St Joseph's Home for Destitute Children, originally called the St Vincent de Paul Home for Destitute Children, was established by the South Melbourne St Vincent de Paul Conference (or branch) in mid 1888. The name was changed to St Joseph's Home for Destitute Children in February 1889.
Barnard and Twigg write that the opening of the home in South Melbourne was sparked by concerns that non-Catholic child rescuers were taking Catholic children away from their faith.
St Joseph's Home for Destitute Children was originally located in rented premises at 61 Nelson Street, South Melbourne. By December 1888 the Home had relocated to a larger rented house at 64 Montague Street, South Melbourne. By August 1889 the Home moved to yet another rented South Melbourne building, this time in Beaconsfield Parade.
On 15 April 1890, the government approved St Joseph's Home for Destitute Children as a place for receiving 'neglected' children under the Neglected Children's Act 1887. The president of the committee, Charles Grondona, was thus authorised to apprehend and act as guardian for 'neglected' children.
A passage from the Catholic newspaper the Advocate in 1890 clearly demonstrates the 'child rescue' philosophy underpinning the operation of the Home:
'One of the many good works … is the rescue of young children brought up in poverty and neglect amid evil surroundings, and providing them with a home until some situation can be found for them in the country or in some other place where they will be far away from their old haunts and separated from their old companions.'
The Home's committee sought to find adoptive homes for rescued children, however a number of children (with at least one living parent) went from St Joseph's into Catholic orphanages.
Throughout the whole period that it was under the management of the Society of St Vincent de Paul, the Home had suffered from financial problems. As a solution, Archbishop Carr invited the Sisters of St Joseph to take over the Home.
In April 1890, the committee purchased a house in Kent Road, Surrey Hills, in a site which they described as 'in a beautiful and healthy situation'. The Sisters of St Joseph assumed management of the Home on 21 May 1890, initially working under the St Vincent committee.
In 1997, records of the Sisters of St Joseph were transferred to MacKillop Family Services. These included records of the various orphanages, homes and other residences run by the Sisters of St Joseph and its predecessors. While custodianship of the records about people in 'care' became the responsibility of MacKillop Family Services at this point, it was formally agreed that the intellectual property in these records would not change hands.
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08 February 2022
Cite this: http://www.findandconnect.gov.au/guide/vic/E000051
First published by the Find & Connect Web Resource Project for the Commonwealth of Australia, 2011
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