The Victorian Neglected Children's Aid Society came into being in late 1894. Its formation was a result of Selina Sutherland's withdrawal from the Presbyterian Society for Destitute and Neglected Children on 16 November 1894, following a disagreement with the Presbyterian Church. The Society was a non-denominational 'child rescue' organisation, dealing with hundreds of cases every year. The Society opened a children's Home in Parkville in around 1902. It also had a receiving home, located at 68 La Trobe Street Melbourne. In 1920, the Victorian Neglected Children's Aid Society changed its name, and became known as the Victorian Children's Aid Society.
The Victorian Neglected Children's Aid Society came into being in December, 1894.
In 1893, the Presbyterian Society for Destitute and Neglected Children had been established, with prominent child rescuer Selina Sutherland serving as its Agent.
However, there was a very public disagreement in 1894 between Sutherland and the Presbyterian Church, when the General Assembly dictated that the Society would only receive children under legal guardianship. Sutherland objected to this practice, preferring a system where 'voluntary' placements were possible for families experiencing hardship. Parents whose circumstances improved found it extremely difficult to reclaim their children once they had come under the legal guardianship of an agency.
Sutherland also objected to the directive that the Society give preference to Presbyterian children and board them out only in Presbyterian foster homes.
On 16 November 1894, Sutherland (and the ladies' committee) resigned from the Presbyterian Society. At a public meeting on 7 December, it was resolved to form the Victorian Neglected Children's Aid Society, as a non-denominational child rescue organisation.
The agency's work grew rapidly, mainly due to a high demand for charitable support during the years of the 1890s Depression. The Victorian Neglected Children's Aid Society number of cases peaked in 1897, with 299 children 'rescued' that year.
The Society published the quarterly journal, From dark to dawn.
Selina Sutherland served as its Agent and Superintendent for many years. She was joined in her work by Sister Ellen Sanderson, a former nurse at Melbourne Hospital, who was the matron at the Victorian Neglected Children's Aid Society in Latrobe Street. Sutherland was proud to describe Sanderson as a 'properly qualified nurse with great experience' (although Sutherland has been described as 'New Zealand's Florence Nightingale', she in fact had no formal medical training).
The Victorian Neglected Children's Aid Society took in children, the majority of whom required temporary assistance and were the children of the 'deserving poor', and placed them with families in the country, who cared for them and educated them.
Initially, its work was based in La Trobe Street, Melbourne. In 1901, the Society established Ayr Cottage (also known as the Victorian Children's Aid Society Home, and from 1957, known as Swinburne House) in Leonard Street , Parkville, where Sister Sanderson was again the matron. It also ran a receiving home at 68 La Trobe Street Melbourne.
In 1908, after requests to resign voluntarily, the Committee of Management stood down Selina Sutherland as Agent and Superintendent of the Society. Sutherland had been suffering from increasingly debilitating health problems, including the effects of a shoulder injury she had suffered years earlier in New Zealand in a carriage accident.
When Selina Sutherland was stood down from the Committee of the Victorian Neglected Children's Aid Society in 1908, Sister Sanderson (along with Sister Mary Lockwood) immediately left the Parkville premises, according to Sutherland's biographer. Sister Sanderson was involved in the establishment of the new organisation, Sutherland Homes for Neglected Children.
Sources used to compile this entry: Presbyterian General Assembly - the Neglected Children's Society - Miss Sutherland and her committee resign, The Argus, 17 November 1894, 8 pp, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article8720692; Francis, Rosemary, 'Victorian Children's Aid Society (1893 - 1991)', in Australian Women's Register, National Foundation for Australian Women, 2003, http://www.womenaustralia.info/biogs/AWE0574b.htm; Groll, Nancy, The Sutherland Story: a century of caring for children, Berry Street Victoria, 2000; Hoban, Ruth, 'Sutherland, Sulina Murray MacDonald (1839 - 1909)', in Australian Dictionary of Biography Online Edition, Australian National University, 2006, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/sutherland-selina-murray-4674; Swain, Shurlee, 'The Victorian Charity Network in the 1890s', PhD thesis, Department of History, University of Melbourne, 1976.
Prepared by: Cate O'Neill
Created: 1 May 2009, Last modified: 1 February 2018