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Victoria - Organisation

Methodist Babies' Home (1929 - c. 1974)

  • Entrance to the Methodist Babies' Home

    Entrance to the Methodist Babies' Home, 1961
    Details

From
1929
To
c. 1974
Categories
Adoption Agency, Babies' Home, Care Provider, Home, Methodist and Protestant

The Methodist Babies' Home in South Yarra was established in 1929. It organised the adoption of many babies in Victoria.
In 1974, it became the Copelen Street Family Centre, offering foster care and preventive family services.

Details

The establishment of the Methodist Babies' Home in 1929 coincided with the implementation of Victoria's first adoption act (passed in 1928).

The Home was a major player in adoption in Victoria. In its first five years of operation, it arranged for 198 babies to be placed in adoptive homes.

The Methodist Babies' Home relieved pressure on staff at Methodist Homes for Children in Cheltenham to care for young babies.

Those children in Babies' Home not adopted by the age of four were transferred to the Children's Home at Cheltenham. The Babies' Home Committee retained legal control of these children even after they were transferred. These wards of the Babies' Home were transferred yet again at the age of nine, this time to the farm school at Tally Ho.

Matron Grant was the first matron at the Methodist Babies' Home, and she did not retire until 1962.

The money for the property at 12 Copelen Street, South Yarra, was largely raised by the Young Men's section of the Methodist Church's Laymen's Missionary Movement. The well-known social reformer, F. Oswald Barnett, was a key figure in the establishment of the Methodist Babies' Home.

The Babies' Home was opened in December 1929. According to one history:

The opening was a remarkable event with a massive crowd of 8000 people, many of whom had travelled from country regions. The final £3000 needed to pay for the building was raised from the crowd in a matter of minutes, making it debt-free, an astounding achievement at that time when many were themselves struggling.

The surviving records of the Methodist Babies' Home demonstrate how this institution subscribed to the 'clean break theory' of adoption which was popular in the twentieth century. The registers show how children admitted to the Methodist Babies' Home were given an 'alias' by staff.

In 1959 the Methodist Babies' Home merged with the Boards of the Methodist Homes for Children (Orana) to form the Methodist Department of Childcare, led by Rev Keith Mathieson. The two institutions continue to operate separately under this new governance structure.

The passage of the Adoption Act 1964 changed practices at the Methodist Babies' Home. The process of becoming an 'approved adoption agency' under the new legislation led to the appointment of the Home's first social worker, Rev. Graeme Gregory to manage the placement of babies and children. From the mid-1960s, babies and toddlers from the Home spent a period in foster care before they were adopted.

In the 1970s, the changes continued and the institution moved away from congregate care towards smaller, more 'family like' groups of babies and young children. The buildings were renovated and new 'cottages' were built on the site.

From the early 1970s, the direct care of 'neglected' babies was phased out in favour of family, unit-based support services and foster care.

In 1971, the Methodist Department of Childcare merged with the Presbyterian Department of Social Services in 1971 to create the Child Care Service of the Methodist and Presbyterian Churches. This Child Care Service (whose Director was Graeme Gregory) was the sole Victorian agency supervising inter-country adoptions and placements of children from Vietnam during the 1970s.

In 1974, a Parents and Children's Centre was established in the buildings of the home at 12 Copelen Street South Yarra. This centre offered a variety of family services programs, including a day care centre, parent skills training, a drop-in centre, and family counselling and support. The Methodist Babies' Home ceased to be around this time, and the agency became known as the 'Copelen Street Family Centre'.

Location

1929 - 1974
Location - The Methodist Babies' Home was established in Copelen Street, South Yarra. Location: South Yarra

Timeline

 1929 - c. 1974 Methodist Babies' Home
       1974 - 1991 Copelen Street Family Centre
             1991 - 1998 Copelen Child and Family Services
                   1998 - 2000 Copelen
                         2000 - 2017 Connections UnitingCare
                               2017 - Uniting - Connections

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Related Events

Related Glossary Terms

Related Organisations

Publications

Books

  • Information about the Methodist Babies' Home: prepared for the use of speakers and lecturers, Methodist Young Men's Movement, Methodist Babies' Home Committee, Melbourne, 1938. Details
  • Copelen Street family services - formerly Methodist Babies' Home South Yarra: sixtieth anniversary 1929-1989, Copelen Street Family Services, South Yarra, 1989. Details
  • Barnard, Jill, Methodist Babies' Home: Copelen 7 decades on, Copelen Head Office, Melbourne, 1999. Details
  • Howe, Renate; Swain, Shurlee, All God's Children: a centenary history of the Methodist Homes for Children and the Orana Peace Memorial Homes, Acorn Press, Kambah, ACT, 1989. p.72. Details

Online Resources

Photos

Methodist Babies' Home, South Yarra [photo set]
Title
Methodist Babies' Home, South Yarra [photo set]
Type
Image

Details

1930s Carlton Slum Mothers & Babies
Title
1930s Carlton Slum Mothers & Babies
Type
Image

Details

Methodist Babies' Home
Title
Methodist Babies' Home
Type
Image

Details

Bottle sterilising rack, Methodist Babies' Home
Title
Bottle sterilising rack, Methodist Babies' Home
Type
Image
Creator
Rodney Start
Source
Museum Victoria

Details

Lamp - WT Co, USA, circa 1929 [Methodist Babies' Home]
Title
Lamp - WT Co, USA, circa 1929 [Methodist Babies' Home]
Type
Object
Date
c. 1929

Details

Methodist Babies' Home banner
Title
Methodist Babies' Home banner
Type
Object
Date
c. 1929

Details

Opening of the Methodist Babies' Home
Title
Opening of the Methodist Babies' Home
Type
Image
Date
9 December 1929
Source
The Argus

Details

Methodist Babies' Home
Title
Methodist Babies' Home
Type
Image
Date
4 April 1941
Source
National Library of Australia

Details

A career for girls: mothercraft nurse
Title
A career for girls: mothercraft nurse
Type
Image
Date
27 December 1949

Details

Methodist Department of Child Care Babies' Home and
Title
Methodist Department of Child Care Babies' Home and "Orana", Annual Report, 1961
Type
Document
Date
1961

Details

Entrance to the Methodist Babies' Home
Title
Entrance to the Methodist Babies' Home
Type
Image
Date
1961

Details

Methodist Babies' Home, South Yarra
Title
Methodist Babies' Home, South Yarra
Type
Image
Date
c. 1974 - c. 1979
Source
Care Leavers Australia Network (CLAN)

Details

Sources used to compile this entry: Reconnections and Recollections: Charting the History of Connections UnitingCare, Connections UnitingCare, May 2010, http://web.archive.org/web/20140320060720/http://connections.org.au/pdfs/ReConnections-and-ReCollections.pdf; Commonwealth Contribution to Former Forced Adoption Policies and Practices: submissions received by the Committee, Commonwealth of Australia, http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Community_Affairs/Completed_inquiries/2010-13/commcontribformerforcedadoption/submissions; Howe, Renate; Swain, Shurlee, All God's Children: a centenary history of the Methodist Homes for Children and the Orana Peace Memorial Homes, Acorn Press, Kambah, ACT, 1989. p.72.; Russell, E.W., 'Barnett, Frederick Oswald (1883 - 1972)', in Australian Dictionary of Biography Online Edition, Australian National University, 2006, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/barnett-frederick-oswald-5138.

Prepared by: Cate O'Neill