Carters' Barracks, Boys Dormitory was established in 1820. It provided separate accommodation and a training program for convict boys under the age of 16 at Carter's Barracks, Brickfields in Sydney. On arrival at the Barracks the boys became government apprentices and were trained to work as tradesman. They lived at the Barracks for a maximum of three years before being assigned to work as servants for up to seven years after their release. Carters' Barracks, Boys Dormitory closed around 1835 when convict boys were assigned directly on their arrival in Australia.
The boys placed at Carters' Barracks were given basic schooling, a strict religious upbringing and were trained to become tradesman. Boys were taught the skills of a blacksmith, carpenter, painter or shoemaker among other trades. The aim of the administrators was to reform the convict boys. There was approximately 200 convict boys and staff housed at the Barracks at any time.
Any boys who tried to escape the Barracks was given a severe lashing upon their return. Floggings or time on the treadmill, which was used to grind grain, were common forms of punishment under the strict regime. There were also two solitary confinement cells for punishment of certain offences and the sleeping area was divided into two rooms to separate the different classes of boys. One class was for good behaviour and one for those whose misconduct meant they received an inferior diet and bedding.
As a result of the separate accomodation and the training program for boys at Carters' Barracks it has been described as Australia's first special institution for juveniles and a predeccesor to the first official reformatory at Point Puer, Tasmania.
Carters' Barracks was provided with four acres of land for the boys to create a market garden. The Barracks became self sufficient in fresh produce and produced enough for the boys, the Benevolent Asylum which was located next door and excess to sell to the market.
Governor Darling ordered an inquiry into the institution, which was conducted by his aide Thomas de la Condamine. As a result, in February 1826, Darling instructed closer supervision of the boys to commence.
The Boys Dormitory and trade program was a contentious issue amongst society. An article in The Sydney Monitor (1832) argued that the boys would be put to better use on farms in the country as labourers where they wouldn't be exposed to drunkeness or gambling, there would be little to steal and they would be seperated.
The closure of the Boys Dormitory at Carters' Barracks, around 1834, is largerly attributed to institutional failings. The harsh regime was criticised and the grouping of young criminals together was thought to have harmful influences. The closure was a slow process, with new boys not being admitted but the Barracks continuing to operate until every boy had been fully trained and placed in suitable employment.
Part of Carters' Barracks was turned into a Debtor's Prison from 7 December 1835 while the rest of the property continued to accommodate convict men. By 1848 the Government had approved the Irish Sisters of Charity running a training facilty for women in the building. The organisation was called the House of the Good Shepherd.
Sources used to compile this entry: 'The Carters' Barracks Boys', The Sydney Monitor, Edward Smith Hall, Sydney, 5 May 1832, http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/32077522#pstart4294739; 'Convicts: sites of punishment', in Sydney Living Museums Website, Hyde Park Barracks Museum, Sydney Living Museum, 2007, http://sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/exhibitions/convicts-sites-punishment; 'Christopher Tomlinson', in National Maritime Museum Website, Australia National Maritime Museum, 2013, https://www.sea.museum/discover/online-exhibitions/waves-of-migration/immigration-stories/christopher-tomlinson; 'Carters' Barracks', in Dictionary of Sydney, Dictionary of Sydney Trust, http://dictionaryofsydney.org/building/carters_barracks; 'Debtors' Prison', 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/5052; Gorton, Kerin, 'Carters' Barracks and Point Puer: The Confinement Experience of Convict Boys in Colonial Australia, 1820 - 1850', PhD thesis, The University of Newcastle, 2002, 346 pp; New South Wales Law Reform Commission, Report 104 Young Offenders, Sydney, December 2005, 317 pp, http://www.lawreform.justice.nsw.gov.au/Documents/Publications/Reports/Report-104.pdf.
Prepared by: Nicola Laurent
Created: 5 February 2015, Last modified: 16 April 2015