Some people may find content on this website distressing. Read more
Western Australia - Organisation

St Vincent's Foundling Home (1914 - 1971)

  • St Vincent's Foundling Home

    St Vincent's Foundling Home, 1940? - 1971, courtesy of Mercy Heritage Centre, Buildings 1.11 Subiaco/Wembley. Sisters of Mercy Perth congregation 1846 - 2013.
    Details

From
1914
To
1971
Categories
Babies' Home, Catholic, Children's Home, Home, Orphanage and Receiving Agency

St Vincent's Foundling Home was run by the Sisters of Mercy from 1914 on the same site as the St Joseph's Girls' Orphanage in Subiaco. It housed infants and children up to six years old who were both wards and 'privately placed'. Once they turned six, girls were sent to St Joseph's Girls' Orphanage and boys to Clontarf or (from 1929) Castledare. St Margaret's Hostel was built as an extension of St Vincent's in 1918, and from 1947 the Home received child migrants from Britain and Malta. In 1971, St Vincent's Foundling Home became part of the Catherine McAuley Centre.

Details

St Vincent's Foundling Home was a home for children under the age of six and it has been reported that many children who were admitted were unwell. The early reports submitted to the government record the number of children who died each year. The 1917 annual report of what was then the State Children Department (p.10) shows that 10 children died from causes such as meningitis, bronchitis or pneumonia, whooping cough, and 'entiritis'. Later government reports Signposts 2004, pp.470-471) also document the number of infants who died in the Home. As conditions for infants improved generally, these deaths were not as numerous as in previous years but in some years (as in 1926) up to four children died.

It was likely that the early years of St Vincent's Founding Home were characterised by poverty, within the institution, not only among those children admitted. A letter of appreciation of the The Daily News Orphans' Christmas Cheer Fund in 1915 gives an insight into life at St Vincent's in the early days, showing that donations enabled the children to occasionally have extras that were not part of their daily experience:

As you desired, the money has been used for the purchase of toys for the little ones at the Foundling Home, and we are deeply grateful for your kindness in remembering them. Letter, 11 January 1916 published in The Daily News 2 December 1916, p.10

In evidence to the Select Committee of the Legislative Council on the State Children Act Amendment Bill in October 1918, the Catholic Archbishop of Perth said that there were 76 infants in the Foundling Home, and described them in emotional terms as 'nearly all illegitimate', and often 'weaklings, everything possible having been done to destroy them before birth.' He said the children were generally sent to them by the Children's Court but that sometimes 'a mother comes along and tells a piteous tale, asking us to take her child, for which most often she promises to pay'. In those cases, the Archbishop said the church tried to pursue the father through the Children's Court to pay maintenance. He reported that these fathers usually paid 'a little at the start, and then they forget' but that some fathers were 'most faithful in the discharge of their obligation'.

In 1918, St Margaret's Hostel for 'unmarried mothers and their babies' was built as an extension of St Vincent's and in 1934 (Signposts p.471) a 'large and airy nursery and infirmary, together with an up-to-date kindergarten school' were added.

St Vincent's was a large Home. Government reports (Signposts pp.471-472) show that by 1921 there were 54 children in the Home and until 1948 there were around 50-60 children living there.

From 1947, St Vincent's admitted children who had been sent as unaccompanied child migrants from Britain and Malta.

A government report in 1952 (Signposts p.473) shows that St Vincent's was a starting point for children who could spend their childhoods in allied Children's Homes: When the children become of school age the girls are transferred to St Joseph's Orphanage and the boys to Castledare Junior Orphanage'. St Joseph's Girls' Orphanage, which is referred to in this quote, was alongside St Vincent's on the same plot of land. Castledare, was across the river in a southern suburb of Perth. Brothers and sisters who had been in St Vincent's were therefore separated by the time they reached school age.

Extensive renovations were reported in 1954 and in 1957 the annual report of the Child Welfare Department showed there were 152 children at St Vincent's at the end of the 1956-1957 year. Ninety two of these children were 'private admissions' (children who had been placed by family or others) and the private children far outweighed the number of children who were child migrants, wards or 'native wards' throughout the 1960s.

