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New South Wales - Organisation

Roman Catholic Orphan School (1844 - 1886)

8 March 1844
Catholic, Home, Orphanage and School
Alternative Names
  • Institution for Destitute Roman Catholic Children Parramatta

The Roman Catholic Orphan School at Parramatta was established on the 8 March 1844 and run by a committee. On the 31 March 1859, it was taken over by the Good Shepherd Sisters, later known as Sisters of the Good Samaritan. It was Australia's first purpose built orphanage for Catholic children and was funded by the New South Wales Government. It housed about 320 children at time. At first they were aged 3 to 9 years, but in later years the Orphanage admitted infants and children up to the age of 14. In 1886 the Roman Catholic Orphan School was relocated to Manly Industrial School, and the site became the Parramatta Industrial School for Girls.


Building work commenced in early 1840 and the orphan School was formally occupied on the 8 March 1844 with the transfer of 114 children from temporary accommodation at Waverley. A state-funded institution with staff employed by the government, the institution was managed by a board or committee with a matron responsible for day to day operations.

On the 31 March 1859 the Sisters of the Good Shepherd (also known as the Good Samaritans) took over management of the institution, although it remained owned by the New South Wales Government. Children considered eligible for admission were either orphans of one or both parents; or considered 'at risk' under circumstances such as 'living with vicious and immoral parents or guardians' or were removed to relieve the distress of a large family.

Initially the Orphan School would only accept children between the ages of 3 and 9 years but these rules were relaxed to admit infants and children up to the age of 14. The number of children in the institution averaged 320.

In 1881 the State Children's Relief Act authorised the State Children's Relief Board to remove children from institutions and board them out. Numbers in the Catholic and Protestant Orphanages declined dramatically. In 1884 the New South Wales Government ordered the Orphan School not to accept any further children and on the 13 August 1886 ordered the Good Samaritans to vacate the site.

In August 1886 the remaining children and staff relocated to Manly (Manly Industrial School) and in April 1887 the site was proclaimed Parramatta Industrial School for Girls.

The Roman Catholic Orphan School buildings are still standing, having become part of Parramatta Girls Industrial School in 1887 and remaining in use as a remand home until the 1980s. Since 2006 Parragirls has been lobbying for the buildings, and others on the site of the former Female Factory, to be recognised and preserved in redevelopment plans for the site. Currently, the organisation is campaigning for site to become an international Site of Conscience.

Over Christmas 2012 the Orphan School building was damaged by fire. Though gutted, it is still standing.

The site of the Roman Catholic Orphan 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.


1844 - 1886
Address - Roman Catholic Orphan School was situated at 1 Fleet Street, Parramatta. Location: Parramatta


 1844 - 1886 Roman Catholic Orphan School
       1881 - 1910 Manly Industrial School and Orphanage

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Related Legislation

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  • Djuric, Bonney, Abandon All Hope: a history of Parramatta Industrial School, Chargan, Georges Terrace, 2008, 238 pp. Details
  • Ramsland, John, Children of the back lanes: destitute and neglected children in colonial New South Wales, University of New South Wales Press, Kensington, 1986, 249 pp. Details

Online Resources

Sources used to compile this entry: 'A Piece of the Story': National Directory of Records of Catholic Organisations Caring for Children Separated from Families, Australian Catholic Social Welfare Commission & Australian Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes, 1999,; 'Dismay after Parramatta's historic Norma Parker Detention Centre orphanage damaged by fire', Parramatta Advertiser, 10 January 2013,; Parramatta Female Factory and Institutions Precinct, National Heritage List, 2017,; 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,;place_id=3028; Parramatta Female Factory Precinct, 2006-,

Prepared by: Naomi Parry