Skip to main content

0800 917 1000   Open weekdays 9am-5pm

IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Child Migration Programmes Investigation Report

Further evidence from 1947 to 1951

26. In October 1947, Lucy Cole-Hamilton (who had taken a party of Fairbridge children to Western Australia in 1934 and worked for the Fairbridge Society until 1945) wrote to the Home Office expressing concern about the resumption of child migration because the “system at present”’ was not conducive to the happiness and welfare of a child in a “great many ways”. She asked:

a. what safeguards would be put in place to ensure that the children would be treated as individuals;

b. whether there would be any direct supervision or inspection of the children by the authorities in England and Wales;

c. whether the appointment of aftercare officers would be done by an independent body;

d. whether the Governor-General would be appointed their guardian;

e. how membership of the local Fairbridge Committee would be determined; and

f. whether children who wished to proceed to something other than farm or domestic work would be appropriately educated.

27. She observed that “the question of suitable staff has always been most difficult” and asked whether they would now be properly remunerated because “this would make a great deal of difference to the type of person they will be able to command”. She also asked whether adult staff would be employed to reduce the burden of farm work on the children.[1] 

28. Later that month, Ms Cole-Hamilton received a reply saying that a visit was underway and it was hoped that the WA school which was “known to be unsatisfactory in some respects will be improved and that it will be possible to establish a different policy in the upbringing given to the children”. The reply also stated that: “you can be assured... that there are matters which the Department wishes to see substantially altered and that the Fairbridge Society is fully aware of the Home Office view”.[2]

29. Ms Cole-Hamilton was stressing the need for a child-centred approach, appropriate staff, proper supervision and oversight systems. The fact that she had extensive experience of how the child migration programmes operated should have meant that her views would be afforded greater weight, because it is apparent that these were widely held views.

30. In March 1948, the British Federation of Social Workers sent a letter to The Times, expressing concern about the care provided to child migrants.[3]

31. The Children’s Society’s Handbook for Workers from 1948 set out how the Society expected its homes in England and Wales to be run. This also made reference to supervision, monitoring, and other matters such as staff selection.[4]

32. The same year, the National Children’s Home established the seven principles for migration, which referred to the provision of continuity of care, small cottages and special training courses for staff. Its 1949 guide then provided for the “continuing responsibility of the parent society”, the use of trained social workers in selection, exploration of systematic training for childcare workers “as established in this country” and the use of a liaison officer with an understanding of children’s needs, who would pay regular visits to receiving institutions and keep in touch with the UK.[5]

33. These large childcare providers had very clear expectations of what was reasonable in the context of their migration programmes.

34. When the Children’s Bill was being debated in the House of Lords in 1948, in response to a question about what assurances there would be as to the arrangements for child migrants, the Lord Chancellor gave an assurance “that the Home Office intended to secure that children should not be emigrated unless there was absolute satisfaction that proper arrangements had been made for the care and upbringing of each child”.[6] 

35. In January 1949, a memorandum was submitted by Dallas Paterson (former Principal of Pinjarra, a Fairbridge school in Australia) to the Home Office, in which he was extremely critical of the migration programmes and said “It cannot be overemphasised that those taking responsibility to send British children overseas must retain a sense of direct responsibility…it cannot be delegated” (emphasis in original).[7]

36. We consider his memorandum further in Part C because Mr Paterson also referred to allegations of sexual “scandals” (and so it is pertinent to the issue of knowledge by HMG and Fairbridge UK). His memorandum was a further example of a person from the “inside” of the child migration programmes stressing the expectation of ongoing supervision by the UK institutions. 

37. Similarly, as we set out in detail in the later section on the Catholic Church, there was recognition within the Catholic Child Welfare Council (CCWC) from at least 1945 of the importance of the sending institutions being provided with regular reports about individual child migrants and receiving institutions being directly inspected by officials from the UK.

38. In March 1949, the Home Office set out its views on "Questions for consideration in connection with the Emigration of Children" in a paper for the Advisory Council on Child Care. This again stressed that the standard of care should be as high at that aimed at in the UK in such matters as employment of trained staff, accommodation of the children, integration with the local community, opportunities for development according to ability and the necessary education and training, establishment in work with prospects and skilled aftercare. It gave detailed guidance on each of these topics. The need for liaison officers was again stressed, so as to “ensure that the parent organisation can in fact carry out its continuing responsibility and ascertain that its aims and policy are being applied overseas”.[8]

39. At a meeting in June 1950 the Home Office reminded the CRO of the recommendation of the Curtis Committee as to “equivalence of standards”. The notes record that the Home Office said that issues concerning the standard of care in the institutions and aftercare, as well as material conditions, should be addressed before approval was given to an establishment. The Home Office subsequently sent a list to the CRO of matters on which information was required. The list was sent to the British High Commissioner who passed it on to the Australian Immigration Department and the local state authorities.[9]

40. The same month Tempe Woods, who had worked at Northcote School in Victoria as Head Cottage Mother, wrote to the Home Office and was critical of staff and practices at the school, and reported that she understood “that children are now strapped for misdemeanours, as is the custom in Australia”. It appears that the only action that was taken in response was to write to Ms Woods to acknowledge her letter.[10]



  1. Constantine 12 July 2017 144-147; CMT000380_001.
  2. CMT000514_003.
  3. CMT000383.
  4. Reed 14 July 2017 33-40; CSY000003_001-025.
  5. Neilson 14 July 2017 73/7-24; AFC000013_018; AFC000013_001-007; AFC000020_027-032; CMT000386. In a similar vein, see also the section on Barnardo’s which follows, where we have described the 1955 version of The Barnardo’s Book. This sought to regulate all Barnardo’s homes in the UK and Australia, and had first been published in 1944: Clarke 13 July 2017 39/15-22; BRD000120_020; BRD000085_001-003.
  6. CMT000384.
  7. CMT000387_001.
  8. CMT000386.
  9. DOH000097_020, para. 44.
  10. DOH000097_032, para. 76
Back to top