The Benevolent Asylum, run by the Benevolent Society of New South Wales, was opened in 1821 by Governor Macquarie. It issued poor relief and took in the poor, destitute, disabled and aged but its main focus was pregnant women and children. The Benevolent Asylum closed in 1901 as the land was resumed by the government for Central Station. It was replaced by the Royal Hospital for Women at Paddington (1901) and the Thomas Street Asylum (1904).
The Asylum was located on the corner of Pitt and Devonshire Streets, Sydney on a site now occupied by Central Railway Station.
In 1881 the State Children's Relief Act created the State Children's Relief Board and gave it the power to remove children who were in the care of the Benevolent Asylum and board them out (place them into foster homes). From this point, the Benevolent Asylum became less a children's home and more a depot for children who were moving into state care. The Benevolent Asylum continued to support pregnant women and their infants.
When the New South Wales Government began constructing Central Station it resumed the Devonshire Street site, where the Benevolent Asylum stood. The Government paid compensation to the Benevolent Society, and with this money the Society purchased several properties. It built the Royal Hospital for Women in Paddington in 1901. In 1904 it erected a new asylum on the corner of Thomas Street and Quay Street, Sydney, known as Thomas Street Asylum.
The Benevolent Asylum records from 1857-1900 have been indexed and the index is available online. Please see the list of published resources to access this website.
Sources used to compile this entry: Rathbone, Ron, A Very Present Help: Caring for Australians Since 1813, State Library of New South Wales Press, Sydney, 1994, 237 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: 18 March 2011, Last modified: 30 August 2013