Sunday, April 23, 2017

New Relase Title “Twelve Years in Care”

New Relase Title “Twelve Years in Care”


Sid Harta Publishers Melbourne.




From the 1860s to the late 1960s over 150,000 boys and girls “volunteered” to migrate from the United Kingdom to many colonies of the then British Empire, including Australia. The abolition of the slave trade in 1803 and the eventual emancipation of individual slaves in the 1830s had left the colonies with a shortage of labour to be partially filled by these children.

This diaspora of children rivalled the number of convicts sent to Australia. We were the unwanted generations; many of us were bastards/illegitimate by birth and/or from the lowest echelons of society. It was all quite “normal” and accepted practice; we were surplus to requirements. Once we were put into institutions we became “fillii nullius” the children of no one, to be done with as the authorities saw fit. Each of us has a story to tell; this is my story.


A child’s why?

Is a child’s cry;

For truth.

Truth, brings forth knowledge.

Knowledge, is a precursor to wisdom.

Wisdom seeks truth.

Let us all seek truth.

In order to be wise.


Author’s Preface


“It is my hope that people who read this book will be far more mindful of children, as children are not things or possessions, they are simply little people. World peace will never be attained until we adults learn to love and nurture our offspring no matter what colour, creed, or nationality, and to show respect for people who think and look different to ourselves. A reciprocation of understanding by all people is the key to enable all children to attain an education and adulthood in a world of peace.

Dr Barnardo was the person who established Dr Barnardo’s Homes in England in the latter half of the 1800s. Many thousands of Dr Barnardo’s children were emigrated principally to Canada and Australia; some were sent to other parts of the British Empire.

Barnardos, is now the trading name of Dr Barnardo’s Homes. To avoid confusion and for brevity’s sake, Barnardos is used exclusively throughout this book.

To give immediacy and freshness I have used a raconteur style and have consciously avoided the cleverness’s of the “Gargoyles and Curlicues,” which seem to have become the template for many modern writers today. This plain speaking necessitates revealing more of myself than at times I feel comfortable with; however, the truth will out in one form or another.

It should be kept in mind that my brothers and I never saw my father and much of the information was only gained and put into perspective after November 2001. It was only then through the intervention of the International Social Service organisation that we found we had four brothers, two sisters and a step mother, all”


Twe lve Years in Care | John Bicknel l

of whom got lost somehow when we three brothers “volunteered”

to emigrate to Australia.

John R. Bicknell

Ex Dr Barnardo’s Homes




For people born after World War Two reading ‘12 Years in Care’ is an eye opener.


It’s a recount of one boy’s/man’s early life experiences in institutionalised care – plucked from what he thought was family life to be then sent off to an institution in England before being transported to the “colonies” in Australia.


John R. Bicknell’s autobiography is also about silent observance, yet strong determination to survive and about carving his own way in life with many lessons along the way. By no means a sentimental story, it is a must for anyone curious about the plight of Dr Barnardo’s  children.


Insightful, at times raw and gritty as well as humorous and uplifting of a child’s/man’s resilience and the light at the end of the tunnel.

It’s a book, which will broaden one’s understanding beyond the idea of happy families.


 Lee Abrahams,

The District Reporter




“A compelling insight into the life and times of a child under the Dr Barnardo’s Homes Scheme.

The experience of living pre and post WW2 as a child in such challenging circumstances is in itself a moving story.

The living standards, the treatment and discipline of such young children was extraordinarily harsh. Handing over three young boys to care seemed such a heartless, inhumane act.

Life in the Dr Barnardo’s Home in comparison appeared to provide stability and security, both in England and then Australia, and was such a contrast to the previous uncaring, unstructured existence.

It was great to read about earlier days in the local area, specifically Mowbray Park at Picton and The Oaks. The author’s inclusion of so many local identities makes this a fascinating and relatable read.”

