Campaigner visits town he left for Oz

Mick Grimer, David Hill and Len Smith SUS-140325-160108001
Mick Grimer, David Hill and Len Smith SUS-140325-160108001

An author from Eastbourne who was sent to Australia as a child through a controversial relocation scheme visited his home town recently to catch up with old school friends.

David Hill was a small boy when he and his brothers were sent to New South Wales on the Fairbridge Farm School project, which was meant to provide children living in poverty in the UK with a good life and a better education – and boost the population Down Under.

But the scheme was hit by scandal and allegations that children were physically, mentally and sexually abused and David Hill wrote a book about the controversy entitled The Forgotten Children.

He built a hugely successful life there for his family but recently returned to Eastbourne and caught up with school friends Mick Grimer and Len Smith at Langney Sports when Eastbourne Borough FC took on Chelmsford.

Mick and Len also took David back to see his childhood home and some of the town’s landmarks.

“It was absolutely great to see David again,” said Mick Grimer. “We took him around all of the old haunts we remember as kids. We have kept in touch over the years and it was great to see David while he was in England on a flying visit.”

David’s visit coincided with a landmark Supreme Court judgement that child migrants who suffered alleged abuse at Fairbridge Farm School can go ahead with legal action against the Australian government.

The judgement was welcomed by David, who was sent to Fairbridge in 1959 by his mother, who later joined her family. He went on to become chairman, then managing director of the ABC, chairman of the Australian Football Association, chief executive and director of the State Rail Authority NSW, chairman of Sydney Water Corporation and chairman of CREATE, a national organisation responsible for representing the interests of young people and children in institutional care.