St Joseph's Native School and Orphanage, New Norcia dates from 1861.
Tilbrook (1983) reports that sisters 'Elizabeth and Helen (or Ellen) Tainan arrived at St Joseph's Orphanage for Girls in 1865, four years after it opened. They were looked after by the first schoolmistress at the orphanage, Mrs Judith Butler.' (see page189, with photograph).
Children were sometimes placed by their parents in St Joseph's New Norcia, though bureaucracy could delay good intentions as this example shows:
'Widower Charlie Fitzgerald found he was unable to look after his family and at the same time tend to his [Chinese vegetable] gardens. Wishing to do what was best for them, he made an arrangement with New Norcia mission for some of the girls to be sent there, where they would be cared for and receive an education. The girls were placed on the train, and were to be met at the station and driven to New Norcia by their uncle. On the same day that they were travelling, a number of children were being sent to Moore River Settlement on the train. When they arrived at the railway station, the girls' uncle was late. The station master assumed that they were really meant to be going to Moore River Settlement and so bundled them off with the other children. When their uncle arrived, he found no nieces and thought that their step-father had changed his mind at the last moment. It was one month before the error was finally sorted out, and the girls reached their intended destination, New Norcia Mission. (Tilbrook, p.137)'
By 1847, the government had a policy of placing the children of single Aboriginal mothers at New Norcia mission:
'Mary Helen or Ellen Pangieran was born in Bunbury in 1847. Because her mother had been deserted by Mary's European father, the government authorities considered that she was unable to bring up her daughter on her own. As a consequence, Mary was sent to New Norcia Mission to receive an education. Mary grew up at New Norcia, where she met Benedict Cooper or Cuper. The couple were married and had a small family. In 1873 the telegraph line from Perth to Geraldton was completed as far as New Norcia, and Mary Cooper was appointed as the first telegraphist and post-mistress. She ran the small post office, and tended to her house which was built adjoining the office, until her early death from tuberculosis in 1877. (Tilbrook, p.177). '
In his 1899 Report (p.12), the Protector of Aborigines said that the girls' school had 30 pupils who were taught by 'women of colour, under the superintendence of one of the Brothers'.
From 1904, St Joseph's was run by the Benedictine Missionary Sisters who had come from Spain for that purpose.
In 1909, the buildings were replaced.
The Benedictine Missionary Sisters ran St Joseph's until it closed in 1974.
16 August 2016
Cite this: https://www.findandconnect.gov.au/guide/wa/WE00566
First published by the Find & Connect Web Resource Project for the Commonwealth of Australia, 2011
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