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The boys from Tardun


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FOR many reasons thousands of children from Britain, Ireland and Malta were shipped to institutions in Australia between 1922 and 1967.

An estimated 10,000 children left their homelands to live in institutions throughout this country.

On Monday, November 16, the Australian Federal Government will apologise for the heartbreak the policies of that era caused.

Scarborough resident John Hawkins does not believe the apology will go far enough, or that politicians know enough about this sad chapter of Australian history.

Mr Hawkins was born out of wedlock, in England, on March 13, 1947. Because of the thinking of the time and a belief he would be better off, he was taken to the Sisters of Nazareth orphanage in Southampton when he was six months old.

Later, English couple, Roy and Joy Broom, who already had one daughter, but could not have any more children, fostered John on the weekends and on holidays.

They fell in love with the little boy and the Broom’s home meant John was able to escape the bleakness of the orphanage.

The Brooms wanted to adopt John - but bureaucracy and bloody-mindedness robbed them of completing their family with a young boy and John would never know the security a child feels with his own family.

Instead, at seven years of age, John was shipped to Australia and ended up at Castledare.

 He says the institution was over-crowded, food was scarce and corporal punishment was excessive.

There was no room for personal dignity and much of the little boys’ time was spent reciting the Catechism or learning hymns.

Later John was sent to the Christian Brothers Agricultural School, in Tardun, 480km north of Perth.

There, life was tough, but the Tardun boys learned about the bush, farming and horse-riding skills.

“The experience of growing up in Tardun made me who I am,” Mr Hawkins said.

“It helped me to get on with life… it was where I grew up… I learned a lot.”

Some became farmers and the Tardun boys formed a brotherhood, which is still strong today.

“About 100 of us meet at Moore River twice a year, every year, with our families just to catch up and have fun,” Mr Hawkins said.

Although the British migrant learned to live with being taken from his country of birth, he says many never got over the experience.

“For many of them, they lost their country, their culture and their families,” he said.

“Some lived and died never knowing who they really were.”

However, he has no regrets of how his life turned out and does not feel animosity towards those who sent him to Australia.

“I see they were misguided and believed the government spin of the time,” Mr Hawkins said.

In 2002, John finally found his would-be adoptive mum - Joy Broom. Sadly, Roy Broom had already passed on. She wrote of her tireless effort to find him from her Southampton home.

“Going back to the time you were in Nazareth House, the Mother Superior had promised that although our faiths were different (we were CofE) there was no reason why we could not adopt you,” she wrote.

“The last weekend we went to pick you up we were shattered just to be told ‘he’s gone’.”

John also met his biological mother and three sisters.

They have all since formed a strong relationship.

Still, he believes that the taking of children from Britain, Ireland and Malta was illegal and the Federal Government’s pending apology will not go far enough. He has written a book about his experience.

The Bush Orphanage comprises two parts - the first an autobiography while the second part is made up information Mr Hawkins has researched about child migration policies in Australia and Britain.

The Federal Government apology to the “Forgotten Australians” comes after several Senate inquiries into the physical, emotional and sexual abuse of all children placed in government institutions and foster care.

The Bush Orphanage is published by JoJo Publishing. It is available in bookshops and through JoJo Publishing.

Click here to read what John Hawkins believes should be included in the apology

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What everyone else is thinking

Community Minded


Yes there should be an apology. No this should not have happened.

But you all mark my words, you will see if we wont be apologizing and compensating the boatloads of these so called 'refugees' in 20 years time. They will want an apology and compensation, too, but will not deserve it.

Lloyd Edwards


I was a product of St Josephs Bindoon. This was a extremely violent place to live and harsh on boys, I thought this was normal, I swore I would never send my children to an institution like that and never did. It took me a few years but I adjusted to normal social behavior and got on with my life. A few of the lads tried to start an old boys association at Clontarf but was not successful as there was too many issues unsettled in my opinion, nobody made any open comment which was normal practice. The Christian Brothers and similar organisations should be apologiseing not just the current government.



As an English migrant here by choice for the last 20 yrs I never even realised children were taken from these countries. It makes me feel very ignorant and it makes me feel that the compensations being paid to indiginous people from The Lost Generations should be shared with these other 10,000 children!! Shame on the government for handing out to one group and not another!



I know of a lady who was sent out from England and was put into Fairbridge. Foe many years, she didn't want to go back there. She wrote a book in her experiences. I

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