ALL THAT WAS TAKEN FROM US – A Child Migrant’s Story

Reviewed By  Janet Mawdesley       January 27, 2023


Author  Tony and Shane Pinnegar

Distributor:      Bark Side Books
ISBN:                 979-8369971338
Publisher:         Bark Side Books
Release Date:   January 2023  


The Child Migrant Scheme was a scheme created by the British Government as far back as 1618, when what were considered ‘vagrant children’ where rounded up and sent to the fledgling Colony of Virginia, in what is now known as the United States.

In 1903 South African Kingsley Fairbridge, horrified at the amount of children on the streets of London, unwashed and neglected, had a ‘vision splendide’ to give these many orphans a fresh new beginning by sending them out to a fresh new life in Australia. They were to be trained in domestic service for the girls and agricultural trades for the boys. They considered these children as ‘good, white, British stock’.

The first ‘Farm School’ of its kind was established in Western Australia at the Kingsley Fairbridge Farm School, just outside of Pinjarra. Over the years of 1913 to 1982, when the scheme was finally and thankfully abandoned, more than 3,580 children were sent to Western Australia, to a life that was anything but wonderful, frequently full of abuse, hunger and often extreme bullying.

The Pinnegar brothers, Tony, Christopher and ‘Garth’ were three of these children sent out to Kingsley Fairtrade Farm School from England in 1950; Tony the eldest suddenly being give the responsibility of caring for his two younger brothers, whom he has not seen for many years.

They had come from a dysfunctional family, where not considered as orphans, but somehow found themselves being part of this program. Tony as the elder had been asked if he would like to go to Australia and thought it would be a great adventure, as you do when you are thirteen years old.

Through the eyes of his son Shane, Tony’s story is told for the first time, and although pieced together, as it was seldom Tony would talk about his time at Fairbridge Farm School, it is a sobering reminder of the reality that many children lived with, powerless, distressed and abused during their early and formative years.

Tony would only talk a little about his and his brother’s early years in Western Australia, preferring to leave the past in the past, but Shane felt his father had a story that was worth the telling, as there were many things in his father life, which overflowed into his and his siblings lives. As they grew up, they realised that many aspects of their fathers apparent lack of background, and occasionally his actions, simply did not make any form of sense.

Shane says the telling of the story, the research and tracing of his family’s history, as well as beginning to understand his father’s traits has been cathartic, but still considers, as his father sadly passed from Cancer in 2022, there are still far too many questions unanswered.

Not an overly heavy read, All That Was Taken From Us- A Child Migrants Story is none the less a powerful story and one that so many could tell if they so choose, but many took with them to their grave.