History of Fairbridge

Fairbridge Farm Schools was founded by Kingsley Fairbridge in 1909

1909 was then the year he began the task of getting people interested in the scheme.  He applied to the Rhodesian government for a grant of land but the requested was rejected.

Sir Edward Morris, Premier of New Foundland Canada  then promised 50,000 acres in New England if Kingsley was able to launch his project.

Kingsley then had discussions with small groups of his university friends, Rhodes scholars and others to establish the feasibility of the scheme , he was successful in this, and in October 1909 he was invited to address the Colonial Club of Oxford University.

This meeting then saw the launching of the Child Emigration  Society.  In 1920, a small influential committee was formed and by the end of the year $2000 had raised.

The offer of land in New Foundland was not taken up, so Western Australia was decided on.

In December 1911, he married and in March 1912 he and his wife sailed to Western Australia.

On arrival in Perth after much searching a small mixed farm with an orchard, near the town of Pinjarra, about 120 km from Perth was selected.

Although the farm was far from ready to receive them, the first party of 13 boys arrived from England in January 1913.  The first party were housed in tents, and had very little in the way of warm bedding or clothing,fortunately the climate was temperate.  A lot of the work in the earlier stages was done by Kingsley himself with the help of no permanent staff, and only one or two helpers and friends from time to time.  The boys themselves were of limited help when they arrived and had to be schooled  and instructed in the skills for farm life as well as educational matters.

Kingsley Fairbridge continued to toil and teach, often being interrupted by recurrent bouts of malaria confining him to his bed.

By 1919, the Farm was still struggling but optimistic, but it was thought that to enable the scheme to continue Fairbridge should go to England to raise more finance.  This is exactly what Kingsley Fairbridge did.

Whilst in England Kingsley suffered severe illness and, in January 1923 he returned to the Farm.  But his recovery was not forthcoming and in May he entered hospital in Perth.  On the 19th July 1924, Kingsley Fairbridge died, at the age of 39 years.

The Fairbridge Scheme continued to operate at Pinjarra until about the early 1960’s when the emigration of children from Britain ceased.

Fairbridge Farm Schools also operated at Molong, New South Wales. This farm is set west of the great divide on rich,rolling productive plains.

The school was  opened in March 1938 and closed in February 1973 following the lack of  children resulting from legislation passed in the from UK that forbad children emigrating without parental support.

The decision to establish Fairbridge Farm School at Molong followed a conference of the Fellowship of Rhodes Scholars held in Melbourne in January 1935.

Funds were urgently required and on the 24th February 1937, a subscription list was opened in the Sydney Morning Herald, with £50,000 as the objective.  This amount was soon reached and passed.

The selection of the site of the Farm proved to be a long,tiring and arduous  task.

However, the country was surveyed and it seemed that the Lachlan Valley-Orange district would provide a suitable property.

This search now procured the property of Narragoon, four miles from Molong. This was the property of G.B.M. Holt Esquire.

In 1937, R.R. Beauchamp accepted the position as the first Principal of the Fairbridge Farm School at Molong in New South Wales.  He and his family were in residence at the Farm for some months before the first party of children arrived in March 1938.

The Committee at this stage felt that the movement in New South Wales should be incorporated; but the suggestion met with a good deal of opposition from London, who feared that an incorporation would make it difficult for them to discharge their obligations to the United Kingdom Government.  However, after protracted negotiations, it was agreed that the incorporation should proceed , and eventually the New South Wales Society was incorporated on December 30th 1937.

The Fairbridge Farm Schools of N.S.W (Inc.) was administered by a Council of 16, four being nominated by the Rhodes Fellowship of N.S.W. and four being the nominees of The Fairbridge Society in England.  The remaining eight councillors were elective.

The appointment of the Principal was dictated by the Fairbridge Society of London and it was the Society which indeed paid the salary of the Principal.

The duties of the Principal were rather vague.  He was responsible for the discipline and care of the children and the supervision of the establishment as a whole  It was this lack of definition of duties, and the fact that the Principal was employed by the Society in London, that led to many of the differences of opinion which occurred between the Principal and the Council over the years.

Todays comprehensive duty statements were unheard of in those days. This lack of clarity in the duty statement were to cause many problems for the children in the subsequent years.

Other Fairbridge Farm School Establishments throughout the world


The Prince of Wales Fairbridge Farm School was established in 1935 on Vancouver Island in British Columbia.

The Child Emigration to British Columbia ceased in 1950.

Some of the children who attended the school in Canada subsequently ended up at the Molong School in Australia.

