Select Committee on Health Minutes of Evidence


Former Child Migrants to Australia: Analysis of Computerised Database (4th Edition January 1998)By Rosemary Keenan, Deputy Director of The Catholic Children's Society (Westminster)
Between 1938 and 1963 Catholic religious orders and Catholic Child Care Agencies in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland sent children to Australia to be cared for by religious orders who ran a variety of institutions for children. It is not the purpose of this report to argue the cause and effect or the push and pull factors operating on the various parties to the programme at the time. This report is an analysis of data provided by the Child Migrants' Register, kept at the time, and other extant records where found in the UK and Australia. It should be added however that the accuracy and completeness of information recorded at the time varies substantially.All entries on the first edition of the database have been cross-checked by Agencies and Religious Orders in the UK and Australia. Amendments have been made to that edition. Subsequent to this, the database has been kept up to date and this fourth analysis of the database is therefore a more accurate reflection of Australian child migration by Catholic Agencies and Orders.From the central Register of Migrants it appeared that 970 children had been sent to Australia. The early process of cross referencing revealed an additional 37 children, to which a further 140 have since been added. Whilst the majority of children were sent under the scheme administered by CCWC, it is believed that other children were sent by religious orders working directly with representatives of the Australian Church, Australia House London, and the Christian Brothers in Australia. Evidence for this is found within the minutes of CCWC meetings written at the time and supported by the finding of additional children mentioned above. The total number of children sent to Australia is unknown at this time. There are currently 1,147 entries for former child migrants on the database.Work undertaken by the Poor Sisters of Nazareth, who have cross-checked every entry on the original database of migrants, has revealed new information and additional papers which have been added to the files kept by CCWC.

AgeThe average age of children sent to Australia was approximately 9.4 years, the youngest being two years and the oldest entrant on the original register (with a number prefixed with "C" for child), was a 23 year old who was accompanying her younger sister. The ages and numbers of children sent in each age range can be seen in table 1.

Table 1: Ages of Children and Numbers sent to Australia
2 years 1
3 years 3
4 years 11
5 years 55
6 years 84
7 years 99
8 years 164
9 years 142
10 years 154
11 years 114
12 years 85
13 years 62
14 years 40
15 years 19
16 years 8
17 years 8
18 years 4
23 years 1
Unknown 93
Total 1,147
Average 9.4

The majority of children sent were between the ages of 5-13 years, the Australian Catholic Church preferring younger children to be sent. The highest single percentage of children sent were eight year olds with about half of all children aged between 7-10 years of age. There are 93 children for whom the date of birth/age is not given in records.

Age Analysis of Children

(at time of emigration)

Gender of childrenOf the 1,147 children sent 795 were boys (69 per cent) and 352 were girls (31 per cent).

Consent to MigrationConsent by birth parent(s) was given to the migration of children in 221 instances (19 per cent). In 926 (81 per cent) instances it is unknown whether or not parental consent was given as the documentary evidence remains unfound.

SenderIt is often difficult to identify the exact relationship between the religious orders running the homes and the Child Care Agencies that may have placed children with them. In most instances the Agency would have been involved with the migration procedures and consents. The relationship between Agencies and Orders in the decision making process is usually unclear. The social history and clear reasons for migration are not given on migration forms and only rarely in supporting documentation.An analysis of those sending children to Australia reveals that of the 1,147 children, 65.5 per cent appear to have been sent by the Poor Sisters of Nazareth.

Analysis by Sender

The analysis in the above chart is distorted somewhat by double counting—certain migrants have both agency and order recorded (eg Reg Nos 50-53 have Lancaster Rescue Society and Nazareth House recorded).
Table 2: Children sent to Australia—Analysed by Religious order in UK
Order Total % total
Daughters of Charity 1 0.1%
Brothers of Charity 6 0.8%
Franciscan Sisters 1 0.1%
Good Shepherd Sisters 15 1.9%
Mercy Sisters 8 1.0%
Poor Sisters of Nazareth 755 95.9%
Sisters of Charity 1 0.1%
Grand Total 787

DestinationAlmost half (44.5 per cent) of all children who migrated went to the care of the Christian Brothers. For 14.6 per cent of all children CCWC has no record of their destination. Details of destinations are contained in the chart and table following.

Destination Order of Child Migrants

Table 3: Destination of Children Sent to Australia
Order/Institution sent to Location sent to State
FCIC Brisbane Queensland 1
Fr Carroll Total 1
Overall Total
Unknown Rockhampton Queensland 2
Fr Leahy Total 2
FCICI Unknown Unknown 19
Fr Stinson Total 19
East Camberwell Nazhouse Melbourne Victoria 54
Nazareth House Geraldton West Aus 84
Nazareth House Ballarat Unknown 1
St Josephs Ballarat Victoria 1
Unknown Unknown Unknown 18
Naz SRS Total 158
East Camberwell Saz House Melbourne Victoria 1
Naz SRS Total 1
St John Bosco's Boys Town Hobart Tasmania 33
Salesians Total 33
Murray Dwyer Memorial Home Mayfield NSW 31
SRS of Charity Total 31
Goodwood Orphanage Adelaide South Aus 46
St Joseph's Home Neerkull Rockhampton Queensland 54
St Brigids Ryde NSW 6
St Josephs Subiaco West Aus 62
Thungoona Albany NSW 22
SRS of Mercy Total 190
Largs Bay or Boys Town Brooklyn Adelaide South Aus 3
Goodwood Orphanage Adelaide South Aus 1
Hostel (YCW) Melbourne Victoria 13
St Vincents Perth West Aus 4
SRS of Mercy Total 21
St Josephs Kellerberrin West Aus 7
St Josephs Sydney NSW 7
SRS Sacred Heart Total 14
Catholic Immigration Committee Rockhampton Queensland 1
Hostel (YCW) Melbourne Victoria 2
Tresca-Fairbridge West Tamar Tasmania 2
Unknown Melbourne Victoria 1
Unknown Perth West Aus 3
Unknown Unknown NSW 157
Unknown Total 166
Castledare Junior Orphanage Cannington West Aus 133
Clontare Boys Town Victoria West Aus 111
St Mary's Agricultural School Tardun West Aus 96
St Joseph's Farm & Trade School Bisdoon West Aus 156
Unknown Unknown West Aus 15
Xtian Bros Total 511
Overall Total 1,147