In 1971, St Vincent's Foundling Home became part of the Catherine McAuley Centre.

Events

1914 - 1971
Location - St Vincent's Foundling Home located on the same site as St Joseph's Girls' Orphanage on Barrett Street, Subiaco. Location: Subiaco

Timeline

 1914 - 1971 St Vincent's Foundling Home
       1971 - 1991 Catherine McAuley Centre
             1997 - 2002 Mercy Community Services (Inc)
                   2002 - MercyCare

Related Events

Related Organisations

Publications

Books

  • Pushong, Lyn, Heritage Trail: A journey through the history of MercyCare, MercyCare, 2008. p.8. Details

Reports

  • Annual report of the State Children Department, State Children's Department, [Perth, W.A.], 1908-1927. 1917, p.10. Details

Online Resources

Photos

St Vincent's children 2
Title
St Vincent's children 2
Type
Image
Date
1914? - 1950s
Source
Mercy Heritage Centre, Ministry. Subiaco/Wembley. 1.9 Sisters of Mercy Perth Congregation 1846 - 2013

Details

Foundling Home 2
Title
Foundling Home 2
Type
Image
Date
1914? - 1950s
Source
Mercy Heritage Centre, Ministry Subiaco/Wembley 2.7 Sisters of Mercy Perth Congregation 1846 - 2013

Details

Report of the Select Committee of the Legislative Council on the State Children Act Amendment Bill
Title
Report of the Select Committee of the Legislative Council on the State Children Act Amendment Bill
Type
Document
Date
19 November 1918
Source
State Records Office Western Australia, Western Australia Votes and Proceedings 1918 Vol.2 Paper A2
Note
p.19

Details

Subiaco Dormitory 2
Title
Subiaco Dormitory 2
Type
Image
Date
1920? - 1960?
Source
Mercy Heritage Centre, Building/Ministry. B 1.00 Subiaco/Wembley . Sisters of Mercy Perth Congregation 1846 - 2013

Details

Happy and Carefree Natures Caught By the Cameraman In These Studies of Young Western Australians
Title
Happy and Carefree Natures Caught By the Cameraman In These Studies of Young Western Australians
Type
Image
Date
5 February 1939
Source
National Library of Australia

Details

St Vincent's Foundling Home
Title
St Vincent's Foundling Home
Type
Image
Date
1940? - 1971
Source
Mercy Heritage Centre, Buildings 1.11 Subiaco/Wembley. Sisters of Mercy Perth congregation 1846 - 2013

Details

Immigration [St Vincent's Foundling Home dormitory]
Title
Immigration [St Vincent's Foundling Home dormitory]
Type
Image
Date
1948
Source
Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, National Archives of Australia

Details

Immigration [St Vincent's Foundling Home dining room]
Title
Immigration [St Vincent's Foundling Home dining room]
Type
Image
Date
1948
Source
Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, National Archives of Australia

Details

CEMWA Response to Moss Questionnaire
Title
CEMWA Response to Moss Questionnaire
Type
Document
Date
1951
Source
National Archives of Australia

Details

Enquiry by Mr. John Moss. Points on which information is needed as to provision for the welfare of children emigrating from the United Kingdom to Australia
Title
Enquiry by Mr. John Moss. Points on which information is needed as to provision for the welfare of children emigrating from the United Kingdom to Australia
Type
Document
Date
10 May 1951
Source
National Archives of Australia

Details

St Vincent's Foundling Home, Subiaco [picture]
Title
St Vincent's Foundling Home, Subiaco [picture]
Type
Image
Date
3 December 1953
Source
State Library of Western Australia

Details

Sources used to compile this entry: Annual report of the State Children Department, State Children's Department, [Perth, W.A.], 1908-1927. 1917, p.10.; Information Services, Department for Community Development, 'pp.470-471, Table 44: Children at St Vincent's Foundling Home, Certain Years between 1920 and 1969', Signposts: A Guide for Children and Young People in Care in WA from 1920, Government of Western Australia, 2004, http://signposts.cpfs.wa.gov.au/pdf/pdf.aspx; Report of the Select Committee of the Legislative Council on the State Children Act Amendment Bill [Document], Date: 19 November 1918.

Prepared by: Debra Rosser