A better chance

  • Victoria K. Haskins


The apprenticeship scheme for Aboriginal children drew on a 500-year tradition of forcing the children of the poor and itinerant into domestic ‘apprenticeships’ for which they received little or no wage. With the rapid upsurge of enclosures of the common land in England from the early eighteenth century, there was an equally rapid rise in rural dispossession and poverty. The system of Poor Relief became a customary source of cheap domestic labour as pauper children could be obtained as ‘apprentices to Housewifery’ at the cost of providing their lodgings, food and clothing, and the use of institutions and such apprenticeships in tandem provided the system for state and charitable care of destitute children. In the colony of New South Wales, where the assignment system represented the only source of domestic labour from the establishment of the colony in 1788 until well into the nineteenth century, the apprenticing of children from institutions was inevitable. Yet by the time the Board secured a legislative base to compel Aboriginal girls into service, the practice of institutionalization followed by apprenticeship had fallen into disfavour for the children of poor white people — and especially with regard to girls.


White Woman Bright Spot Aboriginal Woman White Girl Aboriginal Servant 
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© Victoria K. Haskins 2005

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  • Victoria K. Haskins

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