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Western Australia - Organisation

Catherine McAuley Centre (1971 - 1991)

Catholic, Children's Home, Cottage Care, Foster Care and Home
Alternative Names
  • Catherine McAuley (also known as)

The Catherine McAuley Centre was run by the Sisters of Mercy from 1971 on the site of the former St Joseph's Girls' Orphanage and St Vincent's Foundling Home in Subiaco. It was named after the founder of the Sisters of Mercy. Children who were wards and also those who were 'privately placed' lived there, or in one of the suburban cottages that were part of the Centre. By 1975, possibly earlier, boys and girls (both sexes up to 18 years) lived at the centre. The Centre offered short, medium and long-term placements and by 1990 had developed a fostercare program. It was replaced in 1991 by Mercy Community Services.


Government reports (Signposts 2004, pp.148, 152) state that Children's Homes run in Wembley by Sisters of Mercy became known as the Catherine McAuley Centre in 1969. However, the official history commissioned by the Sisters of Mercy (Pushong 2008, p.9) gives the starting date as 1971. This latter date is used in the Find & Connect web resource because it seems to introduce not only a new name, but a new way of providing the out of home 'care' that had previously been undertaken on the Wembley site at St Joseph's Girls' Orphanage and St Vincent's Foundling Home.

The Catherine McAuley Centre accommodated children aged 16 years and under. Existing histories conflict about when changes in the style of accommodation happened. Somewhere between 1971 and 1977, what Pushong (p.9) described as 'family-type units' in the old orphanage buildings were constructed, refurbishing the existing St Joseph's Girls' Orphanage. An undated history of the centre written by Shreeve and Westaway (p.11) reports that these early family units could accommodate 13 children and young people and that by 1974 nearly all the staff were social workers or cottage parents rather than Sisters of Mercy. Around this time, too, the on-site school was closed and children went out to local schools.

In 1977, new cottages were built on the Barrett Street premises. These were staffed by cottage parents and enabled siblings to be housed together (including boys). These houses have been described in internal and government reports as 'clustered group homes'.

The number of children living at the Catherine McAuley Centre from 1971 to 1984 was around 70 to 80 each year. Some children stayed for short periods, but others were there for many years.

By 1985, some teenagers were being accommodated in nearby suburban houses. In 1985(Signposts p.149), two of these 'satellite' houses were operating, with room for eight teenagers in each and another 9 surburban houses. Over the years, it seems from government reports that particular houses were opened and closed, possibly in relation to demand for places but also for funding reasons.

Government reports (Signposts p.154), show that some of the children placed at Catherine McAuley Centre in the late 1980s were facing difficult issues such as drug abuse, violence and sexual abuse. This seemed to present challenges both for the agency and for the children themselves.

By 1990, the Catherine McAuley Centre was also placing children and young people in foster care.

In 1991, the Catherine McAuley Centre was replaced by Mercy Community Services.


1971 - 1991
Address - The Catherine McAuley Centre was located at 18 Barrett Street, Wembley. Location: Wembley


 1868 - 1901 St Joseph's Catholic Orphanage for Girls
       1901 - 1971 St Joseph's Girls' Orphanage
       1914 - 1971 St Vincent's Foundling Home
             1971 - 1991 Catherine McAuley Centre
                   1997 - 2002 Mercy Community Services (Inc)
                         2002 - MercyCare

Related Organisations



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


Online Resources

Sources used to compile this entry: Information Services, Department for Community Development, 'pp.148-155, 634, Table 8: Young People at Catherine McAuley Centre, Certain Years between 1969 and 1991', Signposts: A Guide for Children and Young People in Care in WA from 1920, Government of Western Australia, 2004,; Pushong, Lyn, Heritage Trail: A journey through the history of MercyCare, MercyCare, 2008. p.8.; 'History of the Catherine McAuley Centre 1872-1977' (unpublished manuscript), by Derral Shreeve and Chris Westaway. Held in the Catholic Archdiocese of Perth Archives. State Records Office of Western Australia, Wards - Director's Approval to Transfer from one Institution to Another and Amend Training, Reference Code AU WA S1099- cons2607 A0191 V4 (p.77, 264, 470) - page numbers refer to PDF page number in digital file held by the Department of Communities (Child Protection and Family Support) in 2017.

Prepared by: Debra Rosser