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Australia: A home and a future for Britain's youth, 1945

Date: 1945
Overall: 230 x 301 mm, 125 g
Medium: paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Eric Bycroft
Object Name: Booklet
Object No: 00050158

User Terms

    This souvenir booklet titled 'Australia: A home and a future for Britain's youth' was issued by the Australian Government to British children evacuated to Australia by the Children's Overseas Reception Board (CORB). The booklet contains stories and photographs documenting the evacuees' five-year stay in Australia, and information about the Government's post-World War II assisted migration scheme.
    SignificanceThis richly-illustrated souvenir booklet was presented to British child evacuees at the end of World War II, to entice them to return to Australia as assisted migrants. Children were favoured for migration as they had long working lives ahead of them and they were considered more adaptable due to their young age. The booklet relates to a significant period in Australia's immigration history, when the Australian Government sought to bring 50,000 war orphans to the country in a bid to 'populate or perish.'
    HistoryIn May 1940 the threat of a German air attack on Britain increased, as did the likelihood of invasion. Commonwealth governments forwarded offers to house British children in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, and an interdepartmental committee was established in June to coordinate these offers. Known as the Children's Overseas Reception Board (CORB), the committee's terms of reference were "to consider offers from overseas to house and care for children, whether accompanied, from the European war zone, residing in Great Britain, including children orphaned by the war and to make recommendations thereon."

    Children would be placed with relatives living in the Dominions or in foster homes. Unlike the British child migration schemes of the 20th century, CORB children were only removed temporarily and would return home at the end of the war.

    CORB evacuated a total of 2,664 children over a three month period. Canada accepted the bulk of evacuees, receiving 1,532 children in nine parties. Australia received 577 children in three parties, New Zealand 202 children in two parties and South Africa 353 children in two parties.

    A further 24,000 children had been approved to sail before disaster struck on 17 September 1940, when SS CITY OF BENARES - carrying 197 passengers including 90 children - was torpedoed and sunk in the Atlantic Ocean en route from Liverpool to Canada. With 77 CORB children amongst the 134 passengers killed, the overseas evacuation scheme was declared too risky and abandoned.

    Children who had already been evacuated remained in Australia for five years, where they forged new ties with their adopted families and homelands. Eric Bycroft's parents looked after three child evacuees from Hanwell, England - siblings Iris (12), Lawrence (7) and Maureen Byford (7). Lawrence Byford stayed with the Bycroft family for the duration of the war. Iris and Maureen stayed with the Byfords for a short time before moving to their aunt's house.

    At the end of the war, the Australian Government announced plans to accept 50,000 war orphans during the first three years of peace, in response to continued fears of a Japanese invasion. In 1945 the Government presented evacuees with a souvenir booklet titled 'Australia: A home and a future for Britain's youth' to entice them to return as assisted migrants. One third of the evacuees, including Iris and Lawrence Byford, eventually took up Immigration Minister Arthur Calwell's invitation to 'share the future of this great, broad land.'

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