The Northcote Trust was established in 1936 following a bequest in the will of Lady Alice Northcote, wife of Lord Henry Northcote, third Governor-General of Australia, to assist "poor children of British birth of either sex, and particularly orphans, to migrate from any part of Great Britain…" (Melbourne Leader, 30 March 1935). The bequest was used to establish a farm school (which became known as the Northcote Farm School) for child migrants in Victoria.
Trustees were appointed in both Australia and England. Australian trustees oversaw the construction and then management of the Northcote Farm School. English trustees, working with the Fairbridge Society, selected the children to be sent to Australia, and responded to family members' requests for updates and progress reports on their children in Australia.
While the Australian Trustees did not oversee the day to day running and management of the Farm School, they were responsible for appointing the school Principal and corresponded with the English Trustees about progress at the school and individual children. They appear to have made semi-regular visits to the Farm School, particularly to welcome new arrivals.
In 1960, following low numbers of child migrants coming to the Farm School, the Northcote School Act 1960 made it possible for Victorian state wards to also be admitted to the Farm School, and the running of the Farm School was taken over by the Social Welfare Department. However, the Trustees were still involved in the provision of child migrants to the Farm School, and later, the placement of children arriving as part of Fairbridge Family Migration schemes.
The Trustees in Australia initially operated under the provisions set out in Lady Northcote's will, until the Northcote School Act 1960 declared "certain persons" (who were named in the Act) as the Australian Trustees. The Northcote Trust Fund Act 1975 further changed their status, with the English Trustees being removed from any aspects of the Northcote Farm Trust, and the requirement to follow the provisions in Lady Northcote's will regarding the Trust was also removed.
At this time, the land where the cottages were located was returned to the Crown, and the farm portion was sold. Proceeds from the sale of the farm were used to continue the work of the Trust in the form of grants, including to some of the children of the Old Northcotians.
From the 1980s until 2001, the Northcote Trust Fund provided direct support in the form of educational grants. After this time, the way support was provided changed, and the Trust now provides sponsorship and scholarships to other organisations, to support educational outcomes for people under 25.
Sources used to compile this entry: Training of Young Migrants: Funds from Lady Northcote Trust, Melbourne Leader, 30 March 1935, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article255834454; Information provided to Find & Connect staff by State Library of Victoria, held in Find & Connect project files, University of Melbourne.
Prepared by: Kirsten Wright
Created: 4 April 2023