St Joseph's Providence, or The Providence, operated at Dawes Point from 1880 then moved to The Rocks in 1881. Run by Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, The Providence took in boys and girls, and homeless women, as well as providing meals for destitute men. The Providence closed in 1901.
The Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart operated The Providence at Dawes Point, near The Rocks, a notoriously poor slum area of Sydney. The Providence began in Gloucester Street then, a few months later, moved to Kent Street.
In 1881 the Sisters of St Joseph acquired a three-storey stone building called 'Cheshunt', at 3 Cumberland Street. This house became The Providence, the Provincialate House for New South Wales, and, for a time, the base for the Institute of the Sisters of St Joseph.
The Providence took in children, both boys and girls, and homeless women, as well as providing meals for destitute men. According to Kathleen Burford, in 1881 a Daily Telegraph letter by 'The Vagabond' wrote:
An institution has been founded which has for one of its chief objects the rescuing of semi-outcast children from the evil influences of neglected or vicious guardians ... the objects of the Sisterhood are the visitation of the sick, instruction of the young, providing a home for old women and neglected and destitute children, and for young girls who may be temporarily in want of such.
'The Vagabond' went on to describe some of the children in The Providence as 'the gutter-children type so common in the low neighbourhoods of Sydney.'
The Sisters of St Joseph also ran St Brigid's Girls School and St John's School in Kent Street, and supported their work by begging support on the streets of Sydney.
In 1887 the boys from The Providence were moved to a new residence at Kincumber South on the New South Wales central coast. Later the women were cared for by the Little Sisters of the Poor at Randwick in Sydney's eastern suburbs.
By 1900 The Providence housed ten women and 68 children, as well as the nuns. In August 1900 the New South Wales Government resumed the land on which The Providence stood as part of The Rocks Resumption Area. It paid compensation to the Sisters of St Joseph, who withdrew from Cumberland Street on 19 March 1901. They used this to place a deposit on a property on the Pacific Highway (then known as Lane Cove Road) at Gore Hill, in Sydney's north. This home, 'Gladstone House', became known as St Joseph's Girls' Home.
1880 - 1901 St Joseph's Providence
1900 - 1979 St Joseph's Girls' Home
Sources used to compile this entry: Burford, Kathleen E. RSJ, Unfurrowed Fields: A Josephite Story NSW 1872-1972, 1991, 287 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.
Prepared by: Naomi Parry
Created: 9 March 2011, Last modified: 20 June 2014