Fairbridge Children’s Park to pay tribute to migrant students

An ambitious plan to pay tribute to the students of Fairbridge Farm will see a “reflective park” built on two hectares, six kilometres from Molong.

COMMEMORATIVE PARK: Fairbridge Children’s Park management committee chairman David Hill is gathering support for a park to be built near Molong in tribute to the children who attended the Fairbridge Farm School. Photo: ANDREW MURRAY

COMMEMORATIVE PARK: Fairbridge Children’s Park management committee chairman David Hill is gathering support for a park to be built near Molong in tribute to the children who attended the Fairbridge Farm School. Photo: ANDREW MURRAY

The park, budgeted to cost $750,000, is being proposed to commemorate the school’s 80th anniversary this year.

The park’s plans have been put forward by the former students of Fairbridge Children’s Farm School, the Old Fairbridgians’ Association spearheaded by management committee chairman David Hill.

The Fairbridge Children’s Park will acknowledge the legacy of Britain’s largest child migration schemes, which involved almost 1000 children travelling to attend the school outside Molong between 1938 and 1973.

According to Mr Hill the plan was for the boys to become farmers and the girls to become domestic workers but court cases and testimonies later revealed the hardship, betrayal and limited opportunities the children found once they arrived.

Mr Hill said the project has gained the support of Orange and Cabonne councillors. 

He said Cabonne Council owns the land that the park would be built on and the response from the mayor and councillors has been positive.

The project has also got pro bono support from a range of sources including by landscape architect Leonard Lynch who has waived his fees, taking the expected total down to about $500,000, which still needs to be raised.

“Everyone is working on this for nothing,” Mr Hill said.

Last Saturday, Mr Hill and other former Fairbridge children met with NSW Nationals leader John Barilaro.  

“Nothing has been resolved but we were absolutely delighted with the meeting,” Mr Hill said.

“He was very receptive and very supportive and they are going away to consider the proposal.”

Mr Hill said he was surprised how knowledgeable Mr Barilaro was about the school and reports of abuse and the suffering of children who lived under the Fairbridge scheme.

The proposed park and highway rest-stop would be built at a site that was known as the Creekside Paddock to the Fairbridge children.

The southern part of the site already has a road side rest area with parking, picnic tables and a Fairbridge commemorative cairn.

Through landscape design, the park would tell the story from the children’s perspective and would be a place of learning and reflection and would focus on four themes, the children’s origin, passage, farm life and turn out.

Mr Hill said the plans will be discussed at the biennial reunion of former Fairbridge children on March 10 and 11.

“We won’t finalise the details until everyone has had their say,” Mr Hill said.

“We have to prepare a development application, which is fairly standard for the Cabonne Council.”

He said as well as preparing a design, Mr Lynch has also been consulting on the project and will prepare the development application.

Mr Hill said a lot of the members of the Old Fairbridgians’ Association have already committed funds but government grants and corporate sponsorship will also be sought. 

Among the ideas to go into the park is a sculpture based on a photo of four Fairbridge children from the second intake, holding their large cardboard suitcases.

“It’s got to be an attraction people go to, it’s got to be a place where kids can play, and people can reflect on the story,” Mr Hill said. 

“We want to partner this with the whole community.”

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