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New South Wales - Organisation

Biloela Industrial School, Cockatoo Island (1871 - 1887)

Government-run, Home and Industrial School
Alternative Names
  • Biloela Public Industrial School for Girls (1871 - 1887)
  • Biloela Reformatory (1867 - 1871)

Biloela Industrial School was an industrial school for girls that was established on Cockatoo Island by the Comptroller of Prisons in 1871 to replace the Newcastle Industrial School for Girls. It usually held up to 120 girls at any given time aged from about 18 months to 14 years. Biloela Industrial School was located on the same site as Biloela Reformatory School for Females and experienced several problems, including riots. In 1887 Biloela Industrial School was moved and became the Parramatta Girls Industrial School.


The buildings on Cockatoo Island were bleak barracks, built in 1841 for convict re-offenders. The site was renamed Biloela to escape those convict associations but the girls had to sleep in the cells. The Industrial School was established on the same site as Biloela Reformatory School and despite them officially being separate institutions all the girls mixed together.

The institution was managed by a Superintendent and Matron and usually held up to 120 or so girls at any given time ranging in age from 18 months to 14 years - and in some cases up to the age of 19. Most of the girls were there for reasons to do with welfare.

The poor conditions and punitive treatment at Biloela were well known but little was done. Girls protested by rioting, and these became a feature of life at the institution. The closure of the government-owned orphan schools provided the government with an opportunity to relocate the Girls' Industrial School to the former premises occupied by the Roman Catholic Orphan School at Parramatta, so the institution was moved in 1887.


1871 - 1887
Location - Biloela Industrial School for Girls was situated at Cockatoo Island, in Sydney Harbour.. Location: Cockatoo Island


 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

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Journal Articles

  • Williamson, Noeline, 'Life in the industrial and reformatory school for girls in New South Wales [Series of two parts]: Part 1: 1867 to 1887. 'Hymns, songs and blackguard verses'. Part 2: 1887 to 1910. Laundry maids or ladies?', Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, vol. 67-68, March, 1982-1983, pp. 375-386, 312-324. Details


Online Resources

Sources used to compile this entry: Djuric, Bonney, Abandon All Hope: a history of Parramatta Industrial School, Chargan, Georges Terrace, 2008, 238 pp; 'Kamballa', in State Records Authority of New South Wales website, State of New South Wales through the State Records Authority of NSW 2016,; 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,; Correspondence with B. Djuric, Parragirls, 16 January 2012.

Prepared by: Naomi Parry