Directory identifies the many state-subsidised residential child care
facilities that have operated in Western Australia during the twentieth century and into the next
millennium. Beginning as large,
campus-based institutions, these residential facilities have changed character
throughout these times, moving gradually from the institutional to more
intimate, family-like styles of care.
The History of Community Services Industry in
Western Australia, charts the provenance of the Department’s
role in the residential care of children:
The Industrial Schools Act of 1874
set up the basis for institutional care of children in Western Australia.
The Act enabled the Government to give a certificate of approval to the
Director of Schools for the care and education of orphaned, needy or delinquent
children. Four orphanages were
established by the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches. They were:
Protestant Orphanage for Boys;
Perth Protestant Orphanage for Girls;
St [Vincent]’s Roman Catholic
Orphanage for Boys at Subiaco;
Perth Roman Catholic Orphanage for Girls.
A Government Receiving Depot for destitute
children was set up in 1894. Over time
it evolved into the Mt Lawley Receiving Home (1921), the Mt Lawley Reception
Home and finally the Walcott Centre.
These institutions were meant to train the
inmates “to habits of industry imparting them an education of a plain and
useful character; and endeavouring to bring them under the influences of
religious principles…” (Superintendent
of Poor Houses and Charitable Institutions, Annual Report 1889). Boys older than 12 were incarcerated along
with Aboriginal offenders at Rottnest for periods between two to seven years
from 1882 to 1891.
In 1897, Br A. Treacey agreed to come to Western Australia to take charge of St [Vincent]’s. Land on the Canning River was bought in 1900 and the new site of Clontarf formally established in
James Longmore, the Superintendent of Poor
Houses and Charitable Institutions commented in 1897 on the desirability of
fostering children rather than placing them in institutional care. By this time, the practice of “baby farming”
– where single mothers left their children in the care of married women and
paid a small sum or otherwise contributed towards the child’s maintenance – was
relatively common. There was very little
regulation of this early “child care industry” [which resulted in notorious
cases of neglect, including that involving Alice Mitchell who sold the tins of
baby food and other provisions provided by the children’s mothers to local
grocers. Thirty eight children, possibly
more, died while in her ‘care’ Charged
with murder, Alice Mitchell was convicted of manslaughter but the practices for
which she was punished did not go unremarked in the young State]. The 1896 Adoption of Children Act required
prospective parents to prove to the judge of the Supreme Court that she or he
was a fit and proper person and the 1898 Health Act required that people
looking after children younger than two years of age be registered….
Considerable concerns about the treatment of
children in paid care gained public prominence in the early 1900s. The Children’s Protection Society, set up in
1906, was arguably Western Australia’s first organised non-government lobby group. The society employed a full-time inspector –
a trained nurse who visited and counselled foster parents….[As a result of the
scandal caused by the Alice Mitchell baby farming case], the Children’s
Protection Society expanded its activities to include placing children with
foster parents and lobbied hard but unsuccessfully for the establishment of a
lay board to oversee children’s services.
The 1907 State Children’s Bill established the
State Children’s Department [precursor of the Child Welfare Department] and
insisted that existing institutions providing care for children be inspected
and regulated. It also set up a register
of foster parents, making private arrangements illegal. A Children’s Court was set up to deal with
offenders younger than 18….
The number of non-government organisations in
the children’s residential services sector remained small. The Home for Waifs and Strays [Parkerville
Children’s Home]…and Clontarf were set up during this time. . (The History of Community Services Industry in Western Australia,
Undated and Unauthored Report, probably dating from around 1994 and authored
from within or on behalf of the Department for Community Development.).
Throughout most of the years covered by this Directory,
facilities were not classified according to their character in the Department’s
Annual Reports. However, in the Annual
Report of June 1973, the Department for Community Welfare classified its own
institutions into three categories of care:
Temporary Care and Assessment Institutions (Bridgewater Child Care and
Assessment Centre, Mt Lawley Reception Home, Longmore Remand and Assessment
Centre); Treatment Institutions (McCall Centre, Hillston, Riverbank, Nyandi);
and Hostels, which were further categorised into Treatment and Training Hostels
(Stuart House, Watson Lodge and Tudor Lodge) and Education and Employment
Hostels (originally established by the Native Welfare Department and scattered
throughout metropolitan and country WA).
By 1983, the Annual Report indicated that two main types
of residential out of home care were evident in the State: those institutions “providing care,
accommodation, support or treatment to children with welfare needs and those
responsible for the secure detention and training of serious juvenile offenders.”
At that stage, the
Department also had responsibility for children in Juvenile Justice
Using these sources and
information from the Annual Reports of the Department, the following outlines the style of
care provided in each type of residential facility, and gives some indication
how that style was modified over time.