St Luke's Toddlers' Home in Bendigo was run by the Mission of St James and St John. When it opened in 1932, the Toddlers' Home was for children from 18 months to 5 years of age. Over time, St Luke's cared for older children, and by the mid 1970s included adolescents. During its operation, St Luke's housed a total of around 1500 children. It closed in 1979, and the new organisation, St Luke's Family Care, was established.
St Luke's Toddlers' Home in Bendigo was run by the Mission of St James and St John. When it opened in 1932, the Toddlers' Home was for children from 18 months to five years of age. Formerly, the Mission had operated a Toddlers' Home at Ferntree Gully called Ramoth.
St Luke's Toddlers' Home was situated in Langley Hall in the area of White Hills, which was built in 1903 for the then Anglican Bishop of Bendigo. The Home could accommodate up to fifty boys and girls.
In 1932 several Leagues of Mission Helpers (ladies' auxiliaries) were established in the Bendigo district, to raise funds for and support the operations of the Toddlers' Home. The first 'League of Toddlers' Friends' was formed in September 1932 at a meeting at the home of Mrs Arthur Moore.
In the late 1930s, the toddlers at St Luke's were divided into three groups, depending on their age: 'Gum Nuts', 'Brownies' and 'Pixies'. Gum Nuts were the littlest children, aged up to two and a half, and they spent their days playing and resting, before bath and bed. Once a child became a Brownie, they could attend a pre-kindergarten program. Pixies, aged four and upwards, attended kindergarten proper, which was an important function of St Luke's.
Even in the 1950s, Inspectors from the Children's Welfare Department described the buildings as 'large' and 'old-fashioned'.
Over its history, the ages of children admitted to St Luke's changed. As well as 'toddlers', St Luke's cared for older children, with adolescents being residents at the Home when plans were being developed for its closure in the mid 1970s.
The Diocese of Bendigo was very active in the affairs of the Toddlers' Home. Its staff and facilities were praised highly by benefactors from the district who were encouraged to visit the Home. A typical comment from visitors was that St Luke's was 'just like a nice family home', according to Cole, in his 1969 history of the Mission. Cole acknowledges however, that despite the dedication of staff at St Luke's, there was always one thing lacking for its children - 'living a life in an ordinary home with the natural love of father and mother'.
In 1947, the Mission reported that St Luke's was caring for 60 children and spoke in glowing terms about the 'competent and sympathetic staff, healthy climate and beautiful surroundings' at the Home.
In 1953, Sister E.I. Childe became Matron at St Luke's, having formerly been the Matron at Winlaton.
In 1962, St Luke's 30 year anniversary, it was reported that the Home had provided care to over 1,100 children.
In 1968, Miss Shirley Simmons became Matron at St Luke's, having formerly been a staff member at St Agnes' in Glenroy and the Mission's Blackburn South Cottages. By this time, St Luke's employed social workers who were responsible for admissions, discharges and contact with parents. According to Cole, fostering and maintaining links with a child's family was of the utmost importance, whether or not the family could be reunited.
St Luke's Toddlers' Home closed in the 1979 as part of the move towards family-based care, provided by the organisation, St Luke's Family Care, established in 1979. Between 1932 and 1979, some 1500 children had been residents at the Toddlers' Home.
In 1997 the Mission of St James and St John became part of Anglicare Victoria. At this time, records of the Mission were transferred to Anglicare Victoria. These included records of the various orphanages, homes and other residences run by the Mission. The custodian of these records is Anglicare Victoria.
Sources used to compile this entry: Cole, Dr Keith, Commissioned To Care: The Golden Jubilee History of The Mission of St. James and St. John 1919-1969, first edn, The Ruskin Press Pty Ltd, North Melbourne, Australia, 1969; Holton, John, Doorways: celebrating 25 years of St Luke's, St Luke's Innovative Resources, Bendigo, 2004; James Jenkinson Consulting, Guide to out-of-home care services 1940-2000 - Volume One: Agency Descriptions, Department of Human Services, Unpublished, November 2001, https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/sites/default/files/DHS.3004.011.0367.pdf.
Prepared by: Cate O'Neill
Created: 17 February 2009, Last modified: 25 October 2018