Our Lady of Mercy Home was established in 1928 and was formerly known as Waitara Foundling Home and usually just as Waitara. The Home cared for children from birth to the age of 15 and from 1970, children aged 7-12. It also housed unmarried mothers. Our Lady of Mercy Home Waitara was replaced by the Mercy Family Life Centre in 1977.
The change in name from Waitara Foundling Home to the Our Lady of Mercy Home in 1928 reflected that the children it housed were not necessarily orphans.
From 1940 onwards, the Sisters began to take into care unmarried mothers who were awaiting the birth of a child. There was a home at Waitara for 40 young pregnant women, who received medical help and social assistance. During this period, the Home also had accommodation for twenty babies awaiting adoption and it was closely linked with the Mater Misericordiae Hospital.
Babies for adoption lived at Waitara for about a month, although some with disabilities or social disadvantages stayed longer. Care was also available for children up to seven years of age whose families had been disrupted temporarily by illness or separation.
In 1962 there were about 70 children in residence at Waitara. The Sisters of Mercy responded to new understandings of child care by adding a preschool, dividing the home into four units and building a free-standing cottage home in 1966, with a married couple as house parents. This housed eight children.
In 1963 the McAuley Mothercraft Training School, for mothercraft nurses, was developed on the site. Young lay women worked alongside the Sisters, caring for babies and young children in the Home.
Our Lady of Mercy Home was officially closed in 1977 and demolished so the land could be sold. The Mercy Family Life Centre opened in new buildings on another part of the site.
Sources used to compile this entry: Looking Back: A foundling home at Waitara, Mercy Family Centre Annual Report, Mercy Family Centre, 1984, 4-8 pp; Hanson, Dallas, Why are they in children's homes: report of the ACOSS children's home intake survey, Australian Department of Social Services: Australian Council of Social Services, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1979, 83 pp; 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; Email correspondence with Sister Miriam Grech, Sisters of Mercy, North Sydney Congregation, 17 October 2012; Email correspondence with CatholicCare Adoption Services,.
Prepared by: Naomi Parry
Created: 8 March 2011, Last modified: 5 October 2016