Many children have come to Australia without their families under child migration schemes. While a number of schemes operated prior to World War II, it was after the war that schemes involving the migration of large numbers of children were introduced. Some of the children were orphans, whiles others had been placed in the care of British children’s homes by their families.
The Commonwealth Department of Immigration was responsible for approving the entry of individuals and recording their arrival. Matters such as accommodation, welfare and reception arrangements generally lay with state governments or charitable bodies such as the Big Brother Movement, Dr Barnardo’s Homes, Fairbridge Farm Schools or institutions run by religious orders.
Between 1947 and 1953 more than 3200 children migrated to Australia under approved schemes. Most children were from the United Kingdom, with a small number from Malta. Proposals to include children from Poland and Italy did not proceed.
Records relating to child migrants to New South Wales - including migrant selection documents, passenger lists and immigration policy files - are held by the National Archives Sydney Office. Relevant files may also be held by other National Archives' offices.
Migrant selection documents
The range of papers usually found in the files identified as migrant selection documents includes application forms, medical reports, and other papers completed by applicants for assisted migration to Australia from Britain. Consolidated they contain a wide range of personal details. From November 1948, papers were arranged chronologically by arrival date of the vessel or aircraft.
Personal documents of British migrants and British assisted passage migrants, which include children, are held from 1947. The table below lists the collections in chronological order.
Each vessel arriving at the port of Sydney (or aircraft arriving at Mascot) was required to lodge a list of incoming passengers. Arranged by date of arrival passenger lists include the name of each passenger and, in earlier lists, details such as age or marital status. Passenger lists for the period 1923 to 1966 are available as microfilm. For more information see Passenger records held in Sydney.
Passenger lists will often need to be consulted to establish the vessel name and date of arrival needed to access the migrant selection documents.
Immigration policy files
Files referring to child migration will be found in the main correspondence series of the Department of Immigration (New South Wales State Office), and some will contain information about individual children. Examples of relevant items are listed in the table below.
Locating additional records
Search the collection to locate additional material of interest. Keyword searches will help you identify relevant material.
Collections in other institutions
Relevant records on child migration may be held by State government archives.
The Child Migrants Trust can assist in tracing the background and families of children who came to Australia as unaccompanied child migrants.