• Organisation

Allambie Reception Centre


The Allambie Reception Centre opened in Burwood in 1961, on the former site of Kildonan Children’s Home. It was the Victorian Government’s main reception centre for children. Allambie could accommodate up to 90 children including (from 1964) babies and toddlers and by the 1970s its capacity had grown to 228 children. Allambie closed in 1990.

Allambie, a government-run reception centre for Victorian children, opened in Burwood in 1961, on the former site of Kildonan Children’s Home at 70 Elgar Road, Burwood.

Allambie became the Department’s main ‘reception, treatment, classification and transit centre’. It was established to alleviate overcrowding at Turana, Royal Park.

Children who were State Wards also came to Allambie following a breakdown in home release, foster care or a children’s home placement.

When it opened, Allambie could accommodate up to 90 children in four separate sections. Until the nursery opened at Allambie in 1964, it did not receive babies and toddlers (who were accommodated in the old nursery at Turana).

Social worker Edith Bennett (who later was Director of the Family Welfare Division in Victoria’s Social Welfare Department) shared her memories working for the Victorian department when it took over Allambie in 1961:

We had to name all the buildings. It was just big open dormitories as the Presbyterians had had it. Pretty drab, if you know what I mean. They had a storeroom stacked with hundreds of boxes of cereal that people had given to churches at harvest festivals. And they used to get shoes that the men made at Pentridge and were so heavy, and the children looked like little waifs …

And it was new. I remember a great big battle with Mr Whatmore [Alexander R Whatmore, 1906-1977, former Director of the Department) about the freezing Melbourne winter. There was no heating in the toddlers’ rooms and he said, “My grandchildren don’t have heating in their bedrooms” and we had to convince him you see, that the grandchildren’s mother went and covered them up with bedclothes. There was one staff on at night for 30 children and they were cold. And also these were miserable children, part of feeling secure was warmth. Now he fought me and rejected it and I put it up about four times, and he just wrote, “No”. And then one day he came out and I walked out to the car with him. I said, “Mr Whatmore, at the risk of having my head chopped off, I’m going to ask just one more time. These children need warmth. The staff need warmth. They’re going down with infections all over the place.” He suddenly grinned and said, “Give me a ring in the morning”. (Edith Bennett, interviewed in 1996 for the Australian Association of Social Workers)

The Education Department operated a school in the grounds of Allambie although some children attended schools in the community.

A child’s placement was decided upon by the Placement Committee, which met once a week. In 1962, the Committee comprised representatives of the Department (including the Director of Family Welfare) and Allambie staff (including the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent, and Medical Officer).

According to Jenkinson, in the 1970s, Allambie consisted of three large sections: Waratah, Kurrajong and Mimosa: these accommodated groups of mixed age and sex which enabled sibling groups to be placed together. At Allambie, the Nursery section accommodated babies. ‘Tecoma’ accommodated up to 10 school-age boys and ‘Heath/Cassia’ accommodated 22 adolescent girls.

However, it would seem that siblings were not always kept together at Allambie. One former resident, who was at Allambie in 1974, made contact with the Find & Connect web resource to point out that she was separated from her younger brother.

I would like to say that it is not correct at my time in Allambie in 1974 that siblings were accommodated together. There may have been three sections, l can’t remember if there was or not but l do remember how upset l was that l could not see my younger brother. I was 6/7 and my brother was 4 and l clearly remember trying to see him in the play area for younger children, an area l was not allowed in because l was too old. I also remember the staff having no understanding of how upset l was about this when l got caught in the playground because it was the only way l could see him. l was not there for very long, l remember the school there and that it was very overcrowded, so much so that children slept on mattresses on the floor.

Another former Allambie resident recalled sneaking out at night so that she could see her two younger brothers. In a comment on a post in the Inside blog, she wrote, “When we did get to play together we were on leads all the time … I hated that place.”

Overcrowding was a major problem at Allambie in the 1970s. A letter to the Age in December 1970 mentioned “the sorry conditions at Allambie”:

Though Allambie is called a reception centre only, it is fast becoming a permanent holding place for children, though not planned or geared to that role. The staff has to cope not only with numbers beyond their abilities and facilities, but with many children – e.g. the mentally retarded and emotionally disturbed – who should be having special care for their individual problems.

In 1972, Allambie had a capacity of 228 children, but this was often exceeded. By the mid 1970s the number of children placed at Allambie reached an all-time high. On several occasions, over 300 children were in residence.

Overcrowding decreased as alternative reception and care programs were implemented by the Department. During the 1970s, changes in the structure of state-run facilities, including regionalisation of services, reduced the need for large-scale centralised reception centre like Allambie.

By the early 1980s, Allambie accommodated about 100 children. A review in 1985 recommended the closure of Allambie, and the redirection of funding to regional reception centres. The nursery at Allambie closed in 1986. Allambie Reception Centre closed in June 1990.

Allambie Reception Centre was mentioned in the Bringing Them Home Report (1997) as an institution that housed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children removed from their families.

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  • 1961 - 1990

    Allambie Reception Centre was located at 70 Elgar Road, Burwood, Victoria (Building Still standing)


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