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Victoria - Organisation

Melbourne Orphan Asylum (1853 - 1926)

  • Melbourne Orphanage, Brighton, Vic.

    Melbourne Orphanage, Brighton, Vic., c. 1920 - c. 1930
    Details

From
1853
To
1926
Categories
Home, Non-denominational and Orphanage
Alternative Names
  • Melbourne Orphanage
  • Melbourne Protestant Orphanage
  • Protestant Orphan Asylum

The Melbourne Orphan Asylum in South Melbourne [Emerald Hill] was established in 1853. It provided residential care for orphaned children up to the age of 14. In 1878, the orphanage moved from South Melbourne to Brighton. In 1926, its name was changed to the Melbourne Orphanage.

Details

The Melbourne Orphan Asylum was established in 1853 to provide residential care for orphans. It evolved out of some of the first organisations established in Melbourne to care for vulnerable members of society, including the Dorcas Society, the St James' Visiting Society and the St James' Orphan Asylum and Visiting Society in 1851.

The Dorcas Society was the first women's organisation to be established in Melbourne in 1845 on the initiative of Mrs George Cooper and Mrs William Knight and the St James' Visiting Society.

The Dorcas Society aimed to assist the most vulnerable members of society by providing emergency support for families and almost unintentionally launched into residential care work with children. The St James' Visiting Society became the St James' Orphan Asylum and Visiting Society in 1851, and in 1853 the Melbourne Orphan Asylum.

In 1854 the Orphan Asylum's building in the city was deemed unsuitable and the children were moved onto government land in Kew, where they lived in tents under the supervision of Mrs Jas Simpson. During this period, the new institution was being built on 10 acres of land at South Melbourne [Emerald Hill], granted to the Orphan Asylum by the Victorian government.

The Melbourne Orphan Asylum occupied this first site in Emerald Hill from March 1856.

The Melbourne Orphan Asylum received children from all parts of Victoria (except Geelong and Ballarat, towns with their own orphan asylums). Children were maintained at the Orphan Asylum until they turned 14, when they were provided with 'situations' until the age of 17. Children remained under the guardianship of the Orphan Asylum's committee during their time of service.

In 1866, the Annual Report described recent building work carried out: a new wing with three dormitories to house 100 children, an infant school-room, and two rooms for superintendent and matron. The Asylum had added two wards to its hospital.

The Annual Report stated that the institution had implemented a system of industrial education for its children, with training in carpentry, shoemaking, tailoring and baking. Older girls received instruction in sewing, laundry, nursery, kitchen and general house work. Some children were in training as pupil-teachers.

In late 1866, five children died as a result of a measles epidemic in the Orphan Asylum. Seven children died overall that year.

According to the Annual Report, the average number of children in the Orphan Asylum in 1866 was 308.

The Rules of the Melbourne Orphan Asylum were published in the 1866 Annual Report. Among them were the stipulation that members of the public could visit the Asylum on Tuesdays and Thursdays between two and four o'clock in the afternoon. Relatives of connections of a child were only allowed to visit once every four weeks.

Edwin Exon was Secretary and Superintendent of the Melbourne Orphan Asylum from 1859 to 1903. Exon's wife Frances was Matron at the Melbourne Orphan Asylum for 34 years. She died in 1896, aged 70. Frances Exon's grave at the St Kilda Cemetery describes how the Exons lost their own two children to illness not long after commencing work at the Asylum:

Her own children were taken from her soon after she became Matron of the orphanage and God made her for many years truly a mother to very many of the orphan children of the colony. The memory of her name and of her loving work at the orphanage will live long in the history of the institution.

In 1877, the local council provided the Asylum with funds to build a new orphanage at Brighton, in exchange for the buildings and land in South Melbourne. The South Melbourne Town Hall was subsequently built on the site of the first Orphan Asylum.

The children moved to the new orphanage in the seaside suburb of Brighton in 1878. By 1883 the Melbourne Orphan Asylum's address was 'Windermere', Butler St, Middle Brighton.

This institution was divided into five separate 'cottages' with 30 children in each under the primary care of a house mother. The complex also included an administrative building, workshops and a detached hospital. A school was also built on site for the orphanage children. The school was also open to local children. The Brighton Beach Primary School remains today.

The new orphanage complex at Brighton took only half the population of the previous institution because from 1876, the Asylum began to give financial assistance to families so that they could 'board out' their own children.

In 1891, the superintendent Edwin Exon described the system whereby 'destitute widows' were paid a weekly sum towards the maintenance of their children. Only mothers of good character and capable to exercising proper control over their children were eligible for the scheme, which cost less than boarding out children in the homes of strangers.

Exon reported that mothers being assisted to keep their children at home were subject to rigorous supervision by the ladies' committees, a system of 'constant visitation, reporting and reviewing'. The arrangement of paying maintenance only lasted for a year maximum. A fresh application had to be made each year and the mother had to satisfy the ladies' committee that support from the Orphan Asylum was still justified.

