St Joseph's Home, Sebastopol, was established in around 1911. It accommodated boys aged between 6 and 16, and some girls until the age of 6 when they were transferred to Nazareth House, Ballarat. Residential childcare ceased at St Joseph's in 1980.
The site of St Joseph's Home was on Grant Street, Sebastapol (in the Ballarat district). It was formerly known as Leckie Mansion, and Blythewood Grange.
The foundation stone for the St Joseph's Home was laid in 1911. Dr Higgins, Catholic Bishop of Ballarat, opened the home in February 1913.
St Joseph's Home was for boys and girls up to six years of age. When girls turned six, they were transferred to Nazareth House in Ballarat. Boys could remain at St Joseph's until they were 16.
From 1961 to 1975, the institution was known as Nazareth Boys' House. It reverted back to the name St Joseph's Home in 1975.
In the words of Gabrielle Short:
St Joseph's baby's home was run by the Poor Sisters of Nazareth also known as the Cruel Sisters of Nazareth. St Joseph's baby's home was on the same grounds as the Nazareth Boys home in Grant St Sebastapol a suburb of Ballarat. Nazareth Girls home was in Mill St Ballarat across from Lake Wendoree. The age group for St Joseph's baby's home was from infant to 5yrs of age, then they boys would be sent over to the Nazareth Boys Home and the girls would be sent to Nazareth Girls Home in Ballarat these 3 homes were all run by the same nuns.
In Grace Ryan's childhood reminiscences, she notes that many girls at Nazareth House in Ballarat had brothers who lived at St Joseph's.
In January we always had a picnic in the Ballarat Gardens. We girls would go by steamer across Lake Wendouree, and the boys from St. Joseph's used to come in a big charabanc. We'd all run around mad finding our brothers!
In April 1956,St Joseph's Home, Sebastopol, was declared an approved children's home under the Children's Welfare Act 1954.
James Jenkinson writes:
By the mid 1970s concerns were being expressed about the relative isolation of the Home, its congregate care style of operation and the fact that most of the children accommodated were from Melbourne rather that the surrounding region. Rising costs were also an issue and referrals to the Home were in decline. By 1978 the Home was only accommodating the minimum necessary (60 children) to remain financially viable.
Closure of the Home was recommended by Departmental officers in 1978. The consultation and review process continued until the end of 1980, when the Department's recommendation was finally implemented. Residential childcare activity ceased at St Joseph's in December 1980.
In 2018 the site of the former Home is a resort and conference centre.
The convicted paedophile Father Gerard Francis Ridsdale was a 'visiting chaplain' at St Joseph's Home in the 1960s (he also had this role at Nazareth House, Ballarat). The organisation Broken Rites has reported that some of Ridsdale's victims were residents at the two institutions in Ballarat run by the Sisters of Nazareth.
Numerous survivors have given testimony about the abuse of children in St Joseph's Home and Nazareth House Ballarat, including to the Senate Inquiry into Children in Institutional Care (2003-2004), the Victorian Inquiry into the handling of child abuse by religious and other organisations (2012-2013) and the Royal Commission into Institutional responses to Child Sexual Abuse (2013-2017).
St Joseph's Home was mentioned in the Bringing Them Home Report (1997) as an institution that housed Indigenous children removed from their families.
Sources used to compile this entry: Golding, Frank, Orphanages in Ballarat – brief historical notes (draft), 2009; 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; Ryan, Brenda, A Childhood at Nazareth House, Ballarat - the reminiscences of Grace Ryan, née Charlton, Winners of the PROV Family History Competition 2008, Public Record Office Victoria, 2008; 'Sebastopol Timeline: 1900s', in Ballarat and District Genealogical Society Inc. Website, Ballarat & District Genealogical Society, http://www.ballaratgenealogy.org.au/ballarat-history/sebastopol-history; Short, Gabrielle, 'Nazareth House photos', in Inside: Life in Children's Homes exhibition blog, 2011, http://nma.gov.au/blogs/inside/2011/05/27/nazareth-house-photos/.
Prepared by: Cate O'Neill
Created: 18 June 2009, Last modified: 30 October 2018