The Unemployed Boys' Farm at Wokalup was established on 9 December 1932 by the Ugly Men's Assocation at the request of members of Parliament. An existing farm, Bundidup, comprising 2,270 acres, at Wokalup had been purchased by the Association earlier in 1932 and the homestead was renovated (the boys' dormitory, for example, had once been the homestead's ballroom where the Premier, Sir James Mitchell had met his future wife).
The purpose of the farm school was to provide agricultural training for up to 22 city boys aged 14 to 18 years, so that they could then work on Western Australian farms. Twenty seven boys were admitted in the first seven months of operation.
The regime at Wokalup was described in The Daily News in 1933:
'The lads are divided into three working groups, the dairy group, the gardening group and the kitchen group, each being under the charge of a prefect, who is responsible for the behavior of the boys under his supervision, both in the dormitories and at work…The boys are picked for the different groups according to their temperaments. Whereas some of them are content to go on, day after day, milking and churning or ploughing, others want to see the results of their labours more rapidly. These boys are put into the gardening groupThe Daily News, 9 December 1933, p.6'
A student who was interviewed by The Daily News at that time reportedly said that 'each boy had to pull his weight. If he was slacking or complained that the work was too much for him, he was gradually put on harder work until he became hardened.'
According to another news item in 1934, a 'great percentage of the lads' came from 'the homes of indigent families'. The Secretary of the Child Welfare Department, Mr HH Brodribb, supported the project and said that the Department placed boys there as a way of diverting them from the courts, the industrial schools, and prisons. By March 1935, the Child Welfare Department had placed 30 of the 100 boys who had been sent to the farm.
In 1935, it was reported that 'annual sports' days were part of the program at Wokalup. At this time, boys could also spend school holidays at the farm, learning agricultural skills.
By 1937, approximately 55 boys per year had been placed at Wokalup. Young people could be referred by the Child Welfare Department or their family, or self-refer. In evidence to the Royal Commission on Youth Employment and the Apprenticeship System in 1937, the Chairman of the Unemployed Boys' Farm stated that a key motivation for establishing the farm was the perceived relationship between unemployment and 'youthful delinquency'. Staff included two instructors and a matron. Boys did not stay for the full agricultural year, but the boys reportedly received:
'a thorough grounding in dairying, milking, attention to cows and calves; milk separation, cleanlincss and hygienic conditions; how to feed and look after pigs and attend to them when they are sick; how to grow their own vegetables; they are taught work in the kitchen; how to drive horses, handle machinery and so on…according to the season they learn a little ahout shearing, lambing, lamb-marking, fertilizing, topdressing, etc. Evidence, Henry Willoughby Mann, Royal Commission on Youth Employment and the Apprenticeship System, 15 June 1937, paragraph 2377, p.185'
In 1937, there were reports that the farm school was in danger of closing due to lack of funds and a number of functions to raise public interest and dontations were held in that year and in early 1938.
On 12 April 1938, the Ugly Men's Association put the Bundidup farm up for auction. At this time, it was reported that the property consisted of a house with ten rooms, machinery and shearing sheds, a 'modern' dairy that had 'recently been constructed' and a milking shed.
By 1939, the land had been purchased by the Mental Hospitals Department. The Wokalup Research Station was established on the property by the Agriculture Department in 1950 and since 1999 the land has been used by the Harvey Agricultural College.
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08 February 2019
Cite this: http://www.findandconnect.gov.au/guide/wa/WE01284
First published by the Find & Connect Web Resource Project for the Commonwealth of Australia, 2011
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