The St Vincent de Paul Society is a Catholic religious organisation with a volunteer base who work to assist people in need and counter social injustice. Internationally, the Society operates in 130 countries and has over 950,000 members. The Society of St Vincent de Paul was established in New South Wales on 24 July 1881. The Society has a long involvement in child welfare. When the New South Wales State Children's Relief Board introduced probation for children, through the Children's Courts, members of St Vincent de Paul served as Honorary Probation Officers. The Society established St Anthony's Petersham for babies and mothers and, with the Marist Brothers, St Vincent's Home at Westmead, for boys.
In 1891 the Surry Hills Conference of the Society of St Vincent de Paul, headed by Patrick Joseph Minahan, rented a cottage to take in children who were living on the streets and in danger of being locked away.
In 1896 the Society partnered with the Marist Brothers established St Vincent's Boys Home at Westmead for orphaned or homeless boys. This partnership continued until 1968.
Members of the St Vincent de Paul Society also became concerned that unmarried Catholic mothers were willing to give their babies to state institutions or non-Catholic people. As a result, the Society, under the leadership of Denis Haugh, set up St Anthony's Petersham, in 1922, to care for the babies of unmarried Catholic women.
Sources used to compile this entry: 'Our History', in Marist Youth Care, Marist Youth Care, 2012, https://web.archive.org/web/20170216113707/http://maristyc.com.au/about-us/our-history; Thinee, Kristy and Bradford, Tracy, Connecting Kin: Guide to Records, A guide to help people separated from their families search for their records [completed in 1998], New South Wales Department of Community Services, Sydney, New South Wales, 1998, http://nma.gov.au/blogs/inside/files/2011/02/connectkin_guide1.pdf.
Prepared by: Naomi Parry and Melissa Downing
Created: 4 March 2011, Last modified: 8 October 2014