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Activist and businessman, David Hill (b.1946), migrated to Australia at the age of twelve as part of Britain’s child migration scheme.

David Hill, a twin, was born in East Sussex, England. By then, David’s mother was a single parent with two older children.

Mum was from Scotland. She’s illegitimate and was brought up by her grandmother who died when my mum was 14. There was nowhere for her to go so she went into the big houses in the south of England. At 17, she was pregnant with my [eldest] brother Tony and married and her husband later shot through (Hill, Migration Heritage).

Because of poverty, the boys were occasionally taken to children’s homes until their mother was in a position to retrieve them. 

David recalls he and his twin brother, Richard, being put into a Barnardos children’s home in Barkingside, Essex at the age of six for a few months.

It was huge, with more than a thousand children in cottages each housing up to twenty children. Richard and I were deeply traumatised because we were told we’d be there permanently. It was a tough experience. I can remember being teased and bullied by the bigger children when we tried to write a letter to our mum – it seemed most of them didn’t have anyone to write to. I also recall the awful food they forced us to eat (Hill, Reckoning, 5).

When his mother, Kathleen, got a job at a railway café, the family was reunited. Then, when David was twelve, he and his two brothers set out for Australia as Child Migrants. 

Mum first heard about the Fairbridge child migration scheme from a woman she worked with…After Mum made inquiries about Fairbridge, we were visited by a local representative and one from London. They were good salespeople…For a poor family like ours, the offer of free transport out to Australia, then free accommodation and education once we got there, sounded almost too good to be true (Hill, Reckoning, 8-9).

Kathleen was persuaded because by then Fairbridge had a new offer whereby a single parent could follow on and prepare a home for their children “when they were old enough to leave Fairbridge and get a job” (Hill, Reckoning, 9).

In Australia, David and his brothers lived at the Fairbridge Farm School in Molong, a small town in Central West NSW. The family was reunited when David was fifteen and his mother immigrated to Australia. She was horrified at the conditions when she visited her children at Fairbridge.

Kathleen got a job in Sydney, and eventually, her children joined her.

David did a wide variety of working-class jobs before attending university on a scholarship and becoming a tutor at the University of Sydney. He then worked in a number of professional occupations before rising to prominence, particularly as Managing Director of the national broadcaster, the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC), a position he held from 1987 to 1995. 

David Hill is also a successful writer. He published his first book, The Forgotten Children, on the Fairbridge Farm School in 2007.

Rather than being the end of a story, The Forgotten Children was the start of a series of events that would snowball…In 2008 a number of former Fairbridgians and I embarked on a marathon legal case of eight years, which resulted in a record compensation payout from the Australian government, the New South Wales state government and the New South Wales Fairbridge Foundation (Hill, Reckoning, xx).

A documentary followed, along with apologies from two Australian prime ministers, Kevin Rudd in 2009 and Julia Gillard in 2013. The British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, apologised in 2010 and in 2014, then Prime Minister Theresa May established an inquiry into child migration. Most recently, in 2018 the British government and the UK Fairbridge Society agreed to financially compensate all survivors of the British child migration scheme.

After a long journey, all of the key institutions have acknowledged the widespread abuse of the child migrants, have accepted their responsibility for it, apologised to the victims of the abuse, and agreed to pay financial compensation (Hill, Reckoning, xxi).

Since the publication of The Forgotten Children, David Hill has published seven books on a variety of historical topics. A followup to The Forgotten Children, Reckoning: The Forgotten Children and their quest for justice, was published in 2022.

David is a patron of CREATE Foundation, an advocacy and support agency for children and young people in out of home care in Australia. He is also the founder and chair of the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures


“David Hill.” Belongings, Migration Heritage Centre, 2010. 

“Fairbridge Farm School (1935 – 1973).” Find & Connect, 2021. 

Hill, David. Reckoning. The Forgotten Children and Their Quest for Justice. Penguin Random House Australia, 2022.

Image available here.