History of Barnardos Australia

A Short History of Dr Barnardos Home in Australia

Alfred William Green 1858-1935 was one of the genuine driving forces behind the establishment of the modern Barnardo Migration scheme to Australia. His involvement with the NSW State Children’s Relief Department from 1884 first as Secretary, then as Chief Superintendent and later Chief Officer of the Children’s Protection Act 1901equipped him with the ideal background to provide the connection and experience needed..

The Australian Labour Party was alarmed at the encouragement of overseas labour into NSW, and the NSW Executive decided in 1921 to request a reduction in immigration to Australia until work is available for all. This was totally opposed by Sir Arthur Rickard of the Millions Magazine, who sought to import millions of immigrants. To avoid criticism the British Child Migrants were given a series of tests, physical and mental so only the fittest and brightest were sent to Australia. This meant that brothers and sisters clinging to each other after family break ups could and were parted one being sent to Australia the other remained in the UK because one wore glasses and the other didn’t.

The first official party of 47 Dr Barnardos boys immigrated to Australia on the 24th of October 1921 aboard the SS Berrima, under the care of Mr Percy Roberts Assistant Director of Dr Barnardo’s Homes in London.

On Monday the 24th of October 47 Barnardo boys arrived in NSW aboard the steamer Berrima.

With a speed of 14 knots the Berrima carried 350 passengers. The Berrima travelled 16,000 miles via the Cape at a cost of twelve thousand pounds



The first Dr Barnardo’s Home established in Australia was Scarbrough House at Sandringham. The home that cost six thousand pounds, was acquired to house the first official party of 47 boys in 1921, and had accommodation for one hundred boys. The matron in charge was a very kind Matron Sylvia Weigel who later in life established the Police Boys Clubs

Miss Mary Hutchinson who worked in Barnardo’s central office during the 1920s reported that the boys were very happy there except for the sandflies and mosquitoes, they were very troublesome and eventually drove them out. The home was transferred to “Melrose” at Alt Street in Ashfield and was renamed Barnardo’s House.

When Sir Arthur Rickard stumbled onto the idea of using Australian Barnardo donations to finance the immigration of English children to Australia, rather than sending the money to Britain., he hastily cobbled together a committee without due regard to Barnardo’s London Committee and its guiding rules. This caused a crisis in 1922-3 that resulted in the local group being unable to legally collect funds using the Barnardo’s name. It needed to be done correctly and legally. ( Barnardo’s in England couldn’t afford to let just anyone around the world use its name willy-nilly). In desperation Sir Arthur Rickard sailed to England where it was suggested two eminent Trustees be appointed, reliable Auditors, and an experienced Secretary. It was with this background that Mr A W Green was appointed Secretary of the Dr Barnardo’s Homes, NSW Committee, a position he served in until his death aged 77 in August 1935. His practical experience came to force, when after a trip to head office in London in 1927 Barnardo’s in Sydney introduced a system of sending over an Australian escort to come back with the next party, thereby providing time on the voyage for the boys and girls to form useful links with an Australian staff member from the Office. Secondly, Sir Arthur Rickard urged London to send out younger children, both Percy Roberts in London and Mr A. W. Green in Sydney foresaw the need to establish training homes for these children. It was after Mr Greens trip to England in 1927 and his inspection of British facilities, Barnardo’s established the Farm Training School at Mowbray Park Picton in 1929. When Mr Green passed away a subscription was raised amongst the old boys and girls to provide some memorial to his good work for Barnardo’s. The result was a sundial, unveiled at a Founders Day at Picton in the garden opposite the stables. Its inscription read ” The best portion of a Good Mans Life Those little unremembered acts of Kindness and of Love.”











Mr A.W. Green with a few of the first Dr Barnardo’s Homes girls at Ashfield