St Joseph's Preventorium was established in Kellerberrin in 1929 by the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart. It was intended as a Home for sick and undernourished children aged 5-12 years, particularly those with asthma. Admissions also included children who were Wards of the state, child migrants, private admissions and children who boarded there while going to school in Kellerberrin. St Joseph's Preventorium closed in 1976.
St Joseph's Preventorium was opened by the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart in Kellerberrin on 17 November 1929, as a result of donations from a childless couple in the town, Mr and Mrs Patterson. The Pattersons equipped and maintained the Preventorium for many years.
In 1953, Sister Michael Xavier, Provincial, included information about the Preventorium in her report to the Congregation Chapter. Improved medical treatment of children, particularly asthma, meant that fewer children were sent to the Preventorium for health-related reasons. The Sisters therefore agreed to take some children from the Catholic Child Migration Scheme.
There are no admission registers for the early years of the Scheme (1947-1956), but there is evidence that around 7 boys who were unaccompanied child migrants were sent to the Preventorium under the Catholic Immigration Scheme. The girls who were expected to be admitted to the Preventorium may have been sent elsewhere:
In a letter written probably in the mid-50s, the Sisters at Kellerberrin asked the Brothers at the Catholic Agricultural College to take the last six English boys at the Preventorium. One of the Brothers also remembers taking the boys to a football match in 1958 and they called in to see Srs Veronica and Lauriana (who were at the Preventorium together 1953-57) at New Norcia on the way home and were treated with great hospitality. A printout of 'Register of Children sent to Australia via CCWC (Catholic Child Welfare Council) 1938-1963 (To Srs St Joseph Sacred Heart)' lists 7 girls and 7 boys, some sailing on 21/08/1952, the rest 28/01/1953. It would seem from this that these were the only migrants the Sisters of St Joseph received. In her Footsteps, footnote, p.83
Notably, the CCWC Register was developed in the United Kingdom, using information held by authorities there. It is likely, but not certain, that not all children destined for St Joseph's Preventorium were actually sent there. Signposts, 2004, could not find evidence of any migrant girls being sent to St Joseph's Preventorium.
In 1968, after the Meckering earthquake caused structural problems in the convent at Kellerberrin, the Sisters, along with boarders from the convent, moved into the Preventorium.
By 1973, the Preventorium was classed as a 'boarding school' rather than as a Home for sick or needy children. However, children continued to be sent to the Preventorium from Princess Margaret Hospital until 1975.
In 1976, St Joseph's Preventorium for Asthmatics (as it was then called) closed. The final children to stay there were boarding students.
Sources used to compile this entry: Cresp, Mary, In her Footsteps, Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, South Perth, 2012. pp.32, 83, 119, 161, 173.; Information Services, Department for Community Development, Signposts: A Guide for Children and Young People in Care in WA from 1920, Government of Western Australia, 2004, https://signposts.communities.wa.gov.au//pdf/pdf.aspx; State Records Office Western Australia, 'Methodist Home: St Vincent's Foundling Home and Parkerville Home and others: List of foster children and removals, etc.' Series 3172 Cons 1031 Item 1922/1457 v1.
Prepared by: Debra Rosser
Created: 15 March 2011, Last modified: 8 February 2019