wages had increased it also stressed the need for a strict medical examination of intending youth migrants: 'the teeth and urinary organs' were to receive close attention; boys wearing glasses were not acceptable. A further memorandum from South Australia stressed that each successful applicant would be provided with a 'Big Brother' on arrival, and insurance (against accidents and sickness) and after-care were to be features of the scheme. This file says much about attitudes in the 1920s to youth migration.

A458, V154/11

Youth migration to Tasmania

CORRESPONDENCE FILES, MULTIPLE NUMBER SERIES, 1921–23
Canberra
Series: A457
Quantity: 18.27 metres
Recorded by: 1911–71: Prime Minister's Department (CA 12)
Immigration Encouragement. Tasmanian Boys, 1922–23 [13 pages]
This deals with early 1920s youth migration to Tasmania. The key correspondence is a letter from a Burnie farmer, Mr C B Elliott, who is indignant at the youth and inexperience of the boys who are arriving in northern Tasmania:

Many boys are not up to standard; not long out of school; should be at home with their parents; 17–18 year olds are wanted; the first arrivals know nothing of farm life.

As a result of the controversy which Elliott’s letter reflects, the CMO, Hobart wrote to the Prime Minister’s Department, 1 November 1923:

… owing to complaints received from employers of the boys, it was decided to discontinue the shipment of further parties.

A457, N400/10
Immigration Encouragement. Gullet's visit to Tasmania, 1921 A457, H400/9
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, 1934–50
Canberra
Series: A461
Quantity: 143.82 metres
Recorded by: 1934–50: Prime Minister's Department (CA 12)
Immigration encouragement. Early schemes – Tasmania – Policy, 1921–25 A461, X349/1/5
Immigration encouragement. Early schemes – Correspondence with the states – Tasmania, 1920–23 A461, Y349/1/5
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, MULTIPLE NUMBER SERIES, 1923–34
Canberra
Series: A458
Quantity: 49.77 metres
Recorded by: 1923–34: Prime Minister's Department (CA 12)
Immigration. New Settlers League – Tasmania, 1921–26 A458, D154/18
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, ANNUAL SINGLE NUMBER SERIES, 1919–29
Canberra
Series: A2487
Quantity: 500 metres
Recorded by: 1920–29: Repatriation Commission (CA 225)
Enquiry regarding application for Immigration Officer for Tasmania, 1921 A2487, 1921/7844

Youth migration to Queensland

CORRESPONDENCE FILES, 1934–50
Canberra
Series: A461
Quantity: 143.82 metres
Recorded by: 1934–50: Prime Minister's Department (CA 12)
Immigration encouragement – Early schemes, Correspondence with States – Queensland, 1920–22 A461, N349/1/5
Immigration – Queensland boys, 1921–31 A461, F349/1/7

Youth migration to Western Australia

CORRESPONDENCE FILES, 1934–50
Canberra
Series: A461
Quantity: 143.82 metres
Recorded by: 1934–50: Prime Minister's Department (CA 12)
Immigration encouragement. Correspondence with the States, Western Australia, 1920–22 [75 pages]
This concerns youth migration only marginally. On 30 October 1920, Prime Minister W M Hughes wrote to the Western Australian Premier requesting:

… particulars and capacity of any training farms, if any, at which youths 16 to 20 years of age may receive tuition before employment.

Western Australia guarded its relative independence in all migration matters. In July 1922 the Premier advised that after-care in Western Australia for assisted migrants was handled by the New Settlers League, which was a branch of the well-established Ugly Men's Association, a prominent service club in the state, which received a grant to pay the expenses of two organisers. In Western Australia, Fairbridge, Pinjarra was concerned with child migration, and the Young Australia League made a limited foray into youth migration.

A461, T349/1/5

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