The United Protestant Association of New South Wales Ltd (UPA) is a Christian welfare organisation established in 1938. By 1953, the UPA had established 13 children's homes throughout New South Wales. Each Home came under the jurisdiction and guidance of a District Executive, who reported to a State Council. More than 3,000 children, including British child migrants, were placed in UPA Homes but, owing to the high costs of providing residential care, most District Executives converted their homes to aged care by the 1990s.
Thomas Agst, a militant Protestant who joined the United Protestant Association of Australia in 1935, established the United Protestant Association of New South Wales (UPA) in 1938. By 1941 UPA had separated from the United Protestant Association of Australian Association.
Agst wrote in his autobiography, published as The UPA Story:
One cause which actuated me to do something to establish Homes for children was the fact that there was a Roman Catholic Convent (now Cowper Homes) in the Clarence District with a large number of Protestant children because there was no Protestant Home for them...To my surprise I received no assistance or encouragement from the Protestant Ministers and in some cases experienced open opposition. Most of them were just not interested in the practical side of Christian work let alone the militant side of the Association's objectives.
After offering a home to a family of Protestant children who were about to be sent to the Catholic convent, Agst and his wife Rosetta ended up with seven children in their care. Agst decided they needed a properly conducted home.
Over the next forty years the UPA expanded services to children and established aged care services at more than twenty centres throughout New South Wales. Agst promoted his work with children and the aged, and his fanatical anti-Catholic beliefs, with weekly radio broadcasts and, from 1946, the Gorton Pty Ltd Printing Works and the newspaper The Protestant World.
The UPA Homes were: Melrose (Pendle Hill); Sunnylands (Wollongbar); Adelaide Walker (Strathfield); Woodlands (Newcastle); Rathgar (Grafton); Rathmore (Grafton); Ellimatta and Ellimeek (East Maitland); Glen Eden (Glen Innes); Buena Vista (Orange); Gumleigh (Wagga Wagga); Lillimur (Dubbo); The Laurels (Kogarah); and Murray Vale (Albury), as well as several family group homes. It also ran Strathmore House in Melbourne (1951-1953).
The length of time that children stayed at the Homes varied, with some children staying for a few days, while others stayed for years. Children came to the homes as babies, young children and teenagers. They were also a receiving agency for child migrants, taking a number of British boys into Melrose.
Each Home had its own committee, called a District Executive, made up of volunteers and business people who lived and worked in the area. Their main role was to oversee the running of the institution, handle day to day issues of staff and children (admissions and discharges) as well as fund raising necessary to keep the homes going, including applying for state and federal government grants. Some also ran opportunity shops. The District Executive reported to the State Council (all UPA members state wide could attend these meetings) and the State Executive which included the General Manager.
From the 1960s into the 1980s the UPA began to close down its children's Homes and convert properties into aged care facilities. The UPA continues to provide support and information to past Care Leavers, including the services of a dedicated counsellor. In 2013, the UPA's surviving children's service is Youth Care UPA in the North Coast region, an accommodation, casework and supervision service.
In 2013, Joanne McCarthy published an article in the Sydney Morning Herald, stating that former residents of Woodlands had given distressing testimony to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and stated that an organised ring of paedophiles, including members of the Anglican and Catholic clergy, had sexually abused boys during a Christian programme held on Sundays at Woodlands in the 1970s. Additionally, a girl from Ellimatta was allegedly abused by a gardener.
In the article, the UPA issued an unreserved apology to children abused while they were living in the Woodlands and Ellimatta Homes, and acknowledged it had paid compensation to victims.
The UPA Board has since issued a further and full apology stating:
We sought to be trusted by children, parents, and the State, but we freely acknowledge that in many of our homes we failed to provide the safe and nurturing environment that children need to thrive. Emotional, physical and sexual abuse did occur in those homes. We are ashamed of those failures and offer our sincere and deep apology for the harm caused.
Sources used to compile this entry: Agst, Thomas Urich [with Robert J Martin], The UPA Story, United Protestant Association of NSW Ltd, Wahroonga, n.d., 67 pp; McCarthy, Joanne, 'Paedophile ring used boys home', The Sydney Morning Herald, 23 September 2013, http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/paedophile-ring-used-boys-home-20130922-2u7w6.html; 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; UPA Board, 'The Board of the UPA of NSW has issued the following apology', in UPA of NSW Ltd website, United Protestant Association of NSW Ltd, 2018, https://www.upa.org.au/former-children-upa-care/apology/; Site visit to the United Protestant Association, 12 April 2012; Email correspondence with staff of United Protestant Association, 24 April 2012; 18 February 2014; 17 April 2014.
Prepared by: Naomi Parry
Created: 22 March 2011, Last modified: 21 June 2021