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Archives In Brief 59 - Child care and protection

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A brief overview of the major sources held by State Records that relate to child care and protection for the period c.1801-1912. Additional records may be identified in Archives Investigator.

Our online indexes relating to child care and protection:

Index to Sydney Benevolent Asylum records:

In addition the Sydney Benevolent Asylum has an index to admissions and discharges 1857-1900 available on their website. This index covers records of the Sydney Benevolent Society held at the Mitchell Library in Sydney.

Published index:

Kaye Vernon has compiled: ‘The forgotten’, Children in Homes, Reformatories and Industrial Schools NSW. This index covers records in NRS 2438, 14722, 14723, 14730, 14739 on Reels 3850-3852. This index is available on the standalone computer in the reading room.

About child care and protection by NSW Government

The activity of child care and protection was established in the Colony of New South Wales (NSW) by 1801. The role of and the institutions managed by government in carrying out this activity changed over time. Initially care was provided for orphans and destitute children by the establishment of schools and asylums. The activity of care also included managing and arranging apprenticeships and placement in domestic service.

In many cases the government provided funding to private organizations, such as the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches, for providing care and implementing Acts and regulations.

With the introduction of the 1866 Act to Establish Juvenile Reformatories the government provided separate care for children found guilty of punishable of offences.

The system of 'boarding-out' was introduced under the State Children's Relief Act 1881 which also regulated care for children in private homes licensed to receive children.

More detail on government child care and protection can be found in Archives Investigator.

Chronology of institutions established for child care and protection

Female Orphan School, 1801-50
The Female Orphan School was established 1801. The school marked the first initiative by the colonial government to care for destitute, abandoned or orphaned girls. In 1818 the Orphan School moved from its first premises in George Street to Parramatta.

Male Orphan School, 1819-50
The first male Orphan School was opened in 1819 on the site of the first Female Orphan School in George Street, Sydney. The Male Orphan School was moved to Cabramatta in 1823.

Roman Catholic Orphan School, 1836-86
In 1836 the government-funded Roman Catholic Orphan School opened at Waverley House. It moved to permanent premises at Parramatta in 1844. Salaried lay staff ran the school until 1859 when the Sisters of the Order of the Good Shepherd took over management. The school closed in 1886. For records of the Roman Catholic Orphan School contact The Archivist, Good Samaritan Archives, 2 Avenue Road, Glebe NSW 2037; Phone (02) 9566 2188.

Protestant Orphan School, 1850-86
The Male and Female Orphan Schools were amalgamated in 1850 to form the Protestant Orphan School. The new institution was located on the site of the Female Orphan School at Parramatta.

Randwick Asylum for Destitute Children, 1852-1916
The Society for the Relief of Destitute Children opened Ormond House in Paddington as an asylum for needy children in 1852. The asylum moved to Randwick in 1858. See Archives in Brief 66 for a brief history.

The Vernon and the Sobraon, Nautical training ships for boys 1867-1911
The Vernon opened in 1867. It was used as an Industrial School and a Reformatory as there was no separate boys' reformatory schools until 1895. The ship held boys until they turned seven. The Vernon was docked at Cockatoo Island.
The Sobraon, whichreplaced the Vernon in 1892, was used until 1911, when the remaining boys were set to the Mittagong Farm Home for Boys and the Brush Farm Home for Boys. 

Newcastle Reformatory for Girls, 1867-1871
A Girls' Industrial School was opened in the former military barracks at Newcastle in 1867. In 1871 the school ceased to be a Reformatory, and a Reformatory School for Females was established on Cockatoo Island.

Biloela Public Industrial School and Reformatory for Girls, Cockatoo Island, 1871-87
The Girls' Industrial School and Reformatory School for Females was transferred to former prison premises at Biloela (on Cockatoo Island) in 1871. The Reformatory School closed in 1880 and the girls were moved to the Shaftesbury Reformatory. The Industrial School remained at Cockatoo Island until 1887.

Shaftesbury Reformatory for Females at Watson's Bay, 1880-1904
The Shaftesbury Reformatory for Females at Watson's Bay opened in 1880 when the Cockatoo Island Reformatory closed. The cottage style premises were intended to house forty to fifty girls. Shaftesbury closed in March 1904.

Industrial School for Females, Parramatta, 1887-1912
In 1887 the Industrial School on Cockatoo Island was relocated to site of the former Roman Catholic Orphan School at Parramatta.

Girls' Training Home, Parramatta, 1912-1975
On 31 January 1912 the hospital section of the Parramatta Industrial School for Girls was proclaimed an Industrial School for female children, to be called 'The Girl's Training Home'.

Boys' Reformatory schools and Farm Homes, 1894
The Carpentarian Reformatory for Boys (Brush Farm) opened in 1894.
The Farm Home for Boys at Mittagong opened in 1906 as a probationary Training Home for boys aged 8 to 17 convicted in the Children's Courts of less serious offences.

Select list of records

This list of records covers the period c. 1801-1912. Records older than 100 years are open to public access.

Orphan School records

Orphan School records are listed in the Archives Investigator under the agency headings Archives Investigator under the agency headings:

  • Trustees of the Clergy and School Lands in the Colony of NSW;
  • Commissioners [of the Clergy and School Lands in the Colony of NSW] and
  • Protestant Orphan School.

