Ancestry UK

Barwell Boys Reception Centre, Adelaide, South Australia

In 1922, the South Austrialian Premier, Sir Henry Barwell, established a scheme for teenage boys immigrating from Britain, who were apprenticed on farms throughout South Australia. The 'Barwell Boys', as they became known, were intended to help deal with the loss of 6,000 South Australian men who had been killed in the First World War. The scheme was supported by Britain, to help deal with the high level of unemployment in the 'Mother Country', as well as aiming to reinforce the ties with and strength of the British Empire.

After arriving at Port Adelaide, 'Barwell boys' were accompanied to the former Destitute Asylum on Kintore Avenue, Adelaide. Each was assigned to a farmer, generally within 48 hours of arrival. An apprenticeship agreement was signed by each boy, assigning him to the farmer for three years. Working and living conditions as well as wages were detailed. For some, the culture shock of the harsh environment in rural South Australia was distressing, and many did complete their apprenticeships. The scheme ended in 1924.

Barwell Boys, former Adelaide Destitute Asylum, circa 1923. © Peter Higginbotham


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