The Boys' Training School opened in South Hobart in 1884. It was a government institution for young male offenders. In 1896, it moved to the New Town Charitable Institution. In 1922, it moved again, this time to Deloraine where, in 1926, it became the Ashley Home for Boys.
The Boys' Training School was established under the provisions of the Training Schools Act (1867). The School was governed by a Board of Managers, which included Ministers of Religion and prominent members of the public. The Mayor of Hobart was an ex-officio member.
Like the Boys' Reformatory, which had closed in 1876, it was on the site of the former Female Factory at Cascades, this time in Yard Five. Before it opened, a new two storey building of offices and living areas, 15 feet wide along the length of the front wall of Yard Five, were built. At the rear of the yard, there was a play shed.
The boys wore a uniform of vest, moleskin trousers, and a cloth cap.
The boys worked in the garden, the carpentry shop, and in the kitchen as scullery and kitchen boys. They raised pigs. During the School's first year, they ploughed part of the hill behind the former Female Factory and put in a good crop. They planted fruit trees and looked after the new herd of five dairy cows. In 1891, they built a swimming pool out of bricks. The following year, they repaired the old chapel and laid a play yard with bricks. For entertainment, they had magic lantern, football and cricket. On one occasion, they presented an entertainment of their own. Boys who behaved well went into Hobart once a month. A few went to church every Sunday.
James Longmore, the Superintendent, had progressive ideas about managing child lawbreakers. For instance, he campaigned for the abolition of prison sentences for them. He also thought deeply about their care and later wrote a pamphlet about it. He had a reformist agenda for the Boys' Training School which, according to Joan Brown, the Board of Governors supported.
Brown wrote that his main aims were:
- (1) to inspire family feeling and create a home influence
- (2) to give as much freedom as is compatible to good order
- (3) to avoid corporal punishment and
- (4) to arouse good moral tone.
The school was said to be governed by the law of kindness and to work by trust rather than repression. Trade instruction as well as formal education was part of the programme with particular emphasis on farm work.
The Managers said that there was almost no corporal punishment. Instead, if a boy misbehaved, he might lose a half holiday or leave.
To extend the School's influence over the boys, the governors sought to increase the age that that they could remain there to 21. However, the government would not agree to this.
In 1896, the Boys' Training School moved to a new building on the grounds of the New Town Charitable Institution, formerly the site of the Queen's Orphan Asylum where there was room for 60 boys. Its Managers became George Richardson until 1898, and then FR Seager. Both were also Secretaries of the Neglected Children's Department. A history by Pearce and Doyle describes the School's conditions and routine:
Until 1913, when a dormitory was built, the boys slept in cell-like cubicles and were classified on admission in much the same way as convicts had been earlier in the century. They were expected to work long hours, either in one of the various trade shops associated with the School or at the Government Farm.
At the new site, until 1918, the boys did their lessons at night. In 1906, Seager argued against day time education on the grounds that many people had to do without it: 'as many thousands in the world (myself included) have had to fight the battle of life with the assistance of knowledge gained at night school, I fail to see the necessity for altering the system now in force at the B.T.S.'
The 1918 Children of the State Act brought the Boys' Training School under its auspices, after which the Children of the State Department ran it.
In 1922, the Boys' Training School moved from Hobart to Deloraine, in the north of Tasmania.
The government established the Mental Deficiency Board and State Psychological Clinic in 1922. The Boys' Training School was one of the first places that the Clinic conducted intelligence tests. Boys diagnosed with a mild intellectual disability (often wrongly) were placed under the dual management of the Board and the Children of the State Department and its successors. In the first few years of the Board's existence, a greater proportion of boys at the School came under its auspices than from any other sources. This reflected a widely held belief that 'delinquency' and intellectual disability were connected.
In 1925, the government appointed a Committee of Inquiry to investigate conditions at the School. It recommended:
In 1926, in line with the recommendation of the Committee of Inquiry, the Boys' Training School became Ashley Home for Boys.
1869 - 1876 Boys' Reformatory
1884 - 1926 Boys' Training School
1926 - 1999 Ashley Home for Boys
1999 - Ashley Youth Detention Centre
Sources used to compile this entry: Brown, Joan C., 'Poverty is not a crime': the development of social services in Tasmania, 1803-1900, Tasmanian Historical Research Association, Hobart, 1972, 192 pp; 'Cascades Female Factory Ruins', in Australian Heritage Places Inventory, Australian Government, https://web.archive.org/web/20190308091043/https://dmzapp17p.ris.environment.gov.au/ahpi/action/search/heritage-search/record/RNE11027; Evans, Caroline, Protecting the Innocent: Tasmania's Neglected Children, Their Parents and State Care, 1890-1918, University of Tasmania, Hobart, 1999, 251 pp, http://eprints.utas.edu.au/14453/; Evans, Caroline, A 'Pink Palace'? Risdon Prison, 1960-2004, Department of Justice, Hobart, 2004, 128 pp; Friends of the Orphan School and St John's Park Precinct, Friends of the Orphan School and St John's Park Precinct, http://www.orphanschool.org.au/; Parry, Naomi, 'Such a longing': black and white children in welfare in New South Wales and Tasmania 1880-1940, University of New South Wales, 2007, https://www.unsworks.unsw.edu.au/primo-explore/fulldisplay?docid=unsworks_1369&context=L&vid=UNSWORKS&search_scope=unsworks_search_scope&tab=default_tab&lang=en_US; Pearce, Kim and Doyle, Susan, New Town: a social history, Hobart City Council, Hobart, 2002, 144 pp; Scripps, L. and Hudspeth, A, The Female Factory Historic Site: Historical Report, unpublished report for Department of Parks, Wildlife and Heritage, 1992.
Prepared by: Caroline Evans
Created: 12 January 2011, Last modified: 24 April 2018