AM, Walsh, Gerard (A. Taylor, MP) <>


Up to 150,000 children were deported from children's homes in Britain and shipped off to a 'new life' in distant parts of the British Empire, right up until as recently as 1970. John  was one of these children who came with his two bothers  to the Barnardo’s Farm Training School at Mowbray Park near Picton. In his new book he takes the reader back to where it all began in a small house in a small village in southern England, into their incarceration in English orphanages and then to Australia with several other children. The chapters describing life in Mowbray Park give the reader a glimpse into the lives of similar children raised in philanthropic institutions away from traditional family structure and make their subsequent social problems easier to understand. This is a timely story for today as we all struggle to understand why so many children were taken away from families and countries. John worked hard to overcome his early life to create acceptance into local communities and successfully run a farm and raise a family but it was only at a significant cost to himself. Many other children did not. They all have stories we should know before we can remedy past mistakes and apply better policies in future.

Doreen Lyon [Many years connected with the Wollondilly Heritage Centre]


Subject: John R. Bicknell's "Twelve Years in Care", on the surface, reads like a boy's adventure story. John writes with a sense of wonderment and humour, at times causing the reader to forget that this is definitely not "Adventure Time for Boys". Dysfunctional family relationships, institutionalisation, family breakdowns - these would cause many an individual to become a burden on society, yet this Barnados Boy has clearly demonstrated that society has benefited from 'volunteering' this British Child Migrant. Advocates (assuming there are any) of the system that produced this British Child Migrant would argue that the system was justified in its actions, as it produced an upstanding citizen - John R. Bicknell, however, in spite of that system, as his autobiography demonstrates, flourished. It is a wonderful, ultimately uplifting, read.

Lynnette Buick, book reviewer in Wollondilly Shire


 Twelve Years In Care is a fascinating read !     From the humblest of beginnings,   John reveals to us what it meant to be a child living through the war years, often hungry and uncared for,  becoming a Barnardos Boy, and finally leaving Britain for the far away land called Australia,  which no one ever explained was actually on the other side of the world.         Despite a cool welcome on these distant shores, John created a new life for himself and worked hard to find his identity.   For anyone interested in the child migrant issues, this book is a most interesting read and certainly gives a new insight into the lives of children in care, yet this book is not a’’ woe –is –me” story, it’s inspirational and uplifting  and a thoroughly good read.

 Alison Lewis, author “Seasons of Life” & “Missing”


John Bicknell presents an honest and heartfelt account of growing up in an institutionalised  environment and the normalisation of abuse at the hands of parents and carers. This book is a poignant reminder of the many trials and abuses that thousands of children and teens suffered at the hands  of those whose very job was to protect them.


I am glad that John has told his story. As he writes, "it is necessary to acknowledge the truth of what happened as well as bear witness to the fact that these injustices occurred to the most vulnerable of people: children." Our nation has only recently formally acknowledged and apologised to children like John who migrated to Australia for the purpose of cheap labour and more often than not were at the mercy of unscrupulous and often vicious carers.


At the same time, John's account provides a wonderful insight into the well-known generosity and community minded spirit that is so evident in Wollondilly, painting a picture of warm, genuine and hardworking farming families who share in what little they have to give an orphaned boy, a family. I was saddened to read of the discrimination and suspicion that Barnardo Boys like John faced in the community. Despite being ostracised John and no doubt hundreds of other young men in his situation have helped to shape and build the nation of Australia.


The long-term impact of institutionalised childhood, of the scars one carries even into later life, is evident in John's account. That John was able to forgive his mother and father, and his praise of social workers and staff of Barnardo's nowadays, is a testament to the man that he is. John Bicknell is a valued member of the Wollondilly community and dedicates much of his time to helping young high school students as a mentor.


My hat goes off to John for telling his story. A work of this nature takes courage, dedication and a hope and trust that society and government will learn from the terrible injustices borne by children like John and his brothers.


Jai Rowell MP

Member for Wollondilly

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