Wandin Yallock Reformatory School, or 'Fernydale', was opened in 1886 as a private reformatory for boys. Fernydale was established to reform 'juvenile offenders' by providing them with farm training. In 1893 Fernydale came under government supervision, however remained a private Reformatory. It closed in 1905, with the remaining boys being sent to Heathfield Homes Reformatory School for Protestant Boys in Apollo Bay.
Wandin Yallock Reformatory School, also known as Fernydale, was a privately owned reformatory opened in 1886 by merchant and philanthropist Albert Wiseman. Murdock McAskell, who was "previously evinced in work amongst the youth of Brunswick", was employed as the superintendent of Fernydale. In September 1886 McAskell brought the first two boys to Fernydale from The Try Society's Try Excelsior Class. The number of boys in residence at the farm gradually increased over the following years. Generally there were 12 boys at Fernydale, aged between 10 and 17 years old, however at times there were up to 20 boys in residence with ages ranging up to 20 years old. An 1897 newspaper article stated that, at the time of its opening, Fernydale was the first farm Reformatory of its kind.
Fernydale was located on a 320 acre property at Wandin Yallock, in the Yarra Valley, east of Melbourne. The grounds of the property included 60 acres of arable farmland, a large homestead including dormitories for "a score of persons" and the superintendents quarters, an annex containing the kitchen, dining room and wash-house, a schoolhouse, farm buildings, paddocks, grassland, and forest. Livestock kept on the farm included horses, dairy cows, pigs, sheep, and fowl. As well as the superintendent the Reformatory also employed a farm assistant, a school teacher, and a cook.
The boys at Wandin Yallock Reformatory School were trained in farmwork at Fernydale, and were also placed into service on other properties "when they are ready". A newspaper article from 1897 describes the daily routines of the boys and the kinds of work they undertook:
"At 6 a.m. punctually the boys are roused by clang of bell and commence the duties of the day, each having his allotted tasks. The cow boys for the day bring the kine [cows] in and milk them under the direction of the assistant. Others attend to the feeding of the pigs and horses; and then there is a spare half hour for play before the bell rings for breakfast. The morning meal is followed by prayers, conducted by the school teacher, and at 8 o'clock the boys are taken out for field work of all kinds, according to the season. At present, for instance, the bigger boys may be digging potatoes and the smaller ones are gathering, or cutting maize for chaff; and all the year round some of the older lads are taking part in felling, cutting or burning timber. From 12 till 1 o'clock is the dinner hour, and outdoor work is resumed and continued till 4 o'clock. Cricket or football follows until 6 o'clock, when tea is served. Then there is an adjournment to the schoolroom for lessons in the three R's and geography. After that, prayers again, and finally, at 9 p.m., promptly up to the dormitory, where strict silence is enforced, and Morpheus soon reigns supreme."
The article also describes 'treats' arranged for the boys, including excursions, sports, camping in summer, 'indoor entertainments', and unsupervised picnics within the grounds of the farm.
Wages were paid to the boys in the reformatory according to tasks completed and ability. These were paid out to the boys upon leaving the reformatory. In 1904 it was reported that each boy could earn up to 2s 6d per week. The boys could also earn money through the sale of fruit and vegetables grown in their own individual garden plots. Fines were given for misconduct, with the sum deducted from their wages.
Fernydale had two other affiliated farm reformatories which were also under the supervision of Mr McAskell; Olinda Farm Reformatory at Olinda Creek (now Silvan), and another at Hillside. The Olinda Creek and Hillside farms were both smaller than Fernydale, and were used to prevent the number of boys at Fernydale from becoming too numerous and a "barrack like" atmosphere developing. The smaller numbers also allowed for closer individual supervision of the boys by the superintendent.
In 1893 Fernydale was placed under Government supervision, though maintained its private status. Boys began to be placed at Wandin Yallock from other Government-run reformatories, with the first two transferred there from Ballarat in January 1893.
In early 1905 it was stated that Fernydale was still successfully operating, and that some of the former residents, who were now employers, were requesting to employ boys from the Reformatory. Despite this reported success Fernydale was closed in early July, and the remaining boys were transferred to Heathfield Homes Reformatory School for Protestant Boys in Apollo Bay.
Sources used to compile this entry: Department for Neglected Children and Reformatory Schools. Report of the Secretary., Government Printer, Melbourne, 1888 - 1924; Reformation in the Bush, The Age, 27 April 1897, 6 pp, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article193706337; Fernydale Reformatory, Healesville and Yarra Glen Guardian, 15 October 1904, 2 pp, https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/60042204; Boys of The State, The Age, 4 February 1905, 4 pp, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article192232717; Experiences With Youths, The Argus, 28 July 1906, 17 pp, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article9644004.
Prepared by: Constance Thurley-Hart
Created: 1 October 2018, Last modified: 4 October 2018