One of those is Peter Bennett a long time active member of the Fairbridgians Committee.


While not strictly a Fairbridge Farm School, the Northcote Children’s Farm School was affiliated with the Fairbrige Society which provided the children while the finance was provided by the The Northcote Trust.  This Trust was set up by Lady Northcote, the wife of Australia’s third Governor General.

Northcote Farm was situated at “Glenmore”, Bacchus Marsh, about 40 miles (65 km) from Melbourne.  It was opened in 1936 with Colonel Heath as Principal.  He had already had a long association with the Fairbridge Scheme, having been Principal of Pinjarra in Western Australia for 18 years.

He retired from the Army to take up his appointment at Pinjarra in 1928. When he took on the job of Principal of Northcote Children’s Farm in 1936 he was responsible for the designing and the construction of the buildings on the site.

In 1944, due to a severe drought in Victoria and the hardship of war-time it was decided to move the children from Northcote to Fairbridge Farm School at Molong in New South Wales.  This was done in December 1944 when forty children were transferred to Molong.  The Northcote Farm then closed in 1948.

A notable success in life from Northcote was a John Stocker. MBE.

John was at Northcote and Molong and now lives in Melbourne.

Tasmania established 1957

In liaison  with of the Tasmania Government the Fairbridge Society, in 1954 was able to establish a school, in a turn of the century cottage in Exeter, near Launceston.  “Tresca” as it was called, continued to function with one and two parent children until 1976.  Tresca still operates today as a community centre.

14 children were accommodated at Tresca in 1958. The object being that the parents of any boys and girls sent out under the “Family Scheme” would be found work and accommodation within easy reach of “Tresca.”Eventually it is was hoped to establish similar centres near area schools,to bring the number of children in Tasmania to 200. Fairbridge would pay for the maintenance of the children, but in family cases the parent would contribute according to his or her means. The website is www.tresca.org.au

South Australia

Drapers’ Hall was established in 1961 to cater for the children of one and two parent families which had been accepted by the Australia Government as new settlers.  The first property, in the City of Adelaide, was purchased with funds donated by The Worshipful Company of Drapers in London.  In 1966 this property was replaced by a nine acre (3.2 hectare) property at Crafers some 11 miles (18 km) from the City.

After 1966 when Mr. L. Morrall was appointed Principal, the Fairbridge Society tended to send to Drapers’ Hall those children who required remedial education, as Mr. Morrall was a specialist in this field.

Mrs Elizabeth Lapedus the eldest daughter of Kingsley Fairbridge lived at nearby Belair in the Adelaide Hills and frequently visit the home. She took a great interest in its wellbeing. Elizabeth attended a Fairbridge Reunion in Orange shortly before her death and was received with much love and emotion by the Fairbridgians present.

The following is a list of the parties of children that came to the Farm School between 1938 and 1972.

1938..The first party consisted of 28 boys They sailed out on the  S.S. Orama

Brooks. Kenneth Douglas,                     Butterfield, Wilfred

Cowne, Leonard.                                       Crouch, Leonard.

Dowding, Allen.                                         Drury, Raymond.

Eshlin, John.

Groom, Alan                                               Gollege, Michael

Hay, James                                                      Hay, Peter.

Henthorne, Harold

Johnson, Peter

Kennedy, Charles                                          Kennedy, Frank

Lambert, Edwin                                            Love, Norman James

Mackie, Edward.                                            MacFarlane, Henry

Millward, Arthur                                            Millward, John

Millward, Leslie David.                                Mitchell, Leonard

Moffat, Ivor                                                     Morrison, Neil

Simpson, Harry.                                              Smith, Ian George.

Tilt, Robert Archer.

The second party arrived on the 1st June 1938 on the S.S.Oronsay

Barge,  Anthony                                      Baxter, James

Bennett, Robert.                                      Brown, Charles

Drury, Joyce                                              Eshlin, Joan.

Gamsby, Edward.                                    Gamsby, Reuben.

Gillies, Edwin.                                          Gillies, Gabriel.

Gillies,  Margaret.                                     Gillies,  Shona

Hallett, Bertram

LLoyd, Walter.                                              Lord, Cyril

McKercher, Eric.                                          Morrison, Ronald

Nolden, Denis                                               Nolden, Mavis

Park, Clara.                                                  Park, Stewart.

Pearce, Robert.                                        Postlethwaite, Peter.

Robinson, Leslie

Simpson, Mary.                                        Simpson, Ronald.

Wickens, Evelyn.                                      Wickens, Frederick.


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