Although the institution that became known as the Parkerville Children's Home opened in 1903 as the Waif's Home, Parkerville, it wasn't until 1909 that Parkerville was scheduled as a subsidised institution under the State Children Act 1907. This enabled Parkerville to receive some government subsidy for the children who lived there. Sister Kate Clutterbuck was the person who was most widely known as the instigator of Parkerville, but histories acknowledge the combined effort of members of the Anglican religious order, Community of the Sisters of the Church, and other volunteers in establishing the Home.
Parkerville was unusual in Western Australia because it began with a desire to keep children in family groups, with boys and girls together, in cottages rather than large dormitories.
Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children were sent to Parkerville by child welfare authorities, their families and the children's courts. Located in a bushland setting in the hills east of Perth, Parkerville was also very isolated from the city.
A letter of appreciation of the The Daily News Orphans' Christmas Cheer Fund in 1915 gives an insight into life at Parkerville, where the children lived mostly within the grounds of the Home. The letter shows that donations enabled the children to occasionally go on outings and have other experiences:
'warmest thanks and gratitude to you for the Christmas gift, which enabled us to take the children in parties to the seaside at Cottesloe Beach, and a party of the boys to camp out at Crawley Bay…It also means health and strength for the coming year. The days spent on the beach made the time fly only too quickly…we all want to send you our heartfelt thanks for giving the children this beautiful time. Letter, 12 February 1916 published in The Daily News 2 December 1916, p.10'
Government reports (Signposts 2004 pp.414-422) give a glimpse of the size of Parkerville in its second decade: 22 children at year end in 1920, 39 children in 1922, 14 children in 1929. It is unclear how reliable these numbers are, because in 1935, the annual report of the Child Welfare Department stated that 800 children had lived at Parkerville in its first 32 years and that when Sister Kate was forcibly retired in 1933, there were 130 children in residence. Possibly, the government reports concerned mainly children who were wards of the State and children under 6 years of age. From the 1920s to the 1940s, records also show that some of the working-age children from Parkerville were placed out 'at service' with employers. This was an arrangement where a child was sent to work with an employer, under a legal agreement.
In 1925, the Parkerville Children's Home Incorporated was established to run the Home, though they did not manage the day to day operations of the Home.
Whittington (Sister Kate 1999) records the instability in managing and governing Parkerville from the 1930s to the 1950s. In 1933, the Community of the Sisters of the Church withdrew from Parkerville and the Sisters of the Society of the Sacred Advent worked at Parkerville until 1941, when the Community of the Sisters of the Church again returned to work at Parkerville. By 1949, the Community of the Sisters of the Church had again withdrawn from Parkerville at the request of the Parkerville Children's Home Incorporated. Parkerville was subsequently managed by the Anglican Orphanages Board of Management from 1949 until 1954 and then by the Anglican Homes Board for the remainder of the 1950s, after which the Parkerville Children's Home Incorporated took a more active role in the governance and management of the Home.
Until 1953, reports (Signposts, p.417) show that children went to primary school in the grounds of Parkerville and to the Midland Junction or Mt Helena high schools. By 1954 all children were going to government schools.
Although Parkerville was established with the idea of keeping children together in family groups, the reality of this in the 1940s was brought into question at the Inquiry into Children in Institutional Care (Forgotten Australians 2004, p.43):
'When we arrived at Parkerville, we were separated…I hardly got to see my sister at Parkerville. She got very sick with rheumatic fever and because she didn't get treatment early enough, spent 6 months in Royal Perth Hospital…medical treatment was almost non-existent at the Home…There were about 30 kids per cottage. We slept on the veranda and in winter up in the hills it was freezing…Beltings were common for all the kids and mostly were not deserved.'
From 1957, government reports (Signposts, p.417) show that Parkerville continued to be a large home, admitting children who were wards of the State and also children who were 'private admissions' (placed in Parkerville by family or others). From 1957 to 1962, there were on average about 130 children at Parkerville each year. By 1961, there were 79 children who were wards and 68 who were private admissions. From 1963 to 1966 (p.418), the number of children who ran away were reported as 'abscondings'. These were few, but the figures reported may not be reliable.
By 1975, Parkerville became smaller. It was described in that year (Signposts, p.418) as having 23 children aged 5 to 17 years old living there, with the children's families being involved in some programs. There were 6 cottages, with playgrounds, bikes and a range of sporting equipment. Holiday and foster placements were 'actively sought' for the children and outside recreations such as Police and Citizens Youth Groups, Girls' Brigade and local sports were encouraged, according to government reports.
By at least 1982, Parkerville had houses (known as 'scatter cottages' or 'group homes') in the suburbs of Perth and the campus at Parkerville continued to also house children. In 1988, reports (Signposts, p.421) show that just over 10% of the children had been at Parkerville for more than two years.
Through the 1990s, Parkerville continued to provide medium to long-term accommodation and programs for children and young people in cottages at its Parkerville campus and in suburban houses.
On 1 June 2005, Parkerville was incorporated as Parkerville Children and Youth Care Inc.
13 September 2017
Cite this: https://www.findandconnect.gov.au/guide/wa/WE00174
First published by the Find & Connect Web Resource Project for the Commonwealth of Australia, 2011
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