The Winlaton home run by the Mission of St James and St John from 1951 was taken over by the Children's Welfare Department in 1953. That year, the Department's annual report stated that:
'... during the year it was decided to erect at "Winlaton", Nunawading, a training and rehabilitation centre for delinquent girls. In three sections accommodating fifteen girls in each and with all the necessary facilities for training, education and treatment, this establishment will equip the Department with the means to cope with its teen-age problem girls.'
Following the completion of construction work, Winlaton Youth Training Centre received girls and young women from 1956 onwards, and became the main state-run institution for female adolescents.
In 1956, the Department set out the objectives of Winlaton in its annual report:
'Winlaton's objectives are, broadly, to teach a girl:- (i) How to live as a well-adjusted, self-reliant member of the community; (ii) a craft or skill; (iii) how to use her leisure hours; (iv) to know and care for herself and, indeed, to care for others later on as a home-maker.'
Girls were accommodated in three cottages at Winlaton, each housing up to 15 girls, in single rooms. The cottages were known as 'Goonyah', 'Warrina' and 'Kooringal'. The Department described the system at Winlaton in 1956: 'Promotion is made from one cottage to another. Conversely, of course, demotion occurs sometimes'.
Before the establishment of Winlaton, 'delinquent' girls who were Catholic were placed at the Abbotsford and Oakleigh convents of the Good Shepherd. Similar placements for Protestant girls were not available at the time. Consequently, these young women were mostly accommodated at the Remand and Reformatory Section of the Department's Royal Park Depot (known as Turana from 1955).
In order to reduce over-crowding at Turana, the Department opened its own purpose built institution for 'delinquent girls', the 'Winlaton Girls' Training School' at Nunawading in 1956.
In June 1957, the 'Goonyah' section of Winlaton was declared to be a reception centre for females aged 14 to 21 years. From 1959, the reception centre was in a building known as Winbirra.
The Leawarra Girls' Hostel was added to the Winlaton complex in 1959. The Hostel helped with the overcrowding at Winlaton, and also functioned as a 'privilege' section. The Department described Leawarra in 1960:
'Leawarra … has proved itself ideally suited to the accommodation of girls who have completed their training, and are worthy of a trial in private employment to enable them to adjust to proper social standards during a period of unsteadiness until they are capable of managing for themselves, or returning home.'
From the 1960s, the general process of de-institutionalisation, combined with a policy commitment to diversion in the field of juvenile justice, led to significant reductions in young people detained.
Nevertheless the living conditions for the girls who lived in this institution had deteriorated markedly. In 1981 Deborah Forster reported in The Age newspaper that Winlaton was 'run down' and 'like the teenagers who live there, the institution looks tired.' Even Leawarra, the more homely open hostel section looked neglected.
Winlaton was overcrowded and understaffed. In an institution designed to hold 95, there were 104 in February 1981. The girls suffered from boredom and as the superintendent observed: 'when you put young women into an institution that is neglected they find even less reason to care about themselves'.
The Winlaton Youth Training Centre for girls (aged 14 - 21 years) had a population of about 100 in the mid-1970s, which reduced to about 70 in the mid-1980s and about 25 at the time of its closure and relocation to Parkville in 1991.
28 July 2017
Cite this: https://www.findandconnect.gov.au/guide/vic/E000192
First published by the Find & Connect Web Resource Project for the Commonwealth of Australia, 2011
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