Harrison House in Hawthorn was established in 1960. Run by the Presbyterian Church of Victoria, it provided hostel-style residential accommodation for wards of state, boys on probation from the courts or institutions, and boys coming to Melbourne to find work from Kilmany Park in Gippsland. In its early years, it was known as Arthur Harrison Boys' Home. In around 1977/78 it became known as Harrison House Youth Hostel. In 1977, the newly-established Uniting Church took over management of the Home from the Presbyterian Church. The hostel underwent refurbishment in 1978 and 1982. In 1985, the institution at Hawthorn closed. That year, a new service, Harrison House Youth Services, was established in Mitcham.
The Home was named after a former Director of Social Services of the Presbyterian Church, Arthur G. Harrison. It was established out of Rev. Harrison and his congregation at the West Hawthorn Presbyterian Church being concerned about the needs of boys leaving Kilmany Park in Gippsland and coming to Melbourne to seek employment.
The Regent House Hostel for Girls in Elsternwick was sometimes described as a 'sister project' to Harrison House.
According to the website of UnitingCare Harrison, a letter from 1971 from the Senior Probation Officer for Victoria to the Director of Probation described Harrison House as a key model for providing residents with a therapeutic approach, rather than just board and lodging.
Harrison House was staffed by volunteers until 1978, when the first 4 paid staff were appointed. That year, the Hostel underwent a major refurbishment, and it also became known as the Harrison House Youth Hostel.
By 1982, Harrison House was supporting 20 youth at a given time. That year, acccording to the UnitingCare Harrison website, the hostel expanded to include a 9 bed residential unit. In the early 1980s, Harrison House had also developed additional accommodation and community support services in the eastern suburbs. In 1985, the hostel in Hawthorn closed. A new service, known as Harrison House Youth Services, was established in Harrison Street, Mitcham.
Unfortunately, it would seem that all records relating to residents of Harrison House were destroyed in the past. Its subsequent agency, Harrison Community Services, stated that the past practice was to destroy records relating to statutory clients after 7 years. However, all client files created after 2004 are kept indefinitely.
Sources used to compile this entry: 'Historical Details', Kildonan Uniting Care, 7 September 2007; Harrison History, UnitingCare Harrison, 2015, https://www.unitingcareharrison.org.au/index.php/about-us/history; James Jenkinson Consulting, Guide to out-of-home care services 1940-2000 - Volume One: Agency Descriptions, Department of Human Services, Unpublished, November 2001, https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/sites/default/files/DHS.3004.011.0367.pdf.
Prepared by: Cate O'Neill
Created: 21 April 2009, Last modified: 11 January 2019