St Joseph's Refuge was the second institution established by the Catholic Church in South Australia, after the St Vincent de Paul Orphanage. Its foundation was inspired by reports from the Sisters of St Joseph about the number of Catholic women they had encountered during their pastoral visits to the Adelaide Gaol. Many of the incarcerated women had no support and a significant number were unmarried mothers. The Sisters aimed to provide a refuge for these young women and their children.
A number of women who urgently needed help were accommodated in temporary homes until the plan was further developed. In October 1867 Archdeacon Patrick Russell called a meeting of leading members of the Adelaide Catholic community to discuss the situation. As a result of this gathering the Church rented premises on Franklin Street, Adelaide and a Catholic Female Refuge was opened in May 1868.
Run by the Sisters of St Joseph, the Refuge initially took in 24 women, 11 of whom the sisters had removed from the Gaol. Women resident in the institution helped to support it financially by doing laundry work. The Refuge cared for women of all denominations free of charge for as long as they required shelter.
From Franklin Street, the Refuge moved to a larger rented house at Mitcham with enough rooms to accommodate 20 women. In 1872 it moved again to even larger premises near the St Ignatius Church in Queen Street, Norwood.
Due to the success of the laundry work the Refuge saved a small sum of money. This combined with a charitable bequest allowed the church to purchase an 11-acre property, formerly a Jam Factory, at Fullarton. New buildings were erected including a lying-in home, a children's cottage and a modern laundry. Income from the laundry provided funding for the running of the Refuge for many years.
The new building at Fullarton was officially opened on 22 September 1901. By 1911 it was home to 86 women, 36 children and 18 Sisters. At the turn of the century the Refuge's emphasis changed from sheltering former prisoners from the Adelaide Gaol to caring for unmarried mothers and their children.
The identity of each woman admitted to the Refuge was carefully protected. On arriving each was given a name other than her true Christian name and during her stay she was only known by that pseudonym. Her real identity was recorded in a locked register which still survives. While embracing the Catholic faith was not a pre-requisite of residence, all women were expected to work. Mothers were allowed to remain until their children reached three years of age. At that time, if women wished to remain at the Refuge, their children were transferred to St Joseph's Orphanage at Largs Bay. By the early 1930s it was reported that some 6000 children and adults had passed through the Refuge since its establishment.
In 1963 control of the Refuge was transferred from the Sisters of St Joseph to the Daughters of Charity. In the 1970s the Refuge not only catered for unmarried mothers, but also for other women requiring residential care, including deserted wives and their children and girls in need of protective care.
In 1992 the running of St Joseph's was taken over by the St Vincent's Trust Endowment Society.
In 2001 St Joseph's Refuge changed its name to Louise Place.
13 January 2023
Cite this: http://www.findandconnect.gov.au/guide/sa/SE00042
First published by the Find & Connect Web Resource Project for the Commonwealth of Australia, 2011
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