DeathsThere were 13 deaths recorded either in the Register or in supporting correspondence. Two were girls who died within months of arrival. The remainder were boys, mostly in road accidents.To the above deaths have been added additional details on the deaths of former migrants as adults. It is hoped that this information will assist those working on behalf of birth families of former migrants in the future. In total 27 former child migrants are known to have died at the time of this analysis (January 1998).

Supporting PaperworkAside from an entry in the migrants register, additional papers kept by CCWC were found for 789 migrants, (69 per cent). Papers varied considerably in both quality and quantity of information and included combinations of the followings:

—  Migration papers

—  Correspondence

—  Brief details of reason for migration

—  Copies or originals of birth certificates/baptismal certificates

—  Medical reports

—  School reports from England

—  Progress reports on individual children from institutions in Australia.The above figure does not take into account records that may be held by individual sending agencies or religious orders.

Enquiries by and on behalf of former child migrantsAccording to the register and additional supporting paperwork so far consulted 343 former migrants (30 per cent) have made enquiries about themselves or their families, or information has been requested by third parties on their behalf. 30 per cent of this 30 per cent of enquirers have returned to agencies requesting further searches, information etc. Some of these enquirers have made a number of contacts over a lengthy period of time. Additionally there were 107 migrants (9 per cent) whose families made enquiries about them, with double enquiries made in a few cases eg a sibling and a parent both enquiring on separate occasions.For the purposes of this analysis contacts subsequent to second enquiries have not been included.The preceding figures are an underestimate of the total number of migrants that have made contact. Until recently CCWC did not record all enquiries made by or on behalf of former migrants. Enquiries to religious orders and other child care agencies in the UK have now been added to the database.Table 4 below gives and analysis by year of initial enquiries made by and in respect of former migrants. Again, this understates the total, as a significant number of former migrants have, over the years, made further enquiries.

Table 4: Enquiries by year

First enquiry Second enquiry Family enquiry
1941 0 0 1
1942 0 0 0
1943 0 0 0
1944 0 0 0
1945 0 0 0
1946 1 0 0
1947 1 0 3
1948 1 0 2
1949 0 0 3
1950 2 0 2
1951 2 0 1
1952 1 0 3
1953 1 0 0
1954 1 0 10
1955 1 0 6
1956 2 1 4
1957 2 0 8
1958 6 0 7
1959 6 0 7
1960 7 1 3
1961 5 0 3
1962 8 0 1
1963 11 1 4
1964 13 0 0
1965 7 1 3
1966 7 4 5
1967 9 2 2
1968 1 1 1
1969 6 0 1
1970 1 1 0
1971 2 1 0
1972 3 1 0
1973 2 0 0
1974 3 0 0
1975 2 0 0
1976 1 0 0
1977 0 0 1
1978 2 0 0
1979 1 1 0
1980 5 0 0
1981 1 1 1
1982 4 2 1
1983 3 1 0
1984 1 0 0
1985 1 0 1
1986 1 1 0
1987 4 0 0
1988 5 2 0
1989 8 3 0
1990 7 6 0
1991 13 2 2
1992 24 15 2
1993 22 10 4
1994 46 12 4
1995 23 7 4
1996 13 8 5
1997 39 18 2
1998 5
343 103 107

Although it would be dangerous to draw conclusions from such incomplete records, it appears that there is a substantial (and probably increasing) level of enquiries at present. For example, there appears to have been only a handful of enquiries during the 1980s, but during the 1990s the number rose to a peak of 62 in 1994. Experience in respect of migrants to Canada indicates that enquiries from migrants and their descendants are likely to continue for many years.Acknowledgements—compilation of this report and the three editions of the central database has taken approximately 700 hours to complete. In addition to this, many hours have been spent by workers in Agencies and Religious Orders in the UK and Australia. Considerable credit should go to Sister John Ogilvie of the Poor Sisters of Nazareth who spent 1,500 hours cross checking the references to children sent by the order against extant records from the 26 Nazareth House homes across the UK which sent children to Australia. I would like to express my appreciation of Mother Bernard Mary, the Superior General of the Poor Sisters of Nazareth, who made Sister John and her computer skills available for this task and who ensured that Nazareth House records in Australia were likewise checked.My final thanks go to David Walley, whose computer expertise, gentle guidance and commitment to this project has made the whole database viable.Rosemary KeenanJanuary 1998

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