• Organisation

St Joseph's Orphanage, Cowper


St Joseph’s Orphanage Cowper, outside Grafton, was opened on 18 January 1914 by the Sisters of Mercy. The original clients were ‘poor and destitute’ children from families who were suffering during the economic downturn and parent loss during World War I. In 1972 the agency relocated to a site in North Street, Grafton and became known as St Joseph’s Cowper Children’s Homes.

When St Joseph’s Orphanage, Cowper, opened in 1913 there were four children in residence, however at it’s busiest the orphanaged housed 120 children. In total St Joseph’s housed 2125 children from 1914 until 1972.

Initially St Joseph’s received children from the age of three, and from 1945 began taking in children from as young as 6 months old.

The orphanage was financed by a dairy farm on farmland purchased by the Sisters of Mercy and later by the building of an egg production plant. Fruit and vegetables were grown in the gardens and orchards on the property. The children at the orphanage performed much of the work on the farm, as well as working in the laundry.

Older children at the orphanage attended local high schools in Cowper and Grafton, whilst some of the boys were sent to school in Westmead, near Sydney.

From 1930 the Sisters received child endowment payments, representing the first public money supporting the service. Mr Pollock, a Grafton solicitor, applied for the endowment and encouraged the Church and civil community to help St Joseph’s with its running expenses.

By the time the orphanage moved to new premises in 1972 numbers at St Joseph’s had fallen to 40.

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  • Alternative Names


    Cowper Orphanage


  • 1914 - 1972

    St Joseph's Orphanage was situated at Cowper, Grafton, New South Wales (Building Still standing)



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