The Farm Home for Boys, Westbrook was situated 15 kilometres south west of Toowoomba. It was a state-run reformatory for boys under the age of 18 who were confined by a court order. Until 1919, the institution was known as the Westbrook Reformatory for Boys. In 1966 it became known as Westbrook Training Centre.
According to the report of the Forde Inquiry (1999), Westbrook stood at the apex of Queensland's correctional system for boys and was without doubt its most feared institution. 'The Inquiry heard many stories of the threat of being sent to Westbrook being used to great effect by orphanage and industrial school staff' (p.124).
Boys under the age of 18 years were sentenced by various courts to a term of confinement at the Farm Home for Boys, Westbrook. The Home was under the supervision of a Superintendent who reported to the Home Secretary, and later to the heads of the relevant department.
The boys received training in farm skills while learning to work the Home's farmland. They learned how to farm, garden and keep stock. Stock was often exhibited at the annual Toowoomba Show. Produce from the farm was sold, and the boys were allowed to keep the profits from their individual gardens.
Regular maintenance work of the buildings at the Home was also undertaken by the boys.
As part of their education and rehabilitation, trustworthy boys could be put out to service in trades, for which they were paid a wage.
In 1961, there was an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the escape of a number of Westbrook inmates on Sunday 14 May 1961. The Commission of Inquiry into the Farm Home for Boys, Westbrook (also known as the Schwarten Inquiry), also investigated other matters relating to the conduct of the institution and the welfare of inmates generally. This inquiry resulted in Roy Golledge, Superintendent since 1952, being replaced by Kevin Sullivan, a former prison warder.
In 1998-1999, the Commission of Inquiry into Abuse of Children in Queensland Institutions heard evidence from several former residents of the Farm Home for Boys, Westbrook. The major criticism of most witnesses was the institution's excessive discipline and physical abuse.
The Commission's report (1999) also discussed the practice at Westbrook of certain boys being appointed as 'sergeants' to assist in the maintenance of discipline among the other boys. 'In particular, it seems that when boys escaped it was the role of the sergeants to bring them back' (p.130).
1871 - 1881 Reformatory School for Boys - Hulk Proserpine
1881 - 1899 Reformatory School for Boys, Lytton
1899 - 1900 Diamantina Reformatory School for Boys
1900 - 1919 Westbrook Reformatory for Boys
1919 - 1966 Farm Home for Boys, Westbrook
1966 - 1987 Westbrook Training Centre
1987 - 1993 Westbrook Youth Centre
1993 - 1994 Westbrook Youth Detention Centre
1994 - 2012 Darling Downs Correctional Centre
Sources used to compile this entry: 'Farm Home for Boys, Westbrook (Agency ID 11374)', in Queensland State Archives website, Queensland Government, 2004 - 2013, http://www.archivessearch.qld.gov.au/Search/AgencyDetails.aspx?AgencyId=11374; Commission of Inquiry into Abuse of Children in Queensland Institutions, Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Abuse of Children in Queensland Institutions, Queensland. Department of Families, Youth and Community Care, Brisbane, 1999. pp. 45-46, 55-56, 72, 124-140.; Department of Families, Missing pieces: information to assist former residents of children's institutions to access records, State of Queensland, 2001. pp.21-23..
Prepared by: Lee Butterworth and Cate O'Neill
Created: 17 February 2013, Last modified: 21 October 2015