Nazareth House in Bluff Point, Geraldton was established in 1941 and run by the Poor Sisters of Nazareth. Its first residents were children from 1 year old who were private admissions, and 'destitute' aged people. Nazareth House also housed child migrants sent from Britain and Malta (1947-1966), who often lived there for many years. At times, there were between 50 and 75 migrant children living at Nazareth House along with Australian-born children. From 1961, young boys were admitted and from 1965 some Aboriginal children were also placed there. From the late 1970s, no children were admitted to Nazareth House but it continued as an aged care facility.
Nazareth House, situated on Bluff Point in Geraldton, opened in October 1941. It was initially built in to house children sent as child migrants from Britain. However, as it became unsafe to transport children during the war, the large buildings were used to accommodate children, from the age of 12 months, and old people who were deemed 'destitute'.
Government reports (Signposts 2004, p.367) show that there was an intention, in 1941 at least, to use Nazareth House as a place to house 'Roman Catholic children other than delinquents' from the Geraldton area who were committed to an institution. Nazareth House was licensed to provide 'care' for children under 6 years old, and would be subsidised for admitting children referred through the child welfare authorities or children's court who may have been deemed neglected or removed from their families for other reasons.
From 1947, girls who were sent as unaccompanied child migrants from Britain and Malta were accommodated at Nazareth House, and went to school on the premises. Occasionally, certain girls were chosen to attend the Stella Maris Convent school in Geraldton. The Child Welfare Department administration files for 1953 state that the girls boarded there during term time and returned to Nazareth House for their holidays. However, former residents have also reported attending the Convent school as day students, returning to Nazareth House each night.
Photographs taken through the years when the migrant girls were at Nazareth House show that the boys from Tardun (one and a half hours east of Geraldton) occasionally visited. These visits must have been particularly important for boys and girls who were siblings.
The admission details provided for Nazareth House in government reports are scant (Signposts pp.367-369) until 1957 when a clearer picture starts to emerge of the number of girls living at Nazareth House.
By 1957, there were 67 girls, some of whom were migrants and others who were 'private admissions' (girls placed by family or others). In some years, girls who were wards of the State were also admitted to Nazareth House. The number of children admitted privately increasingly outweighed the number of girls who were child migrants. In 1961, reports to child welfare authorities documented the number of boys at Nazareth House. These few boys would have been pre-school age in most cases. In 1965, Aboriginal children classified as 'native wards' were shown in admission figures as a small minority of total children accommodated.
There are no published admission figures after 1970, and Nazareth House closed its child accommodation program in the late 1970s. The Catholic guide, A Piece of the Story says that Nazareth House ceased child care activities in 1977, but research for Signposts in 2004 found a reference to Nazareth House in Commonwealth statistics collated in 1979. This could be because Nazareth House was still gazetted as a child care institution, rather than because it actually housed children.
There have always been aged people in residence at Nazareth House (in a separate wing from the children) and in 2014 it continued as an aged care facility.
Sources used to compile this entry: Information Services, Department for Community Development, 'p.367, Table 30: Young People at Nazareth House, Certain Years between 1941 and 1969', Signposts: A Guide for Children and Young People in Care in WA from 1920, Government of Western Australia, 2004, http://signposts.cpfs.wa.gov.au/pdf/pdf.aspx; Parliament of Australia Senate, Forgotten Australians: A report on Australians who experienced institutional or out-of-home care as children, Senate Community Affairs References Committee, http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Community_Affairs/completed_inquiries/2004-07/inst_care/report/index.htm; Email correspondence from Catherine Buckley, former resident, 5 February 2018, held in the Find & Connect project files at the University of Melbourne eScholarship Research Centre.
Prepared by: Debra Rosser
Created: 15 March 2011, Last modified: 19 February 2018