These include:

NRS 782, Applications for admission into the Orphan Schools, 1825-33 [4/330-32] *ARK
Reel 2776

NRS 783, Applications for children out of the Orphan Schools, 1825-33 [4/333-35] *ARK
Reel 2776-77

NRS 796, Male Orphan School; Admission books, 1819-1847 [ML C200] [4/7208, 4/352-53] *ARK
Fiche 3307; Reels 2908, 2777

NRS 798, Male Orphan School; Indentures of Apprenticeship, 1822-33 [4/390]
Reel 1484

Male Orphan School; Letter book, 21 Dec 1829-6 Dec 1849 [ML C201]
Reel 2908

NRS 793, Female Orphan School; Admission books, 1817-32 [4/350-51] *ARK
Reel 2777

NRS 12266, Protestant Orphan School, Admission Book (female), 1827-86 [4/10585]
COD 506

NRS 12266, Protestant Orphan School, Admission Book (Male), 1850-86 [4/10786]
Reel 3702, COD 540

Correspondence and petitions for children in Orphan schools

Correspondence and petitions from parents and/or prospective employers to have children admitted into or removed from the schools may also be found in the Colonial Secretary's records. See the online Index to the Colonial Secaretary's papers, 1788-1825 and Archives in Brief 64 and Archives in Brief 65.

Returns of Orphan School children

The Colonial Secretary's Special Bundle list also contains references to the orphan schools, including returns. This list is available in the reading room and online on the Colonial Secretary Guide. It includes:

List of 117 boys received into the Male Orphan Institution, 1819-24 [4/7208] *ARK
Reel 1477, Fiche 3307

Roman Catholic Orphan School records

Also included in the Colonial Secretary Special Bundle listing these appear to be the only Catholic Orphan School records held as NSW State archives:

Institute for Destitute Roman Catholic Children - monthly returns, 1845-46 [4/7197]

Returns of the Roman Catholic Orphan School, Parramatta, 1850-54 [4/7378]

Index to Orphan School records, 1817-86

An index to a number of orphan school records is available to search online.

Randwick Asylum records

NRS 13362, Registers of inmates, 1852-1916 [7/3796-800]
Reels 1865-1868

The Register of Inmates for the Randwick Asylum for Destitute Children is indexed online.

Nautical Training Ship records

The records of the Vernon and Sobraon Training Ships are listed in Archives Investigator under the heading Nautical School-ship 'Vernon' (1867-92)/Nautical School-ship 'Sobraon' (1892-1911). These include:

NRS 3906, Vernon; Entrance Books, 1867-97 [8/1740-46]
Reels 2884-2887

NRS 3902, Sobraon; Entrance Books, 1897-1911 [8/1747]
Reels 2888-2890

NRS 3904, Sobraon; Placement book, 1904-11 [8/1752]
Reel 2890

Researchers should also consult: NRS 3851 Department of Education, Correspondence Branch. Copies of letters sent concerning the administration of public schools, 1880-96; [1/727, 1/729-30, 1/1019-1148]. These include admission of children into the Orphan Schools and the apprenticeship of children in the Reform Schools.

An Index to the Admittance and Discharge Books for the Vernon and Sobraon, Fiche 5725 (compiled by the Australian Genealogical Education Centre, Kiama, NSW) is available in the reading room.

Industrial School records

The records from the Industrial School for Girls Newcastle, Biloela (Cockatoo Island) and the establishments at Parramatta are listed in Archives Investigator. They include:

NRS 14722, Registers of warrants received, Aug 1867-1942 [5/3428], Reel 3850, [5/4857]; Reel 3850 CPA, 1925-31: COD 607

NRS 14723, Discharge Register, 1869-99 [5/4837] Reel 3852

NRS 14724, Register of committals, 1906-18 [8/1758] Reel 3852

NRS 14725, Daily admission and discharge registers, Sept 1897-Oct 1942 [5/3426-7, 5/4840]

NRS 14730, Admission, discharge and after career register, May 1887-Dec 1925 [5/4838] Reel 3850

NRS 14739, Register of apprenticeships, 1895-1910 [5/4842-43] Reel 3851

NRS 14717, Copies of letters sent by the Superintendent, 1868-1909 [5/3429-34]
There are gaps in the correspondence.

Reformatory School and Farm Home records

NRS 2438, Shaftesbury Girls' Reformatory; Roll of inmates, 1888-97 [8/1757], Reel 3850

NRS 13361, Farm Home for Boys, Mittagong; Registers of committals, 1907-21 [8/1755-56]
The index to the registers can be searched online.

'Boarding-out' records

The records are listed in the Archives Investigator under State Children's Relief Board. These include:

NRS 13358, Dependent children registers, 1883-1923 [11/22094-130] 
Fiche 7003-7317

NRS 13359, Index of Wards, 1901-13 [11/22131-32]
Fiche 7318-7342

In addition, we hold the Card index to the Dependent Children registers, 1900-23; [6/24722-24741]; Fiche 2001-2052. Researchers may also wish to consult Index to Children in the care of the State Children's Relief Department as of 5 April 1883, indexed and published by Susan Lark, and available in the reading room.

Records of out-of-home care

Community Services, part of the Department of Family and Community Services, holds records relating to the fostering of children from 1880 onwards. Contact information for requests relating to out of home care:

Community Services Care Leaver Records Access Unit 1300 137 160 - if you are seeking information about your own time in out-of-home care in NSW. For further information see the Community Services website.
Community Services Right to Information Unit (02) 9716 2662 - if you are seeking information about yourself that is not about your time in out-of-home care, or you are seeking information about another person (deceased or alive).
Community Services Adoption Information Unit 1300 799 023 if you are seeking information about a past adoption. For further information see the Community Services website.

*ARK signifies that a copy of the record or guide is part of the Archives Resources Kit and is held by the community access points.

© State of New South Wales through the State Records Authority, 2003.
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