Britain’s child migrants: ‘I was told I was going on a picnic’
Giulia Rhodes and Robert Gorter, MD, PhD.
Up until 1970, the UK regularly shipped thousands of orphans and illegitimate children abroad to a life of virtual slave labor and, often, sexual and physical abuse. Giulia Rhodes meets two victims of a policy that robbed them of a childhood and a family. Dr. Robert Gorter gives his commentaries.
23 April 1938 … Four child migrants arrive at Fairbridge Farm School in Molong, New South Wales. From left: Edward (Ted) Gamsley, Mary Simpson, Clara Park, Cyril Lord. Ted is alive and lives in Molong, the others are dead.
Sunday evenings were the highlight of the week when Tony Costa was a child. Then, he and the other boys living at Bindoon Boys Town, an orphanage run by the Catholic Christian Brothers in Western Australia, were allowed to watch a television film. Sometimes, says Costa, 74, Mario Lanza, the American tenor and Hollywood star would feature. “I ordained him the voice of hope. When he sang I felt I could keep going. It was the only good thing.”
Costa is one of an estimated 100,000 British children sent to institutions in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) under official migration schemes which ran until 1970. Most of the children never saw their families again. Many suffered years of systematic physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.
Tony’s story is among those told in an exhibition opening at the V&A Museum of Childhood today. He and several other former child migrants have come to Britain to share their experiences. “We need to be heard so we never, ever see this happen again,” he says.
Tony was two when his unmarried mother took him to a London orphanage. She told the nuns she would come back as soon as she had the means to provide for him.
Child migrants like Tony Costa
Facebook Twitter Pinterest Tony Costa was 11 when he left for Australia in 1953 … ‘I was told I would ride on horseback to school and pick fruit from the trees.’
By the time she did,