Academic journal article Journal of the Australian Catholic Historical Society

That Other State Aid Question: Assistance to Charitable Homes for Children

Academic journal article Journal of the Australian Catholic Historical Society

That Other State Aid Question: Assistance to Charitable Homes for Children

Article excerpt

Much has been written about the struggle for state aid to denominational schools, less about aid for children's homes. The subsidisation of these homes in New South Wales was affected by episodes of pragmatism, as well as the fear that subsidisation would inflame the sectarian passions generated by the question of state aid to schools. By contrast, in other States, governments used church homes as a major resource, entrusting the care of children to them and subsidising their costs. At first, in New South Wales, assistance to charitable children's homes was extensive until affected by the 'aid to denominational schools' issue in the 1880s, when it was curtailed. In the period from then until the 1960s, some assistance was offered, to help the homes during times of financial hardship; for example, during depressions, drought and the First World War. All aid ceased in 1922, when sectarianism was at its height in the political arena. Moderate subsidisation reappeared in 1961, but it was not until the 1980s, that an equitable system of providing aid to these homes was put in place.

Early Government provision

The first children's home was set up by Governor King on Norfolk Island in 1795, and in 1801, he arranged for another to be established in Sydney. (1) This home was operated by charitable endeavour, with substantial government subsidy. At this time, much of the population was either convict or the children of convicts, so there was not the capacity to operate charitable works without help from the government. (2) Catholic children were admitted to the Protestant Orphan Home and, at the direction of the government, brought up as Protestants. (3) In 1836, Catholics petitioned Sir Richard Bourke for an orphanage, and he agreed, providing a subsidy of 600 [founds sterling]. (4) As a result, Waverley House was established. (5) It soon became too small, and in 1844 was moved to a new building at Parramatta. (6) This home was operated by a committee appointed by the Governor, but from 1859 Sisters of Charity lived on site and ran it. (7) Government assistance included both capital and staff salaries, as was the case with the Protestant Orphanage and the Randwick Asylum. (8)

Care thus took the form of large institutions. This simply followed the British model, described by Brian Dickey as 'a public society, corporately responsible, but subsidised by government in running and capital costs in exchange for access to resources', that is, government officials could nominate children for admission. (9) The typical government subsidy was one pound for every pound raised by the charity. (10) Early governors accepted that the administration of institutions, asylums and poor relief was 'best left in the hands of clergy, philanthropists and prominent citizens'. (11)

In the 1850s, however, changes began to be made to the treatment of children in Britain. In 1833, there were ten thousand children under the age of sixteen in prison in the United Kingdom. (12) Industrial and reformatory schools were established in Britain by legislation in the 1850s. (13) Industrial schools, as proposed by Mary Carpenter, were for the 'perishing class', children from deprived backgrounds, considered likely to become criminals. The 'dangerous' class, juvenile criminals, were to be detained in reformatory schools. Carpenter was firmly against State operation, preferring 'enlightened Christian benevolence, sanctioned and supported by government inspection and aid'. (14)

In New South Wales, as in England, child criminals were at first sent to adult gaols, although from about 1820, they had separate accommodation at Carter's Barracks. (15) Those who had not actually committed crimes, but were neglected, vagrant or destitute, went to homes for dependent children, such as the orphanages. Many delinquent children were sent to these homes for dependent children. (16)

From as early as 1825, proposals for an Industrial School for boys on various sites had been made. …

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