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South Australia - Organisation

Girls' Reformatory, Edwardstown (1891 - 1898)

  • Plan of Girls' Reformatory, Edwardstown

    Plan of Girls' Reformatory, Edwardstown, 1890, courtesy of Glandore Community Centre Inc.

Government-run, Home and Reformatory

The Girls' Reformatory, Edwardstown, was established by the government at Edwardstown in 1891 and replaced the Girls' Reformatory, Magill. In 1891 the Home housed 19 girls, aged 12 to 18. In 1897-1898 Catholic girls were sent to the Catholic Girls' Reformatory, Kapunda, and Protestant girls to Redruth Girls' Reformatory, Burra. The Girls' Reformatory, Edwardstown, closed in 1898.


The Girls' Reformatory at Edwardstown was established by the government at Edwardstown in 1891 and replaced the Girls' Reformatory, Magill. The new institution was established to separate the girls living in the Reformatory from the other children in the Magill Industrial School. The move to Edwardstown also allowed for the Magill site to be redeveloped in preparation for the boys who were to be removed from the Reformatory Hulk.

In October 1891, all girls at the Girls' Reformatory, Magill moved, along with the matron, Mary E Holden, to Edwardstown. The new purpose built Reformatory was set on an eleven-acre (4.4 hectare) property. Three cottage-style housing units, named Charity, Faith and Hope, had been built on part of the property and this area was surrounded by a high galvanised iron fenced topped with barbed wire.

Girls were allocated to dormitories in the cottages based on their standard of behaviour. Charity was the 'First Class' cottage; Faith was for 'Second Class' girls and Hope for those whom the matron considered had serious behavioural problems. Hope also served as a sick ward and included cells used for punishment.

While committed to the Reformatory, girls carried out all the work required to keep the institution running. This included wood chopping, gardening, milking cows, laundry work and sewing for themselves, the reformatory and for other government institutions. The Annual Report of the State Children's Council for the first year at Edwardstown noted that the girls were 'unsettled' on first moving to their new premises and that 'one or two of the worst girls absconded, but were returned'. By June 1891, nineteen girls were housed at Edwardstown, ranging in age from twelve to eighteen years. On discharge from the Reformatory most of the girls were placed in service. Some returned to relatives on probation.

At Edwardstown absconding from the home was a common problem. The train-line, which ran along the northern side of the property, was regarded by the government as an unsettling influence. The Annual Report for 1895 noted sixteen instances of attempted escape, seven of them successful. Most girls were re-apprehended quickly.

In 1897-1898, due to the continuing large number of escapes, girls were removed from the Edwardstown Reformatory and separated into two groups, according to their religious denomination. Each group was sent away from the City to a country area. The Catholic girls were sent to the Catholic Girls' Reformatory, Kapunda in June 1897 and the Protestant girls went to the Redruth Girls' Reformatory in January 1898. The Girls' Reformatory at Edwardstown closed in 1898.


1891 - 1898
Location - Girls Reformatory was situated at Naldera Street, Edwardstown. Location: Edwardstown


 1881 - 1891 Girls Reformatory, Magill
       1891 - 1898 Girls' Reformatory, Edwardstown
             1897 - 1909 Catholic Girls' Reformatory, Kapunda
             1897 - 1922 Redruth Girls' Reformatory
                   1922 - 1947 Barton Vale Girls' Home
                         1947 - 1979 Vaughan House
                               1979 - 1993 South Australian Youth Remand and Assessment Centre
                                     1993 - 2012 Magill Training Centre
                                           2012 - Adelaide Youth Training Centre

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Related Archival Series

Related Glossary Terms

Related Organisations



  • Barbalet, Margaret, Far from a low gutter girl: the forgotten world of state wards: South Australia 1887-1940, Melbourne, 1983. Details
  • Dickey, Brian, Rations, Residence, Resources: A history of social welfare in South Australia since 1836, Wakefield Press, Adelaide, 1986. Details
  • Morley, Charles, The Glandore Story: from Hulk to Haven, Glandore Community Centre Inc, 1995. Details

Online Resources


Plan of Girls' Reformatory, Edwardstown
Plan of Girls' Reformatory, Edwardstown
Glandore Community Centre Inc


Sources used to compile this entry: George, Karen, Finding your own way, Nunkuwarrin Yunti of South Australia Inc., 2005,

Prepared by: Karen George and Gary George