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  • Writer's pictureCat Blesing

Inspiration for Orphan of The King

Commemoration plaque at The South Australian Migrant Museum

The inspiration for my novel, Orphan of The King, is the British Child Migrant Schemes. Between 1922 and 1967 about 150 000 children with an average age of eight years and nine months were shipped from Great Britain to help populate the British Dominions of Canada, Rhodesia, New Zealand and Australia with 'good white stock'. Estimates of the number of children sent to Australia vary from 5 000 to 10 000, most of whom were sent to charitable and religious institutions. Children of that age were thought to assimilate more easily, were more adaptable, had a long working life ahead and could be cheaply housed in dormitory style accommodation.

This incredibly moving sculpture is dedicated to all the Child Migrants. The posture and emptiness inside of her, is gut-wrenching.

Many of these children suffered great trauma, abuse and a lack of education that continued to affect them into adulthood. A great number of these never saw their families or birth country again, and hundreds still search for families they once had.

I've spent years researching this topic, listened to hours of oral histories, spent time at the Migration Museum chatting to staff, but the most humbling of all, was meeting some of the women who lived these stories. They've been generous with their time and knowledge, even though for some, it's been difficult to relive the traumatic memories.

Pat Carlson, a former Child Migrant, shared her story with the Migration Museum and it's now part of their Child Migration display. The day I visited with Pat, a mother with two children wandered along and looked at the display. The mother read out the words as her children listened intently, Pat and I watched nearby. I approached the mother and children and said,' The lady in those photos is this lady right here.' The mother was clearly moved, and the children looked up at her with amazement. The little girl held onto her plait as her mother had just explained that children had had their hair cut off when they'd arrived in Australia. The mother asked Pat for a photo with her children, and appeared a little bit star struck. The experience put everything into perspective for me. I was humbled to have witnessed the sharing of her story with a young generation so they realise how fortunate their own lives are.

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