Revealing chronicles of Australia’s largest youth migration program


When English school boy Ronald Spencer threatened to ‘run away to Australia’ during an argument with his mother, neither of them thought it a serious prospect. But, in a bizarre twist of fate, an advert in that day’s paper for an intriguing youth migration program saw the 16-year-old board a ship bound for a farm in Wagga Wagga, NSW a year later!

This is just one of the many real stories that are captured in the Big Brother Movement archive – a significant collection that documents the history of youth migration in NSW – that will be officially handed over to the State Library of NSW on Monday 27 March.

According to State Librarian John Vallance: “The Big Brother Movement archive offers a rare glimpse into the experiences of these young boys, aged between 16 and 20, who left their homes in England to start a new life in Australia, and the legacy left from their time here.”

“The archive is an important addition to the State Library’s collection, and we’re excited to see more stories from these fascinating historical records come to light.”

The Big Brother Movement, established in London in July 1925, was the largest youth migration program in Australia, with over 12,000 young men migrating with the support of the Australian government to help tackle the local employment shortage. The Little Brothers, as the boys were known, had guardians known as Big Brothers who mentored the new arrivals until they reached 21 years of age.

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