• Organisation

Kilmany Park Farm Home for Boys

Details

The Kilmany Park Farm Home for Boys in Sale, Gippsland, was established by the Presbyterian Church in 1924. It operated as a farm for boys aged between 10 and 16. Many boys from Kildonan’s homes in North Melbourne and Burwood were sent to Kilmany Park Farm Home, especially in 1933 to 1934. Kilmany Park was closed in 1978.

The Kilmany Park Farm Home for Boys in Sale, Gippsland, was purchased by the Presbyterian Church in 1923 and operated as a farm for boys from February 1924.The home catered for Protestant boys; there was a capacity of 45 beds. An adjacent diary farm of 550 acres helped to support the home.

The goals of Kilmany Park are captured in the Presbyterian Messenger of 19 January 1923:

Every week our slum workers and mission preachers have brought before them boys that if they got away from present surroundings, would reform and grow into good citizens, but if left where they are in poverty and in a corrupting atmosphere, will sink from folly and petty delinquencies into utter criminality. They cannot be sent to ordinary farms till they are disciplined and brushed up, and taught enough about farming to make them useful and trustworthy. The idea of not just to provide labour for farms, but to make out of what may become waste human material valuable citizens for the state.

Many boys who had been at Kildonan’s homes in North Melbourne and Burwood were sent at the age of 11 to Kilmany Park Farm Home for Boys in Sale in regional Victoria for training in farm work. A large number of Kildonan children moved to Kilmany Park in 1933/4.

In his memoirs, Better off in a home (1982), Bill Smith describes his experiences as a resident of Kilmany Park between 1929 and 1936. He documents the day-to-day of being in ‘care’, including the highlights of having an egg once a year on your birthday and butter on Sundays.

An historical guide developed by the Uniting Church in Australia describes Smith’s account of Kilmany as ‘a mix of real harshness and fear’, but also describes the development of strong relationships with other children:

In spite of restrictions and severe punishments, everything became relative, and friendships partly compensated for the pleasures and love that many children enjoyed living in normal circumstances [p.152]

One former resident gave evidence to the ‘Forgotten Australians’ Inquiry about his time at Kilmany Park:

From Baltara I was sent to Kilmany Park in Sale …When I did go to school and spoke to my family, and the home found out, I was constantly belted …We showered together and our penises were measured. I was abused by the superintendent’s son and, when I told the superintendent, I was constantly pulled out of bed … probably at about 11 o’clock at night … for telling lies, made to do a three or four-mile run, made to swim in a freezing cold swimming pool and sent back to bed … this was a Presbyterian home. We went to church every Sunday and were told of this God of love and understanding who was watching over us. I could not understand, because I thought: ‘Jeez, what’s happening? He’s not watching over me.’ I was told my mother was nothing but a drunken slut who had never been any good to me. I was given a foot up the bum and sent back to school … The abuse, sexual abuse and torture abuse that I suffered at Kilmany Park … No child should have to go through it.(para 2.128, pages 46-47)

In January 1956, Kilmany Park Farm Home for Boys was declared an approved children’s home under the Children’s Welfare Act 1954.

By the 1960s, Kilmany Park and its farm training program was seen by the State of Victoria as a valuable alternative to Turana in Melbourne.

However by the mid 1970s Kilmany’s style of ‘care’ was not in keeping with government child welfare policies. The home was considered too geographically isolated from the areas where the boys’ families resided.

In an oral history interview from 1996, Margaret Calder, a former worker at Kilmany in the 1970s expressed concern that ‘the boys didn’t make their own decisions and they were sent out into the world without much preparation … They weren’t prepared, I don’t think, for town living. They were well fed – the food was beautiful, because I used to eat it. They were well clothed, but they didn’t make their own decisions’ (Australian Association of Social Workers, 1996).

In August 1975 the Department called a meeting of agencies, which had established, or had shown interest in establishing family and children’s services in the Gippsland area, particularly Sale. In 1976/77 the admission of boys to the Home by the Social Welfare Department continued to be phased down. At the same time a report Families and Children in Gippsland provided a context for a reappraisal of the role of Kilmany.

There was a community campaign to protest against the government’s intention to close the Kilmany Home. A ‘Save Kilmany Park’ petition obtained 6,000 signatures, and people including the Mayor of Sale and the superintendent of the Home made submissions to the Victorian government arguing for Kilmany to remain open (O’Neill, 2018).

In this climate of change, the Uniting Church was actively considering the establishment of family group homes in Sale and Bairnsdale within the framework of the Families and Children in Gippsland report. By 1978 properties had been purchased in Sale and Bairnsdale for use as family group homes under the a new agency, Kilmany Family Care.

Kilmany Park Farm Home for Boys closed in 1978.

In 2005, the building was turned into ‘bed and breakfast’ accommodation, and by 2020 it was being used as an events venue.

  • From

    1923

  • To

    1978

  • Alternative Names

    Kilmany Park

Locations

  • 1923 - 1978

    Kilmany Park Farm Home for Boys was located off Settlement Road in Sale, Gippsland, Victoria (Building Still standing)

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