Children were also boarded out from the Orphan Asylum to foster parents. In a report from 1891, the Secretary of the Department stated that three-quarters of the orphanage's children were being boarded out in foster homes. Supervision of the children in foster homes was overseen by 30 local Ladies' Boarding-out Committees.

The system continued with modifications for some 80 years, including a name change to the Melbourne Orphanage in 1926.

Location

1856 - 1878
Location - The Melbourne Orphan Asylum was located at Emerald Hill (South Melbourne). Location: South Melbourne
1878 - 1883
Location - The Melbourne Orphan Asylum relocated to Brighton North. Location: Brighton North
1883 - 1926
Location - The Melbourne Orphan Asylum relocated to 'Windemere', Butler Street, Middle Brighton. Location: Brighton

Timeline

 c. 1845 - 1853 St James' Orphan Asylum and Visiting Society
       1853 - 1926 Melbourne Orphan Asylum
             1926 - 1965 Melbourne Orphanage
                   1965 - 1987 Melbourne Family Care Organisation
                         1987 - 1993 Family Action
                               c. 1987 - Windermere Child and Family Services
                               1993 - OzChild

Related Archival Items

Related Glossary Terms

  • Orphanage

    Melbourne Orphan Asylum was the first orphanage in Melbourne.

Related Legislation

  • Children's Maintenance Act 1919 (1919 - 1929)

    The Melbourne Orphan Asylum was one institution that had been making maintenance payments to some mothers so that they could support their children, before the passage of the Children's Maintenance Act regularised this practice.

Publications

Books

  • Butler, J.C., The first hundred years: being a brief history of the Melbourne Orphanage from 1851-1951, The Melbourne Orphanage, 1951. Details

Book Sections

  • Exon, E., 'Three complementary methods of care for dependant children', in Spencer, Anna Garlin and Charles Wesley Birtell (eds), The care of dependent, neglected and wayward children. Being a report of the Second Section of the International Congress of Charities, Corrections and Philanthropy, Chicago, June 1893., The Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore, 1894. Details

Newspaper Articles

  • Duff, G.B., 'Social work of the Church: child rescue agencies of Melbourne', The Spectator, 23 June 1899. Details

Reports

  • Guillaume, George; Connor, Edward C., The Development and Working of the Reformatory and Preventive Systems in the Colony of Victoria, Australia, 1864-1890, Government Printer, Melbourne, 1891. Also available at http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/243591. Details

Online Resources

Photos

Melbourne Orphanage, Brighton
Title
Melbourne Orphanage, Brighton
Type
Image
Source
OzChild

Details

Melbourne Orphan Asylum, Fifteenth Annual Report
Title
Melbourne Orphan Asylum, Fifteenth Annual Report
Type
Document
Date
1866
Source
State Library of Victoria

Details

Picnic to the Children of the Emerald Hill Orphanage
Title
Picnic to the Children of the Emerald Hill Orphanage
Type
Image
Date
28 February 1870
Creator
Samuel Calvert
Source
State Library of Victoria

Details

The Orphanage, Brighton
Title
The Orphanage, Brighton
Type
Image
Date
c. 1880
Creator
Charles Nettleton

Details

The Melbourne Orphanage
Title
The Melbourne Orphanage
Type
Image
Date
1 November 1895
Source
State Library of Victoria

Details

The Melbourne Orphanage
Title
The Melbourne Orphanage
Type
Image
Date
1 November 1895
Source
State Library of Victoria

Details

The Melbourne Orphanage
Title
The Melbourne Orphanage
Type
Image
Date
1 November 1895
Source
State Library of Victoria

Details

Melbourne Orphan Asylum
Title
Melbourne Orphan Asylum
Type
Document
Date
1897
Source
State Library of Victoria

Details

Social work of the church: child rescue agencies of Melbourne
Title
Social work of the church: child rescue agencies of Melbourne
Type
Document
Date
23 June 1899

Details

Melbourne Orphanage, Brighton, Vic.
Title
Melbourne Orphanage, Brighton, Vic.
Type
Image
Date
c. 1920 - c. 1930

Details

Sources used to compile this entry: 'Melbourne Orphan Asylum (Vic.) (1853 -)', in Australian Women's Register, Rosemary Francis, National Foundation for Australian Women, 22 October 2003, http://www.womenaustralia.info/biogs/AWE0611b.htm; Exon, E., 'Three complementary methods of care for dependant children', in Spencer, Anna Garlin and Charles Wesley Birtell (eds), The care of dependent, neglected and wayward children. Being a report of the Second Section of the International Congress of Charities, Corrections and Philanthropy, Chicago, June 1893., The Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore, 1894; Guillaume, George; Connor, Edward C., The Development and Working of the Reformatory and Preventive Systems in the Colony of Victoria, Australia, 1864-1890, Government Printer, Melbourne, 1891. Also available at http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/243591; 'OzChild's History', in OzChild website, OzChild, http://www.ozchild.org.au/about-us/our-history-protecting-childrens-rights/.

Prepared by: Cate O'Neill