LETTER: Australian Child Migration - can you help me find my family?

I WONDER if any readers can help me trace old relatives.

My name is Peter Bennett and I was taken to Australia with my sister Marie in 1940 as part of the child migration policy.

All I have is my father’s birth certificate, which shows he was born in Burnley. I wondered if there are any Bennetts living locally who might be able to shed some light on our family.

Our parents were not married, so we were put into Middlemoore Children’s Homes in Birmingham and declared good stock for migration to the Colonies.

My father’s birth certificate shows that he was called Sydney Lunel Bennett. He was born on September 18th, 1907, in East Ward. His father was Francis John Bennett and mother Annie Sarah Bennett, formerly Whittaker, of 72 Brockenhurst Street, Burnley.

We ended up at Molong, a small country town in New South Wales, on a 1,500-acre farm where boys trained to be farmers and girls to be farmers’ wives. It did not work; all children were not born to be farmers. Many books have been written about child migration. Margaret Humphreys wrote “Oranges and Sunshine: Empty Cradles” telling of the shameful mIscarriage of justice to child migrants. However, there were also many success stories of children doing well in life after leaving the institutions in which they were placed.

I give a speech on child migration, “The Journey to Australia and the Life of a Child Migrant in an Institution”, at clubs, social gatherings and at the Australian National Maritime Museum where I work as a volunteer tour guide.

The biggest problem I had after leaving the institution was not having any identity — no family, not even a birth certificate.

The British Government has made £1m. available in a Family Restoration Fund to help former child migrants find and reunite families.

The fund is being managed by the Child Migrant Trust established in Nottingham by Margaret Humphreys. I have been granted some assistance to come to England for family reunion from July 12th to August 8th with my daughter, Colleen. We plan to visit Burnley, even if we do not find relatives.

If anyone can help they can reach me at peter.bennett8@bigpond.com

PETER BENNETT