Where it is of interest to those who were at Fairbridge or are related to those that were, you are invited to scroll across the menu bar above to “Our History”. This section gives you a great insight into how the kids lived and their environment. Many photos of the kids etc are available for viewing.
The webmaster would also encourage viewers to move further across to the sub-menu titled “About This Site”.
WEBSITE UPDATED: 25 February 2016
The History of Fairbridge
The story of Fairbridge commenced a few years after the turn of the 20th century when Kingsley Fairbridge was a student at Oxford University in England and he saw orphanages across Britain full of children whose opportunities and futures were perceived as being bleak, whilst the British colonies cried out for settlers. The establishment of Farm Schools commenced in 1912 shortly after Kingsley and Ruby Fairbridge arrived at Albany in Western Australia. They acquired a parcel of land a few kilometres south of Pinjarra and thus migration of underprivileged children from Britain commenced. Six years later they moved to a much bigger property north of Pinjarra. In 1938 a Farm School was established at Molong in New South Wales, following by schools at Drapers’ Hall in Adelaide, Tresca in Tasmania and a school in Canada. Molong closed in 1974 followed by Pinjarra in 1981.
Here we attempt to present a small history of Fairbridge Farms predominantly that of Pinjarra, Western Australia through a series of photographs of Fairbridge people and the Fairbridge village, reflections of old Fairbridge people, press cuttings relating to Fairbridge, Fairbridge publications and, of course, communications from and about the most important element – the children and staff who lived on the Farm, and the administrators and friends of Fairbridge who managed, financed and supported the organisation.
On this website are but a few snapshots of the lives of those people who resided at the Fairbridge Farms from establishment in 1912 to present day. The intent of this site is to preserve and share some of Fairbridge’s colourful history especially for those Old Fairbridgians and friends of Fairbridge who would like to re-visit some of their history.
THE FOLLOWING PIECE REITERATES SOME OF THE ABOVE INFORMATION WHICH FORMED PART OF THE ORIGINAL “FAIRBRIDGE KIDS WEBSITE. IT WAS PROVIDED BY THE OFA (PINJARRA) IN 2015 AND IS INCLUDED AS IT FURTHER FLESHES OUT WHO KINGSLEY FAIRBRIDGE WAS.
The story of Kingsley Ogilvie Fairbridge and the founder of the Farm School at Pinjarra, Western Australia are one and the same thing.
Kingsley Ogilvie Fairbridge was born on the 2nd May 1885 at Grahamstown, Republic of South Africa.
In 1896 the Fairbridge Family went to live in Mashonaland, later known as Rhodesia, now Rhodesia, at the time a new era for white settlement. In this pioneering environment Kingsley became an experienced bushman. He also suffered his first attacks of malaria, an illness that recurred throughout his life.
At twelve years of age, Kingsley, had his vision, “why are there no farms? Why are there no people?” He had a dream of populating the empty colonies with farmers.
In 1903 Kingsley Fairbridge visited England for the first time and became aware of the desperate plight of the poor in English cities. “Children’s lives wasting while the Empire cried aloud for mrn. There were workhouses full, orphanages full – and no farmers.”
Kingsley’s first two attempts for a Rhodes scholarship failed but he struggled through a third and finally was successful on his fourth try. As a Rhodes scholar at Oxford, Kingsley Fairbridge studied for a Diploma in Forestry and was active in sporting and social clubs. At a meeting held on October 19th 1909 Kingsley shared his vision with other colonial students, and the Society for the Endurance of Child Emigration to the Colonies was formed.
The vision “The development of farm schools where unwanted, under-privileged children could be trained to become useful agricultural workers in the under-populated colonies”. An offer of land in Newfoundland, was not taken mainly because of anticipated economic difficulties and negotiations with Nova Scotia and New Brunswick came to nothing. Finally, the Premier of Western Australia, Mt Frank Wilson, while visiting England invited Fairbridge to set up an agricultural school and farm in Western Australia.
On the 14th December 1911, Kingsley Fairbridge married Ruby Whitmore and in April 1912 they arrived in Albany, Western Australia aboard the Afric. In July 1912, after searching for a suitable property to use as the first farm school, they moved to a neglected property south of Pinjarra. In September, their first child, #####, was born.
The first group of thirteen boys arrived in January 1913 and in July another 22 boys arrived.
At the farm school, Kingsley faced numerous problems, including lack of, unfamiliarity with the climate and local agricultural conditions; the poor condition of the property and the inadequate buildings; together with the isolation from a Committee in England, who did not understand who were persistent with there demands for detailed reports. World War I aggravated the financial problems and subsequently resulting in no further children being sent from England.
Kingsley Fairbridge thought the period following the Great War would be the time for the expansion of the farm school theme. In 1919 the Fairbridge Family travelled to England and raised funds to purchase a larger property in the same area.
The 3rd party of children arrived in 1921 – the first to arrive after the Great War.
Money was a constant problem and after much negotiation by Kingsley Fairbridge, the Western Australian State Government and the Commonwealth Governments agreed in July 1922 to contribute one third each to the cost and maintenance of the Fairbridge Farm School, Pinjarra. Kingsley went to England and in 1923 the British Government agreed to provide “some“ financial support. Fairbridge Farm School, Pinjarra was now comparatively financially secure.
Unfortunately, on Kingsley’s return from England his health deteriorated and following exploratory surgery, Kingsley died, aged 39 years, on the 19th July 1924.
Following the death of Kingsley Fairbridge, the work of the Society he had founded, continued and expanded. Fairbridge Farm Schools were also established at 9 other locations; Molong, New South Wales; Tasmania, South Australia and Vancouver; Canada.
As laws and attitudes changed the Fairbridge Society diversified to assist the children of single parent or particularly large families who wished to migrate to a new country.
POINTS OF INTEREST
• Memorial plaque and inscription embedded in the footpath, St Georges Terrace, Perth. Western Australia
• Fairbridge children have varied reports of living at Fairbridge Farm School, Pinjarra – recollections often depend on the nature of the Cottage Mother: some found comfort and support, and have fond memories of Fairbridge, others suffered harsh discipline and indifference resulting in their hatred of the Farm (perhaps not unlike your own experience with school teachers).
• From 1920, when the site for the current Farm School was purchased, conditions and rules were different for each generation of Fairbridge Kids.
• Almost 600 Fairbridge Kids enlisted in the services before and during WWII – such was their commitment to their commitment to their “Mother Country” and the British Empire. Unfortunately many of those who enlisted, did not return to Australia.
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