St Magdalen's Retreat at Tempe, near Arncliffe, provided accommodation for females over the age of 12 years by the Sisters of the Good Samaritan. It was established in 1887 and was used by the New South Wales Government as a care institution, as well as accepting voluntary admissions from families who could not care for young women.
The foundation stone for St Magdalen's Retreat, Tempe was laid by Cardinal Moran in 1885, and the home was opened in November 1887. The site was the grounds of Tempe House, built in the 1830s by John Verge for Alexander Brodie Spark. The noted philanthropist Caroline Chisholm leased Tempe House for a girls' school in 1863 and it was bought by the Good Samaritans in 1884. The Sisters built new buildings, including a chapel.
The objects of the Retreat were to 'provide a home for unfortunate women and girls of all creeds and classes; to help them reform their lives; and after a period of probation to restore them to their friends or to provide them with clothes; and to find suitable situations for them'. Like most homes of its type, St Magdalen's Retreat ran a laundry, and this work was part of the redemption for the girls.
By the 1940s, the government social welfare policy no longer favoured institutional rehabilitation and from 1947 until 1970, the Sisters of the Good Samaritan cared mainly for girls committed by the courts. St Magdalen's Retreat became known as the Good Samaritan Training Centre.
According to historian Peter Quinn, this home was one of the few non-government institutions to receive funding from the state government to run juvenile justice institutions by the Child Welfare Department.
The Good Samaritans closed the site in 1982 and it was sold to developers. Tempe House and the St Magdalen Chapel remain standing and regular open days are held.
1887 - 1947 St Magdalen's Retreat
1948 - 1982 Good Samaritan Training Centre
Sources used to compile this entry: 'Tempe House & St Magdalen's Chapel', in State Heritage Register, NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, 1999-, https://www.hms.heritage.nsw.gov.au/App/Item/ViewItem?itemId=5045451; Quinn, Peter E, Unenlightened efficiency: the administration of the juvenile correction system in New South Wales 1905-1988, University of Sydney, History, 27 March 2006, http://hdl.handle.net/2123/623; 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, https://clan.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/connectkin_guide.pdf.
Prepared by: Naomi Parry
Created: 7 March 2011, Last modified: 5 December 2013