The Parramatta Girls Industrial School was established in 1887 in the old Roman Catholic Orphan School buildings at Parramatta by the Department of Public Instruction. It accommodated around 160 to 200 girls at a time, and some younger boys, most of whom had been charged with crimes or committed for welfare reasons. In 1912 the Parramatta Girls Industrial School moved to the control of the State Children's Relief Board and became the Parramatta Girls Training Home.
The institution at Parramatta has a long history including several name changes from 1887 to 1975. It has been estimated that up to 30,000 girls passed through Parramatta over this time; it is a significant site in Australian women's and child welfare history.
Parramatta Girls Industrial School was founded in 1887 when the Biloela Industrial School at Cockatoo Island was closed down in the aftermath of rioting and scandals and the girls were transferred to the Roman Catholic Orphanage buildings in Fleet Street. Like Biloela, it was an industrial school, governed by the Destitute Children's Act and run by the Department of Public Instruction.
Girls were committed to Parramatta for a variety of reasons: they had been committed by welfare organisations; were classed as 'uncontrollable'; had been charged with crimes; been before a children's court; were on remand or because they had not settled into foster placements (boarding out) or other institutions.
Parramatta, and the subsequent organisations that used the site, combined the functions of training school (or industrial school, for girls in the welfare stream, and reformatory, for girls on criminal charges. Overcrowding within the walls of the complex meant the lines were often blurred between the reformatory and the training school. In addition, until 1904 a small number of boys under the age of 7 years were also sent to Parramatta.
The buildings of the Parramatta Girls Industrial School were bleak and run down and there were riots and complaints by girls, which attracted a number of inquiries. These inquiries, held at intervals from 1889, reveal persistent problems with overcrowding, discipline and management. They also reveal the complexity and intensity of the relationships between the girls. Oral histories of the home confirm the strong bonds that developed within the home, and the girls' awareness of abuse and exploitation.
In 1912 the Parramatta Girls Industrial School became the Parramatta Girls Training Home, after the institution was transferred to the State Children's Relief Department.
The site of Parramatta Girls Industrial School is part of the Parramatta Female Factories and Institutions Precinct. In November 2017, the Precinct was added to the National Heritage List. The inscription notes that "the Precinct is outstanding in its capacity to tell the stories of women and children in institutions over the course of Australian history". It has also been listed on the Register of the National Estate since 21 March 1978.
1867 - 1871 Newcastle Industrial School for Females
1871 - 1887 Biloela Industrial School, Cockatoo Island
1887 - 1912 Parramatta Girls Industrial School
1912 - 1946 Parramatta Girls Training Home
1946 - 1974 Parramatta Girls Training School
Sources used to compile this entry: 'Dismay after Parramatta's historic Norma Parker Detention Centre orphanage damaged by fire', Parramatta Advertiser, 10 January 2013, http://parramatta-advertiser.whereilive.com.au/news/story/dismay-after-historic-site-damaged-by-fire/; Parramatta Female Factory and Institutions Precinct, National Heritage List, 2017, https://www.dcceew.gov.au/parks-heritage/heritage/places/national/parramatta-female-factory-and-institutions-precinct; Arnold, Ann, 'Exposed to Moral Danger', ABC Radio National Hindsight, 19 July 2009, http://www.abc.net.au/rn/hindsight/stories/2009/2627360.htm; 'Child Care and Protection Guide', in Museums of History NSW website, Museums of History NSW, https://mhnsw.au/guides/child-care-and-protection-guide/; 'Child Care and Protection Index 1817-1942', in Museums of History NSW website, Museums of History NSW, https://mhnsw.au/indexes/child-care-and-protection/child-care-and-protection-index/; Djuric, Bonney, Abandon All Hope: a history of Parramatta Industrial School, Chargan, Georges Terrace, 2008, 238 pp; 'Girls Training School Precinct, 1 Fleet St, Parramatta, NSW, Australia [Register of the National Estate]', in Australian Heritage Database, Department of the Environment, Australian Government Department of the Environment, http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/ahdb/search.pl?mode=place_detail;place_id=3028; Han, Esther, 'Female Factory tales to be told', The Sunday Sun-Herald, 4 November 2012, http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/female-factory-tales-to-be-told-20121103-28qub.html; 'Kamballa', in State Records Authority of New South Wales website, State of New South Wales through the State Records Authority of NSW 2016, https://www.records.nsw.gov.au/agency/460; Parramatta Female Factory Precinct, 2006-, http://www.parragirls.org.au/; Parry, Naomi, 'Such a longing': black and white children in welfare in New South Wales and Tasmania, 1880-1940, Department of History, University of New South Wales, 2007, 361 pp, http://hdl.handle.net/1959.4/40786; 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: 20 April 2011, Last modified: 3 February 2023