Models Of Out Of Home Placement

This Historical 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[1], 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:

·          Swan Protestant Orphanage for Boys;

·          Perth Protestant Orphanage for Girls;

·          St [Vincent]’s[2] Roman Catholic Orphanage for Boys at Subiaco;

·          Perth Roman Catholic Orphanage for Girls.[3]

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[4].  Land on the Canning River was bought in 1900 and the new site of Clontarf formally established in 1901.

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.”

In its 1989 Annual Report, the Department outlined the substitute care services available in Western Australia:

“The range of care categories includes Respite, Emergency, Short-term, Long-term and Permanent, incorporating adoption and guardianship.  The Department provides Substitute Care services directly to the community via Community Support Hostels, Country Hostels, Metropolitan Student Hostels, Group Homes and Departmental Foster Care.

In some situations the Department may provide a subsidy for privately arranged foster placements.  Additionally the non-government sector is funded to provide Residential Care and Foster Care programmes.”

At that stage, the Department also had responsibility for children in Juvenile Justice institutions.

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.

[1] “The History of Community Services Industry in Western Australia, which appears to be part of a larger document, is an undated and unauthored report provided by the Department to assist in the preparation of this Historical Directory.  From information contained within the report, it appears to have been written around 1994.

[2] Original text corrected by MercyCare on 25/5/2004 during review of Signposts draft report.

[3] Information from MercyCare obtained during the review of the draft of Signposts indicates that the Perth Roman Catholic Orphanage for Girls was in Victoria Square and was the original incarnation of St Joseph’s Orphanage for Girls, whose history is outlined later in this document.

[4] Original text corrected by MercyCare on 25/5/2004 during review of Signposts draft report.

Traditional Institutions
Campus Homes
Temporary Care and Assessment Institutions
Treatment Institutions and Secure Detention
Group Homes
Private Group Homes
“Other” Homes for Children
National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA) Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP)
Indigenous Child Placement in the Regions