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Biloela Industrial School, Cockatoo Island


Biloela Industrial School was an industrial school for girls that was established on Cockatoo Island by the Comptroller of Prisons in 1871 to replace the Newcastle Industrial School for Girls. It usually held up to 120 girls at any given time aged from about 18 months to 14 years. Biloela Industrial School was located on the same site as Biloela Reformatory School for Females and experienced several problems, including riots. In 1887 Biloela Industrial School was moved and became the Parramatta Girls Industrial School.

The buildings on Cockatoo Island were bleak barracks, built in 1841 for convict re-offenders. The site was renamed Biloela to escape those convict associations but the girls had to sleep in the cells. The Industrial School was established on the same site as Biloela Reformatory School and despite them officially being separate institutions all the girls mixed together.

The institution was managed by a Superintendent and Matron and usually held up to 120 or so girls at any given time ranging in age from 18 months to 14 years – and in some cases up to the age of 19. Most of the girls were there for reasons to do with welfare.

The poor conditions and punitive treatment at Biloela were well known but little was done. Girls protested by rioting, and these became a feature of life at the institution. The closure of the government-owned orphan schools provided the government with an opportunity to relocate the Girls’ Industrial School to the former premises occupied by the Roman Catholic Orphan School at Parramatta, so the institution was moved in 1887.

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  • Alternative Names

    Biloela Reformatory

    Biloela Public Industrial School for Girls


  • 1871 - 1887

    Biloela Industrial School for Girls was situated at Cockatoo Island, in Sydney Harbour, New South Wales (Building Still standing)

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