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St Augustine's Orphanage


St Augustine’s Orphanage, Highton, was established in 1939 by the Christian Brothers on a large farming property of approximately 180 acres located on South Valley Road, Highton, Geelong. It accommodated boys aged between 9 and 16. In 1966, the Orphanage changed its name to St Augustine’s Boys’ Home.

In 1939, following several years of campaigning to raise funds for the construction of the new building, St Augustine’s Orphanage was opened on a large farming property on South Valley Road, Highton. With a capacity for 343 children the new St Augustine’s was the largest children’s home in Victoria at this time. Although the new buildings were ready to receive boys from St Augustine’s Newtown orphanage in January 1939, construction of the site had not been fully completed at this stage. The boys were required to work to complete the landscaping on the site, including laying lawns and digging out a swimming pool.

With financial assistance from the Victorian government, St Augustine’s purchased a property in Albert Park to provide hostel accommodation for young men working in Melbourne. The Young Catholic Workers Hostel (YCW) accommodated 20 boys and was opened by Archbishop Mannix in 1946.

St Augustine’s also saw the need for a hostel in the Geelong area, to cater for apprentices leaving its junior Technical School, established in 1947. A property was leased in Skene St, Newtown for this purpose. The Victorian government would not subsidise the purchase of this property, and the hostel closed in 1954.

Leo Cahill was appointed Superior at St Augustine’s in 1963. In his short time at St Augustine’s (he left in 1967), the institution underwent significant change, as it followed the trend away from congregate care towards a more ‘home-like’ atmosphere.

When he took over at St Augustine’s, Cahill appointed Betty Kelly to work as his secretary. In an interview, she recalled an early conversation with Cahill:

Leo Cahill said, ‘Well, what’s wrong with the place?’ I said, ‘There are no women here’. I felt that it was an unnatural atmosphere for trying to prepare boys for the outside world.

A former staff member, Terry O’Brien, reflected on Betty Kelly’s impact on St Augustine’s: ‘Betty was a mother, and she came here and looked at St Augustine’s through the eyes of a mother. She could see what was lacking’.

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  • 1939 - 1966

    St Augustine's Orphanage was located in South Valley Road, Highton, Geelong, Victoria (Building Still standing)

  • 1947 - 1954

    St Augustines orphanage leased property in Skene St, Newtown to cater for apprentices leaving the Junior Technical School, Victoria (Building Unknown)


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