The Hay Institution for Girls was opened in the old Hay Gaol in 1961. It was an annexe of Parramatta Girls Training School, and held 12 girls aged 15 to 18 who had committed offences, including rioting to protest their treatment, while they were in Parramatta. They were officially sent to Hay for three month terms, but this was often extended, and girls could be sent between Hay and Parramatta multiple times. The Hay Institution for Girls became the subject of widespread community condemnation and closed in 1974.
The Hay Institution for Girls was proclaimed in the old Hay Gaol on 28th July 1961 as a 'school for the reception, detention, maintenance, discipline, education and training of children and young persons committed to such institution to be known as Institution for Girls, Hay'. Its establishment came after a series of riots that had taken place at the Parramatta Girls Home in early 1961. The girls sent from Hay from Parramatta were considered 'incorrigible'.
The first girls were transferred from Parramatta in September 1961. Transfers occurred at night with girls escorted by officers on the long train journey to Narrandera, then placed in a lockup van. Girls were usually sedated with largactil or valium during the journey. On arrival they were issued with institutional clothes, had their hair cropped short and were locked in a 'scrubbing' cell, usually for a period of 10 days. After this they were placed in another cell, known as 'cabins', for the remainder of their stay. Each cell was furnished with a single bad, thin mattress, a blanket, sheets, pillow, Bible and a night can.
Discipline at Hay was brutal, with girls' every movement, action and word controlled and directed by officers. The daily routine was designed to humiliate and control. All communication occurred via a reporting procedure, where girls remained silent, standing six feet apart, with 'eyes to the floor'. Girls had no privacy and did not receive visitors, schooling or mail.
Education and training amounting to hard labour: smashing concrete paths; digging; scrubbing; hand sewing leather, and other repetitive tasks, interspersed with physical exercises known as 'practices'.
Parragirls founder Bonney Djuric said in 2012:
Hay was intended to break a girl's spirit and for most it did - leaving many with severe post traumatic stress disorder and other physical and mental health problems.
Hay Girls Institution closed on 30th June 1974, due to community concerns about the treatment of girls and after protests by leaders of Sydney women's movement.
Hay's existence was what ABC TV journalist Sharon O'Neill has described as a state secret, known to very few until 2004, when former inmate Christina Green returned to the site in the company of the ABC. The first reunion of the Hay Girls Institution took place on the 3- 4 March 2007 at which time a memorial plaque with the words 'Let no child walk this path again' was placed in the grounds.
Records of Hay Institution are part of Parramatta Training School for Girls records.
Sources used to compile this entry: Arnold, Ann, 'Exposed to Moral Danger', ABC Radio National Hindsight, 19 July 2009, http://www.abc.net.au/rn/hindsight/stories/2009/2627360.htm; Beilharz, Nikolai, 'Hay Girls Tell Their Story', ABC Bush Telegraph, 5 March 2007, https://web.archive.org/web/20080111045059/http://www.abc.net.au/rural/telegraph/content/2006/s1862994.htm; Child Welfare Department, Annual Report: Child Welfare Department of New South Wales, New South Wales government, 1923-1970. Also available at https://www.opengov.nsw.gov.au/main; Djuric, Bonney, 14 years of hell : an anthology of the Hay Girls Institution 1961-1974 / compiled by Bonney Djuric, Women About Hay, Hay, 2008, 77 pp; Matthews, Bernie, Marlene's Story, Online Opinion, 15 August 2007, http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=6234&page=2; Matthews, Bernie, Wilma's Story, Online Opinion, 22 August 2007, http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=6236&page=0; O'Neill, Sharon, 'State Secrets', Stateline Canberra ABC TV, 4 June 2004, https://web.archive.org/web/20160624191906/http://www.abc.net.au:80/stateline/act/content/2003/s1125764.htm; Valentine, Alana, Eyes to the floor : remembering the Hay Girls Home / a play by Alana Valentine, This manuscript was Commissioned by Outback Theatre for Young People. April 2008 draft. Typescript., 2008.
Prepared by: Naomi Parry
Created: 22 November 2011, Last modified: 19 March 2015