The New South Wales Institution for the Deaf, Dumb and Blind was the most important institution for educating children with deafness and blindness in New South Wales. It was begun by Thomas Pattison, a deaf and dumb Scottish migrant who had been educated in Edinburgh. He began the Deaf and Dumb Institution in rented accommodation in various sites in Sydney. By 1869 the organisation was renamed and based at Ormond House (Juniper Hall) and was recognised as a public institution, in receipt of government funding. It had also been given land at Darlington, near Newtown, for a new purpose-built institution.
Deafness and blindness were common in the 19th century in Sydney, and were particularly associated with outbreaks of rubella (German measles), which affected unborn babies during their mother's pregnancy, although the link would not be understood until the 1940s. When children became or were born deaf, it was hard for them to learn to speak, rendering them 'dumb'. The New South Wales Institution for the Deaf, Dumb and Blind worked on the principle that deafness and blindness did not impair a child's intelligence, and used the best international methods to help children and adults function in the wider community, gain employment and live meaningful lives.
The Institution received wide support in Sydney, including from Sir Arthur Renwick, who was a leader of the Benevolent Society of New South Wales and the Royal Women's Hospital. Renwick was a founder of state care for children in New South Wales, and the first president of the State Children's Relief Board.
The Institution worked closely with other government agencies. The State Children's Relief Board Annual Reports, researched by Naomi Parry (2007) record that state children with hearing and vision problems were sent to the Institution, and children who were living at the Institution but had nowhere to go during school holidays took vacations at the Mittagong Cottages. During the influenza pandemic of 1919 the Institution building was converted to a hospital and children were evacuated to Mittagong Cottage Homes.
The New South Wales Institution for the Deaf, Dumb and the Blind was incorporated under an Act of Parliament in 1905. Rubella outbreaks in that year resulted in a surge in the school's population in 1909 and 1910. At this time Alice Betteridge, the first deaf-blind child to be educated in Australia, enrolled in the school. From 1911 the school began to teach deaf children to speak, and taught blind children Braille.
From 1942-1946, during World War II, the Institution building was requisitioned by the military, and children were sent home for lessons by correspondence, or to the Child Welfare Department. A building in Wahroonga was purchased at this time as a residential and day school. It was not compulsory for deaf and blind children to be educated until 1944. Wahroonga became an Education Department school from 1948 and in 1956 the Education Department assumed responsibility for education at Darlington.
In 1957 Queen Elizabeth II bestowed the prefix 'Royal' on the Institution, resulting in a name change.
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25 July 2019
Cite this: http://www.findandconnect.gov.au/guide/nsw/NE01595
First published by the Find & Connect Web Resource Project for the Commonwealth of Australia, 2011
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