Wednesday, 27 November 2013

With the Best of Intentions

“I have nothing but praise for Dr Barnados. Everything they did for us was done with the best of intentions and most of us turned out well in our adopted country.”

This is the last reflection in Cliff’s Story, just one of the stories about the Barnado boys at The Farm Training School, at Mowbray Park near Picton, NSW between 1929 and 1959.

The explains the circumstances of the day when physically and mentally healthy children under fourteen, were selected from children’s homes in England by Dr Barnados and sent to various institutions and school both in England and the colonies under the Child Migration Scheme. The scheme was devised as a way of providing cheap farm labour and to do other menial jobs. At the end of their time at the farm the boys would be found labouring work on farm properties throughout the state.

The historic property of Mowbray Park became one of the farm schools for some of these boys.

Through the stories of some of the Mowbray Park Barnado boys, retold in oral histories for the book, we begin to understand their joys and their fears. 

Only one of the stories has a strong negative narrative that involved sexual abuse. The others, while describing both the negative and positive aspects of life in an institution, mostly express some appreciation of the opportunity given to them.

One of the boys clearly describes one of the main failures of the system; “after nearly 10 years of rules and regimentation of not having to make any decisions and being told what to do and when to do it and by having life completely organised by other people, to be cast off into society for which we were grossly ill equipped, but did not realise this at the time.”

My rating 3.5* but only because there are some print errors eg photos over captions that should not be there.