The institution at Parramatta has a long history including several name changes from 1887 to 1975. It has been estimated that up to 30,000 girls passed through Parramatta over this time; it is a significant site in Australian women's and child welfare history.
Parramatta Girls Industrial School was founded in 1887 when the Biloela Industrial School at Cockatoo Island was closed down in the aftermath of rioting and scandals and the girls were transferred to the Roman Catholic Orphanage buildings in Fleet Street. Like Biloela, it was an industrial school, governed by the Destitute Children's Act and run by the Department of Public Instruction.
Girls were committed to Parramatta for a variety of reasons: they had been committed by welfare organisations; were classed as 'uncontrollable'; had been charged with crimes; been before a children's court; were on remand or because they had not settled into foster placements (boarding out) or other institutions.
Parramatta, and the subsequent organisations that used the site, combined the functions of training school (or industrial school, for girls in the welfare stream, and reformatory, for girls on criminal charges. Overcrowding within the walls of the complex meant the lines were often blurred between the reformatory and the training school. In addition, until 1904 a small number of boys under the age of 7 years were also sent to Parramatta.
The buildings of the Parramatta Girls Industrial School were bleak and run down and there were riots and complaints by girls, which attracted a number of inquiries. These inquiries, held at intervals from 1889, reveal persistent problems with overcrowding, discipline and management. They also reveal the complexity and intensity of the relationships between the girls. Oral histories of the home confirm the strong bonds that developed within the home, and the girls' awareness of abuse and exploitation.
In 1912 the Parramatta Girls Industrial School became the Parramatta Girls Training Home, after the institution was transferred to the State Children's Relief Department.
The site of Parramatta Girls Industrial School is part of the Parramatta Female Factories and Institutions Precinct. In November 2017, the Precinct was added to the National Heritage List. The inscription notes that "the Precinct is outstanding in its capacity to tell the stories of women and children in institutions over the course of Australian history". It has also been listed on the Register of the National Estate since 21 March 1978.
03 February 2023
Cite this: http://www.findandconnect.gov.au/guide/nsw/NE00443
First published by the Find & Connect Web Resource Project for the Commonwealth of Australia, 2011
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