60th anniversary of the arrival of the British child migrants


In October 2012, Dominic College commemorated 60 years since the arrival at Boys' Town of 39 child migrants.

A large school assembly in the new Savio Centre on Friday 12 October witnessed the honouring of nine former child migrant guests with speeches, gifts and formal recognition. Their struggles were recalled and their voyage memorialised with two plaques, naming the 39 former child migrants and re-dedicating the plaque, lost in the chapel fire of 2003, to the memory of Fr Brennan and the early Boys' Town community.

Principal, Beth Gilligan reflected in her speech the different world of those days. 'We have learned here at Dominic that asking children what they need and want is very important,' she said. Sometimes, in the British orphanages, the children were asked 'Who wants to go to Australia?' And some said 'Yes!' and some said 'No!' It didn't matter, they came anyway.

Ms Gilligan said they had no idea about Australia. On the train to London, they would ask the escorts, 'Are we there yet?' And sometimes, in Boys' Town, when the various committees of dressed-up visitors would come, they would be asked 'Who wants to go back to England? And many would answer 'Not me! I like it here. I like the rabbits, and the walks, and the potatoes roasted in the ashes of a campfire.' If they were fortunate, they were cared for and educated; they had a place to play footy or cricket; they went to a kind foster family, they had a compassionate teacher, a Big Sister to look after them in their holidays, sometimes. They made friendships that lasted a lifetime.

Some boys, however, never learned to read or write. They were disciplined by fear and by violence. When they left school, even at just 14 years of age, they were told not to come back.

'Our school history' declared Ms Gilligan, 'and the way we were able to start as a school was because of these British Child Migrants. We were able to extend our orphanage into a school – because 39 child migrants (who were considered abandoned) came and brought with them government funding to build our school. !at's part of our story, part of our history.'

A new foundation stone formalised the naming of the Boys' Town Building, and the old scholars sang school songs with aged, but still hearty, voices. The College assembly was video-recorded and the compiled production is available from the History Room.

The next day Saturday 13 October, ten former child migrants lunched in the Little Theatre, reminisced with Salesian hosts Fr Frank Bertagnolli, Fr Lawrie Moate and Fr Peter Carroll, wandered their old dormitories and dining rooms, and cut the special 60th anniversary 'Ormonde' cake.

Congratulations and best wishes to these special Old Scholars from the 1950s.

Top to bottom: Terry and Michael Harvey with the new foundation stone commemorating Boys' Town; Peter Allsopp demonstrates exactly where his bed was; On the steps to the original entrance to the Boys' Town Building