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Victoria - Organisation

The Victorian Infant Asylum (1877 - 1902)

  • Sketches at the Victorian Infant Asylum

    Sketches at the Victorian Infant Asylum, 6 August 1884
    Details

From
1877
To
1902
Categories
Babies' Home, Care Provider, Home and Non-denominational

The Victorian Infant Asylum was established in 1877. Its stated aims were: to prevent infanticide, save infant life from the 'evils of baby farming', and to rescue mothers of illegitimate children from further degradation. In 1902, its name changed to the Victorian Infant Asylum and Foundling Hospital.

Details

The Victorian Infant Asylum was established in 1877. A group of women concerned about the welfare of 'unfortunates' - infants and unmarried pregnant young women - met in Melbourne on 15 June 1877.

This group of 'ladies' came together under the patronage of Lady Bowen, the wife of the Governor. With money collected, a house at 35 Hanover Street, Fitzroy was leased and the first 'inmate' was admitted to the Victorian Infant Asylum on 9 November 1877.

The stated aims of the Victorian Infant Asylum were:

  • The prevention of infanticide
  • The saving of infant life from the evils of baby farming
  • The rescuing of mothers of illegitimate children from further degradation.

The 'ladies' of Melbourne were a driving force behind the establishment of the Victorian Infant Asylum, and its activities depended on the philanthropic and awareness-raising efforts of its women supporters.

Mrs J.G. Francis spoke at the first annual meeting of the Victorian Infant Asylum on 26 September 1878, at the Melbourne Town Hall:

For some time we have had strong convictions that an institution of the nature of the one whose claims I advocate was urgently required, and the period of the past 12 months has shown us that in this we were perfectly correct, and that we perform one of woman's highest missions in thus saving many who are not irredeemably bad, and in preventing the destruction of human life. We respectfully and cordially invite our sisters in the colony to inspect the institutions at Wills-house, Hanover Street, Fitzroy, see the little saved ones, and we then ask no other argument, or any stronger support than the inward workings of a womanly heart.

By 30 June 1878, the Victorian Infant Asylum had admitted 32 infants and 20 mothers. Eight infants had been discharged to the care of their mothers. Another 14 infants remained at the home in Fitzroy. The Asylum reported that in its first year, nine infants had been boarded out, and another five had been 'assisted'.

The 'honorary physicians' who made up the institution's medical staff in 1878 were Dr Motherwell, Dr Shields and Dr Youl.

The secretary, Mrs C.E. Bright reported on the mothers:

Some are in the house acting as nurses, others have obtained situations, and are thereby enabled to assist in maintaining their children, and all have so far conducted themselves well, and exhibited gratitude for the assistance afforded them.

She also reported that police had seen a drop in infanticide in the past six months.

The Victorian Infant Asylum used its first annual meeting to appeal for funds, so that infants could be moved to accommodation in the country to prevent overcrowding and allow for new admissions.

The meeting reported that the committee was anxious to commence building a permanent home for the Asylum, on land reserved by the government for this purpose, on 'Eastern-hill'.

Building never took place on this parcel of land (adjacent to the Eye and Ear Hospital in East Melbourne). The Victorian Infant Asylum purchased land in 1881, on the corner of Vale and Berry Streets. In 1882, the government granted it more land, alongside the land already purchased in Berry Street. A building was completed by 1882 and was receiving infants and mothers.

By 1892, overcrowding had become such a problem at the Victorian Infant Asylum that physicians were having to turn away admissions. The committee appealed to the government and the public for urgent help, so that the Asylum could be extended.

In 1902, its name changed to the Victorian Infant Asylum and Foundling Hospital. That year, the Annual Report stated that a 'Foundling Wing' was being built at Berry Street.

Berry Street Victoria is the custodian of records from the Victorian Infant Asylum.

Location

1877 - 1882
Address - The Victorian Infant Asylum was established in a rented house at 35 Hanover Street, Fitzroy. Location: Fitzroy
1882 - 1902
Location - The Victorian Infant Asylum was located in Berry Street, East Melbourne. Location: East Melbourne

Timeline

 1877 - 1902 The Victorian Infant Asylum
       1902 - 1906 The Victorian Infant Asylum and Foundling Hospital
             1906 - 1964 The Foundling Hospital and Infants' Home
                   1964 - 1975 Berry Street Babies' Home and Hospital
                         1975 - 1992 Berry Street - Child and Family Care
                               1992 - 1994 Berry Street Incorporated
                                     1994 - Berry Street

Related Archival Collections

Related Glossary Terms

Publications

Books

  • Penwill, Beryl, Looking Back, Looking Forward: the story of 'Berry Street' Child and Family Care, Berry Street Child and Family Care, Melbourne, 1979. Details

Online Resources

Photos

House in Hanover Street (now number 35)
Title
House in Hanover Street (now number 35)
Type
Image
Date
c. 1865
Source
Berry Street Archives

Details

Victorian Infant Asylum, First Annual Report [front page]
Title
Victorian Infant Asylum, First Annual Report [front page]
Type
Document
Date
1878 - 2009
Source
Berry Street

Details

Sketches at the Victorian Infant Asylum
Title
Sketches at the Victorian Infant Asylum
Type
Image
Date
6 August 1884

Details

'Conditions and rules for adopting children by the Victorian Infant Asylum'
Title
'Conditions and rules for adopting children by the Victorian Infant Asylum'
Type
Document
Date
1890s

Details

Sources used to compile this entry: The Victorian Infant Asylum, The Argus, 27 September 1878, 3 pp, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5950105; Cerreto, Alicia, Berry Street 140 Years: restoring trust and hope, Berry Street, 2017, https://www.berrystreet.org.au/sites/default/files/Berry%20Street%20140%20-%20Restoring%20Trust%20and%20Hope.pdf; Penwill, Beryl, Looking Back, Looking Forward: the story of 'Berry Street' Child and Family Care, Berry Street Child and Family Care, Melbourne, 1979.

Prepared by: Cate O'Neill