In 1897 the South Australian Government began renovations and additions to the disused Redruth Gaol near Burra in preparation for it to be used as a Reformatory for Protestant girls. All girls had been accommodated at the Girls' Reformatory, Edwardstown, since 1891, but it was decided that girls of different religious denominations should be separated. Both the Catholic and Protestant groups were sent to country areas, where it was hoped escapes would become less of a problem. Catholic girls were sent to the Catholic Girls' Reformatory at Kapunda. In January 1898 the first 30 Protestant girls were transferred from Edwardstown to Redruth along with the resident matron, Mary Elizabeth Holden. She remained there until her retirement in 1909. A permanent historical display at the now heritage listed building reports that her time was 'one of the most lively periods of the reformatory'. During those first 12 years there were forty escapes, a suicide attempt and a fire which destroyed the laundry building.
The second matron, Elizabeth Price, came from the Catholic Girls' Reformatory, Kapunda, which closed in November 1909. The 11 girls still resident there accompanied her to Redruth. The 1909 Annual Report of the State Children's Council provides a snapshot of life at the reformatory. Twenty one girls were in residence. Five girls were newly admitted, one for larceny, two charged as uncontrollable, one under unfit guardianship and the last because of failure to pay a fine. Many girls were readmitted, mostly from Edwardstown Industrial School or the Salvation Army Girls' Home at Fullarton. Those that were discharged or transferred mostly went into service or returned to the Industrial School. Others were admitted to a Lying-in home, meaning that they were due to give birth. During their time at Redruth girls were constantly employed at various jobs including sewing (mostly for all the government institutions), knitting, laundry work and caring for poultry.
The final matron, Edith Bubb, remained at the reformatory until its closure in 1922. That year the Government decided that the Redruth gaol was not a suitable building or location for a reformatory. The remaining 11 girls, aged from 13 to 20, were transferred to the newly opened Barton Vale Girls' Home, run by the Salvation Army under the supervision of the State Children's Council.
06 January 2017
Cite this: https://www.findandconnect.gov.au/guide/sa/SE00079
First published by the Find & Connect Web Resource Project for the Commonwealth of Australia, 2011
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