On Their Own

Britain's child migrants

Black and white image of a boy on the deck of a ship holding a large ring

In 1955 four-year-old Stewart Lee was sent to Australia by the Fairbridge Society Photograph courtesy Sydney Lee

Exhibition website
  • About


    Now on tour

    See the 'Tour dates' tab on this page to find a venue near you or to make a booking.

    About the exhibition

    From the 1860s, more than 100,000 children were sent from Britain to Canada, Australia and other Commonwealth countries through child migration schemes. They were sent by charitable and religious organisations, with government support, in the belief that their lives would improve, and that they would provide much-needed labour and increase the population.

    Few were orphans; many came from families who were unable to care for them. The lives of these children changed dramatically and fortunes varied. Some succeeded in creating new futures. Others suffered lonely, brutal childhoods. All experienced disruption and separation from family and homeland.

    Child migration schemes received criticism from the outset, yet continued until the 1960s. Formal apologies were made by the Australian Government in 2009 and the British Government in 2010 but many former child migrants and their families are still coming to terms with their experiences.

    Visit http://www.britainschildmigrants.com/ and share your memories on the message board.

    Winner of the IMAGinE Award for best exhibition in 2011, presented by Museums and Galleries NSW, Museums Australia (NSW), Regional and Public Galleries NSW and Museums Australia.

    Audio Stories

    Hear the stories and thoughts of former child migrants to Australia, interviewed at the opening of the exhibition on 10 November 2010. Hear also from Richard Morris, British Consul-General, Sydney, and Mary-Louise Williams, former Director of the Australian National Maritime Museum.

    Thank you to all the former child migrants and their families who have shared their stories and experiences.

    Research Guides

    Produced to coincide with the exhibition, see our Child Migration research guide.

    Exhibition partners

    A collaboration between the Australian National Maritime Museum and National Museums Liverpool, UK.

    Supported by the National Collecting Institutions Touring and Outreach Program, an Australian Government program aiming to improve access to the national collections for all Australians.

    Australian Government National Collecting Institutions Touring and Outreach program     National Museums Liverpool

  • Tour dates

    Tour dates

    Winner of the IMAGINE Award for best exhibition in 2011, presented by Museums and Galleries NSW, Museums Australia (NSW), Regional and Public Galleries NSW and Museums Australia.This exhibition toured Australia from 2010-2011 and is currently on tour in the United Kingdom.

    No longer available for bookings.

    Touring Exhibition Dates and Venues

    Merseyside Museum, National Museums Liverpool
    Albert Dock, Liverpool, England
    17 October 2014 – 4 October 2015

    V & A Museum of Childhood
    Cambridge Heath Road, London, England
    24 October 2015 - 12 June 2016

    Other touring exhibitions

    We've developed a diverse range of travelling exhibitions that range in scale from highly mobile, cost-effective and ready-to-hang picture shows through to smart, modular-designed and interactive 3D exhibitions developed primarily for family audiences.

    Visit our Touring Exhibitions page to see what else is on tour or how you can make a booking for your venue.

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