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Irish Famine Memorial
Irish Famine Memorial

Photographs supplied by Kent Watson

The monument cemmemorates those who died during the Irish Famine from 1845 to 1852. 

On the 150th anniversary of the arrival of 191 girls on board the Lady Kennaway, a bluestone rock in Williamstown was dedicated to their memory, to serve as a stone both of mourning and of welcome. Around the main text are inscribed words from the poem “Na Prátaí Dubha” (“The Black Potatoes”) by Máire Ní Dhroma:

The simple ceremony was opened by Victor Briggs of the Bunurong people, in an acknowledgement that Irish and Aboriginal people had a shared history of oppression, and in regret that Irish had also been party to the dispossession of indigenous Australians.

Even though many young women may have survived the worst of the famine years, they were left orphaned or abandoned and forced to enter workhouses. The already struggling workhouses could not deal with the growing numbers seeking help and became increasingly overcrowded and under-resourced as the famine worsened.

In order to deal with overcrowding in workhouses, Secretary of State for the Colonies (and he of tea fame) Earl Grey began the Pauper Immigration Scheme between 1848 and 1850 to send female Irish teens to Australia.

Grey proposed that young, marriageable women could serve as wives in Australia (often to Irish convicts) and provide female labor in the male-dominant and (at the time) hugely underdeveloped country.

Up to 4,000 vulnerable and lonely Irish girls left for Australia to either work for as little as £11 a year or to marry an Irish convict, who were also being sent down under by the shipful. Aged between 14 and 45, the women were shipped out in batches of 200 to 300 at a time.


Address:The Strand (near Stevedore Street), Burgoyne Reserve, Williamstown, 3016
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -37.857039
Long: 144.90264
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Monument Type:Monument
Monument Theme:Disaster
Approx. Event Start Date:1845
Approx. Event End Date:1852


Actual Monument Dedication Date:Sunday 6th December, 1998
Front Inscription

Ní hé Dia a cheap riamh an obair seo

In memory of one million people who died in Ireland during the Great Hunger of 1845 - 52.

In praise of the courage of tens of thousands of dispossessed Irish who sailed to Hobson`s Bay to build a new life.

In sorrow for the dispossession of the Bunurong and Woiworung people but in a spirit of reconciliation.

In solidarity with all those who suffer hunger today.

Daoine bochta chur le fuacht is fán - Máire Ní Dhroma

Back Inscription

Erected by public subscription and unveiled on 6 December 1998 by His Excellency, Richard O`Brien, Ambassador of Ireland, in the presence of Councillor Brad Matheson, Mayor on the 150th anniversary of the arrival in Hobson`s Bay of 191 Irish orphan girls on the Lady Kennaway

- Melbourne Irish Famine Commemoration Group


Source: MA
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au