Fairbridge Farm School, Pinjarra, Western Australia

Kingsley Fairbridge was born in South Africa in 1885. During a visit to England in 1903, he witnessed the impoverished lives led by many children in London slums. On returning to his homeland, he began to develop the idea for a scheme to bring such children to South Africa and other British colonies, to begin new lives as farmers. After a meeting in Oxford in 1909, he founded the 'Society for the Furtherance of Child Emigration to the Colonies', subsequently known as the 'Child Emigration Society' and later as the 'Fairbridge Society'. Fairbridge subsequently turned his attention towards Western Australia as a venue for furthering his work and in 1913 established the Fairbridge Farm School at Pinjarra, near Perth. The School received children from the age of six upwards who were prepared for a future life in their new country.

The home steadily developed and received a major boost in the form of a £20,000 from the British Government's Overseas Settlement Committee, supplemented by a payment from the Western Australian Government of six shillings per week for each child housed at the home.

From 1923, Barnardo's began placing some of its children at Fairbridge. As at the Girls' Village Home, the children lived in family groups in cottages. By 1929, Barnardo's had set up its own farm school at Mowbray Park, Picton, but also continued to make use of Fairbridge.

Senior Girls' Cottage, Fairbridge, 1920s. © Peter Higginbotham

The boys received trained in farming skills to enable them to gain employment as farm workers. The usual fate of the girls was domestic service but strict regulations were applied to their welfare. They were settled in groups, never in isolated locations, with a minimum weekly wage of fourteen shillings for those aged fourteen. Local Ladies Committees were set up to visit and report on each girl's progress.

Children at play, Fairbridge, 1920s. © Peter Higginbotham

The Fairbridge Farm School finally closed in 1981. The site is now owned by the Fairbridge charity who support young people with a wide range of life problems.

Records

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Bibliography