Turana was a government-run reception centre established in 1955 in Royal Park, Parkville. It was formerly known as the Royal Park Depot. Turana was the sole reception centre for children committed to State 'care' until 1961 when Allambie became the main government reception centre. From 1961, the site housed the Turana Remand Centre and the Turana Youth Training Centre. (Baltara reception Centre was located on the same site from 1968 to 1992.) In 1993, the Melbourne Youth Justice Centre opened on the site of Turana.
The change of name from Royal Park Depot to 'Turana' occurred in 1955, an initiative of the new Chief Secretary, Mr Rylah. The Department's annual report for that year stated: 'The Chief Secretary, soon after taking office, recognized the oddity of this coldly official title [Children's Welfare Department's Receiving Depots for Girls and Boys] of an establishment where in fact there was extremely warm and loving care of children.' They chose Turana (said to be an Aboriginal word meaning 'rainbow') as the new name, to provide a 'bright and stimulating title' for the institution.
In the annual report for 1955, the Secretary reported that overcrowding was a serious problem at Turana. It was particularly difficult to place babies and school children, family groups, 'problem' school-age boys, as well as children with health problems and physical or intellectual disabilities. (Since 1953, 'problem' teenage girls could be sent to Winlaton in Nunawading.) The Secretary also stated that the cottage groups at Turana (first established in 1952) were continuing 'in the happiest fashion'.
From 1955 until 1961, Poplar House (originally built to house 'problem girls' at Turana), was the Turana Juvenile School for male offenders.
Serious overcrowding continued throughout the late 1950s. At this time, the government also established a Boys' Hostel at Sunshine and the Hillside Boys' Home. Hillside was established to cater particularly for 'Roman Catholic boys accumulated at Turana with no available alternative placements for them'.
During the 1960s, Turana accommodated up to 64 male wards of state, aged between 10 and 14. Four new sections were added to Turana from the late 1960s to early 1970s, each accommodating around 25 boys or young men. They were: Warrina, Akora, Kinta (a medium-term 'open' section that accommodated wards unable to be placed in children's Homes) and Mawarra (a short-term treatment section for wards aiming to return home or to placement).
Turana also had the Billabong reception centre, and the Parkside classification centre. Warrawong was constructed as a security unit, but was initially used as a short-term placement unit for children awaiting transfer elsewhere.
From the 1960s, the government continued to establish state-run reception centres, youth training centres and children's homes in metropolitan and regional Victoria. Baltara Reception Centre was established in 1968 on the same site as Parkside classification centre.
These new departmental institutions were established partly an effort to ease the overcrowding at Turana, as well as to provide institutions appropriate to the varying circumstances and needs of children and young people coming into care.
In the 1980s, the Victorian government implemented policies to decentralise 'care' from large institutions like Turana, and replace them with community-based alternatives. From about 1985, Turana (along with Winlaton and Baltara) continued to operate, but only as a youth training centre to provide appropriate programs for young people sentenced to detention.
The numbers at Turana fell from 167 in 1981 to 50 in 1992. The total number of under-17s remanded or detained in youth training centres fell from 266 in 1981 to 40 in 1992.
In 1993, the Melbourne Youth Justice Centre opened on the site.
Sources used to compile this entry: Children's Welfare Department and Reformatory Schools. Report of the Secretary and Inspector., Government Printer, Melbourne, 1924 - 1954. 1955, 1957, 1958, 1960.; 'Turana (1955-93)', in Finding Records, Department of Health and Human Services, State of Victoria, https://www.findingrecords.dhhs.vic.gov.au/collectionresultspage/Turana. See the 'List of records held by the department' section for information about records relating to Turana..
Prepared by: Cate O'Neill
Created: 29 July 2010, Last modified: 28 February 2018