The Newcastle Industrial School for Females was established under the Destitute Children Act (also known as the Industrial Schools Act) of 1866. It was Australia's first industrial school for girls; that is, an institution defined by legislation and paid for by the government as a place of detention for children charged with neglect, wandering, street-trading or being 'uncontrollable'. It used the convict-built Military Barracks building.
193 girls and young women were sent to the Industrial School and Reformatory between 1867 and 1871. The first inmate was sent to the school on 31 August 1867. The institution operated until 1871 under the Comptroller of Prisons. On 19 January 1869, a reformatory was established at the same site, this created twin institutions.
Staffing proved to be a problem for the institutions, as did the behaviour of inmates. According to historian Jane Ison:
'The Newcastle site was open to public view and the inmates, almost all unused to having to follow rules, protested their confinement with wild rioting, obscene language, lewd behaviour and frequent escapes. '
The resulting public outcry forced the government to close the institutions in March 1871 and relocate the industrial school and reformatory to Cockatoo Island (Biloela).
The barracks building became part of the James Fletcher Hospital. In 2011 this was known as the Watt Street Centre.
09 July 2020
Cite this: https://www.findandconnect.gov.au/guide/nsw/NE01070
First published by the Find & Connect Web Resource Project for the Commonwealth of Australia, 2011
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