Nazareth House, situated on Bluff Point in Geraldton, opened in October 1941. It was initially built in to house children sent as child migrants from Britain. However, as it became unsafe to transport children during the war, the large buildings were used to accommodate children, from the age of 12 months, and old people who were deemed 'destitute'.
Government reports (Signposts 2004, p.367) show that there was an intention, in 1941 at least, to use Nazareth House as a place to house 'Roman Catholic children other than delinquents' from the Geraldton area who were committed to an institution. Nazareth House was licensed to provide 'care' for children under 6 years old, and would be subsidised for admitting children referred through the child welfare authorities or children's court who may have been deemed neglected or removed from their families for other reasons.
From 1947, girls who were sent as unaccompanied child migrants from Britain and Malta were accommodated at Nazareth House, and went to school on the premises. Occasionally, certain girls were chosen to attend the Stella Maris Convent school in Geraldton. They boarded there during term time and returned to Nazareth House for their holidays.
Photographs taken through the years when the migrant girls were at Nazareth House show that the boys from Tardun (one and a half hours east of Geraldton) occasionally visited. These visits must have been particularly important for boys and girls who were siblings.
The admission details provided for Nazareth House in government reports are scant (Signposts pp.367-369) until 1957 when a clearer picture starts to emerge of the number of girls living at Nazareth House.
By 1957, there were 67 girls, some of whom were migrants and others who were 'private admissions' (girls placed by family or others). In some years, girls who were wards of the State were also admitted to Nazareth House. The number of children admitted privately increasingly outweighed the number of girls who were child migrants. In 1961, reports to child welfare authorities documented the number of boys at Nazareth House. These few boys would have been pre-school age in most cases. In 1965, Aboriginal children classified as 'native wards' were shown in admission figures as a small minority of total children accommodated.
There are no published admission figures after 1970, and Nazareth House closed its child accommodation program in the late 1970s. The Catholic guide, A Piece of the Story says that Nazareth House ceased child care activities in 1977, but research for Signposts in 2004 found a reference to Nazareth House in Commonwealth statistics collated in 1979. This could be because Nazareth House was still gazetted as a child care institution, rather than because it actually housed children.
There have always been aged people in residence at Nazareth House (in a separate wing from the children) and in 2014 it continued as an aged care facility.
08 December 2014
Cite this: http://www.findandconnect.gov.au/guide/wa/WE00157
First published by the Find & Connect Web Resource Project for the Commonwealth of Australia, 2011
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