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Victoria - Organisation

The 'Deborah' (1864 - 1873?)

  • The old Hobson's Bay convict hulks

    The old Hobson's Bay convict hulks, April 8, 1885

December 1864
Government-run, Home and Reformatory

The Deborah, was a hulk (ship) anchored in Hobsons Bay. In 1864 it became the first Reformatory for Boys from the Industrial schools. By 1865, it accommodated 108 boys sentenced under the Neglected and Criminal Children's Act of 1864.


The Deborah was one of four ships used as industrial schools in Hobsons Bay, Victoria: the Sir Harry Smith, the Nelson, the Deborah and the Success, eventually housed approximately 500 boys.

An article published in July 1864 in The Argus referred to the success attained in England with 'wild boys', by sending them to a government training ship on the Mersey. The transformation of the Deborah, a former convict hulk in Hobsons Bay, into a juvenile reformatory ship was an experiment to 'reclaim' the colony's 'juvenile criminals', and 'to remove them from the scene of their temptation'. The paper described these 'lads' as a 'class, unfortunately, numerous, active, and precocious' (22 July 1864, p.7).

The Deborah, attempted to 'address another problem, that of the tougher element among the boys'. It was used as a means of relieving the overcrowding and unsanitary conditions of existing buildings. In December 1864 it held 35 boys. During 1865 its numbers increased to 108.

A newspaper article described a day in the life of the boys on The Deborah in 1864:

The boys rise early in the morning, stow away their hammocks, and wash down the decks. This over, they go down to a breakfast of hominy; and afterwards they are inspected, to ascertain whether they have washed and cleaned themselves properly for the day. They are then handed over to the naval instructor, who keeps them employed during the morning holystoning the decks,
polishing brasswork, and in the general cleaning operations sailors are put to. At twelve o'clock they are mustered for dinner -- soup, the soup-meat, potatoes, and bread -- and the meal over, they are allowed half-an-hour's play-time. At one o'clock they go to school, where they remain until half-past three. They can all read, more or less, it may be remarked, and many of them write very fair hands. School over, another half-hour's play is given, and then comes supper, When the meal has been partaken of hymns are sung, and word is
passed to trice-up hammocks. The next half hour or so the lads are allowed to converse freely; but after the ringing of the sleep bell silence is strictly enjoined.


1864 - 1873?
Location - The Deborah was anchored in Hobsons Bay. Location: Hobsons Bay



  • Brogden, Joan, Neglected or criminal? The Sunbury Industrial School - Sunbury and beyond, vol. 2, The Author, 1997. Details
  • Jaggs, Donella, Neglected and criminal: foundations of child welfare legislation in Victoria, Centre for Youth and Community Studies, Phillip Institute of Technology, Melbourne, 1986. Details


  • 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 Details

Online Resources


The old Hobson's Bay convict hulks
The old Hobson's Bay convict hulks
April 8, 1885


Sources used to compile this entry: Juvenile Reformatory and Training Ship, The Argus, 22 July 1864, 7 pp,; Brogden, Joan, Neglected or criminal? The Sunbury Industrial School - Sunbury and beyond, vol. 2, The Author, 1997.

Prepared by: Natasha Story and Rosemary Francis