Before I relate anything about my times, let me say my having been sent to Fairbridge W.A. was without doubt a life saver.

 

I went to Fairbridge in 1953 at the age of seven. Left the day I turned 16.

 

Before being institutionalised I spent much time roaming the streets, had no education prospects, and was locked out of the flat where we lived while my mother spent the days away working.

 

I remember travelling around on the underground, wandering thru the Army camps located in the London parks, pouring tins of paint on the footpath and using it as a slippery slide, breaking into sheds and garages. Drinking the slop out of beer glasses left on the sills outside the pub, begging for any old rubbish outside terrace houses so that we could sell it. Setting off fire alarms and watching the Fire Brigade turn up, etc etc. This was all done without any form of adult control.

 

The time at Knockholt, the clothing, toothpaste etc and the trip by boat to Fremantle made me feel special. That was, until reality took hold on reaching Fairbridge.

Most of what I had was soon removed before going to the cottage. Some items arrived at the cottage later, but this all vanished except for my two pairs of black shorts and two T shirts and a bible. (The clothing lasted till each Christmas day when we received a replacement). The bible is the only thing I still have as a reminder (everyone got a bible) and it is the only thing I do not need in my life.

 

Of course I lost my undies and shoes (singlets were shared in winter and shoes were only worn to church). New children suffered in summer as soft feet and hot gravel saw them running from bit of shade to bit of shade. Stone bruises and stubbed second toes were the norm.

 

I was a little kid lost in what seemed to me to be a big impersonal system.

All I knew was, I had been asked if I would like to go to Australia on a big ship. All of a sudden there I was standing in bare feet on hot rocks not knowing which way to turn.

 

What did turn out was that I was a square peg being hammered into a small round hole. I had two left feet, was totally socially inept, had a naturally loud voice and a vocabulary too advanced for my age. I was a perceived to be too different to be acceptable, was constantly subjected to being bullied on a fairly regular basis and ostracised by the greater majority. In an Institutional environment there is generally nowhere to go, and no guidance to receive. I learned just to exist within myself and accept my obvious “inferiority”.

 

My mother, having handed me over, promptly ceased all contact. This reminder was particularly evident each Christmas day when varying numbers of presents were received by other children. I learned to dislike the day (knowing the loss of any love, and the feeling of childish envy).

 

Schooling was an abject failure with me leaving to work on the farm after one year of high school.

 

At 16 I was told I was going to work on a dairy farm and I was delivered to a farm at Dardenup. I worked from 4am to 6pm with every second Sunday off. I slept at the end of the machinery shed, and showered under the tank stand at the dairy. When you know no better it is acceptable.

 

Now I had to learn about life. I had never answered a phone, never really taken care of myself, did not know how families or society operated.

When I had earned enough I walked to Bunbury and bought my very first bike (second hand).

 

Life moved on and I moved with it. I ended up with good vocational qualifications and an excellent level of education.

I am now blessed with a wonderful wife, children I am proud of and a comfortable life.

This, I am convinced, would never have happened had I remained in England. But what a way to have got there.