Dalmar was set up as a children's home by the Central Methodist Mission. It started as the Central Mission Home for Neglected Children in Woolloomooloo. Having outgrown those premises by 1898 the House Committee sought a suitable property. The Woolloomooloo property was sold to fund for the purchase of a house in Dalmar Street, Croydon. In January 1900 the children moved into the new premises, and not long afterwards, the children's home was named Dalmar. Whilst at Croydon, the children attended school at Five Dock.
In 1917, the Mission's superintendent hinted that he wanted to see the children's work develop along the lines of the Burnside Presbyterian Homes model, with a number of cottages rather than one large building. For a number of years, however, nothing was done and the home continued to operate at Croydon until 1923.
In April 1923, the children were relocated from Croydon to the new Dalmar site at Carlingford on fifteen acres of land in a purpose-built residence and one cottage. Dalmar grew to consist of a number of cottages, together with a hospital, an orchard and vegetable gardens. The new complex included the provision that between sixteen and twenty children would be accommodated in each cottage. The school-aged children attended Carlingford Public School. The main building appears to have been used as a babies' home. By the 1930s it held more than 150 babies and children.
The reasons why children were admitted to Dalmar were many and varied. Some required only short-term accommodation due to temporary disruptions to their normal family life. Others were admitted as long-term residents. Some children were placed voluntarily by their parents or guardians, while others were found abandoned and yet others were referred by the courts.
From 1962 Dalmar began running foster care and adoption programmes. In 1982, there were 90 children in various residential units and 35 in foster care. Dalmar Child and Family Care included five cottages in Carlingford, family group homes at Burwood and West Pymble, emergency centres in Lewisham and Ashfield, as well as Francis St annexe for Vietnamese boys accommodating 94 homeless teenagers.
In 1977 the Central Methodist Mission changed its name to Wesley Methodist Mission, as it became part of the Uniting Church. The children's homes and organisations that had been part of the Central Methodist Mission often added the word Wesley to their names. Dalmar probably began being referred to as Wesley Dalmar around this time. By that stage Dalmar held 134 children at Carlingford, and ran the Bernard-Smith Home at Pymble and the Wesley James Home at Burwood.
According to the Reverend Gordon Moyes, Superintendent of Wesley Mission at that time, all the homes were struggling with poor finances and crumbling architecture. A bequest from the Cottee family the Cottee Orchard in South Australia provided a source of income to support children's homes, and Mrs Lois Cottee supported the foundation of Cottee Lodge, a service for homeless youth in a former convent in Ashfield.
In 1986 Dalmar began a process of regionalisation, opening new offices in various parts of New South Wales, often in cooperation with local Uniting Church parishes. However, the general administration and overall supervision of the programmes run by what was then known as Dalmar Child and Family Care were located at Carlingford.
Moyes, Superintendent of Wesley Mission at that time, has described the process on his blog:
'... We knew that we had to move right away from the large institutions at Carlingford and Pymble and move to smaller houses. Here children in groups of 3 or 4 could be cared for. We would also develop large scale fostering programs where foster parents would concentrate on caring for one or two children at the most. This concentrated care would bring better results then what we had been achieving try to care for too many in one place.
In 1983 I opened our first house at Mount Druitt and then another one at Whalan and very quickly houses at Blaxland, Penrith, Quakers Hill, Castle Hill, Riverstone, Grantham Heights, Blacktown, Lindfield, Killara, Dulwich Hill, Tuggerah, Rouse Hill, Lakemba and many other places. As our fundraising improved we got more family group homes.
Besides this we recruited hundreds of families, many of whom had already grown children and who now still wanted to provide a second chance for children where their own families could not care for them.
This foster work is now the backbone of all that we do.'
The Dalmar Home at Carlingford stopped housing children around this time.
In 1993, Wesley Methodist Mission changed its name to Wesley Mission. Since then, the organisation has restructured its services a number of times, and Dalmar's name has changed, although the services it provides have not. By 2011 the organisation was known as Dalmar Child and Family Services or Wesley Dalmar.
Dalmar's name was changed again by 2014 to Wesley Dalmar Children's Services, which is still part of Wesley Mission.
Wesley Mission has an Aftercare Program, for people who once lived at Dalmar and other children's homes, or were in its foster care programs. This service helps people to access their files and provides an opportunity to talk about experiences in care. Dalmar also provides a free assessment and treatment program through Wesley Private Hospital's psychology service.
Dalmar was mentioned in the Lost Innocents Report (2001) as an institution involved in the migration of children to Australia.
07 June 2023
Cite this: http://www.findandconnect.gov.au/guide/nsw/NE00280
First published by the Find & Connect Web Resource Project for the Commonwealth of Australia, 2011
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