Swan Boys' Orphanage was opened in 1876 in Middle Swan. It had previously been
the Perth Boys' Orphanage in Perth. In 1942, the boys were joined by girls who had been evacuated from from the Perth Girls' Orphanage due to World War II. In 1943, Swan Boys' and Perth Girls' orphanages were combined to form Swan Homes.
In either 1908 or 1909, boys started to attend Middle Swan State School. Pre-school age boys were transferred from the Swan Boys' Orphanage in 1917 or near that time so that they could have kindergarten classes in the Perth Girls Orphanage.
For some years, the Swan Boys' Orphanage had been accused by the Perth newspapers of cruelty towards the boys in its 'care'. In 1908, for example, the Sunday Times ran a series of articles about the harsh discipline and inhumane treatment of boys at the orphanage - including such things as making children walk barefoot from the orphanage to North Beach; flogging them with leather straps; binding their hands for days at a time; and stripping children to administer floggings. The Bishop of Perth instructed the Anglican Orphanage Committee to conduct an internal inquiry into these matters on 8 February 1908 and a report of the findings was eventually published in the newspaper in March:
The Committee found that the statements made were, in some instances, ABSOLUTELY UNTRUE, whilst in others there was a FOUNDATION OF TRUTH, but so manipulated as to convey an entirely wrong impression. Sunday Times, 8 March 1908, p.5
The Sunday Times considered that the Anglican Orphanage Committee had conducted the inquiry with 'their eyes closed and their ears stuffed with cobbler's wax'.
In April 1911, the Colonial Secretary ordered the Under-Secretary Mr FD North to conduct a Departmental Inquiry into allegations of starvation at the orphanage. The 'North Inquiry' as it became known found these allegations to be 'entirely unsubstantiated' and the Colonial Secretary apologised to the Anglican Orphanages Committee for the 'inconvenience and annoyance' of the Inquiry (Kalgoorlie Miner 27 May 1911, p.8).
A few months later, the treatment of children at the Swan Boys' Orphanage was examined in a coronial inquiry into the 31 May death of a 9 year-old boy, George Jones, who had been resident there. The Western Mail reported (22 July 1911, p.44) that the inquiry heard evidence that the boys were 'under fed, insufficiently clothed and ill-treated'. The coronial inquiry had originally begun as an inquest into the death of George Jones, but the Coroner widened its scope to include the administration of the orphanage. In relation to George's death, the jury found that George died from toxaemia with his death accelerated by 'gross negligence and want of attention by the matron' (p.44), who was subsequently committed by the Coroner to be tried on a charge of manslaughter.
The jury's verdict in relation to the administration of the orphanage was reported in the newspaper:
the management of the Swan Boys' Orphanage has been lax…due mainly to the indifference of the committee of management, who apparently have not excercised sufficient supervision…the administration by the Rev. A. Burton's manager was faulty, being principally due to a want of proper supervision and control of the staff of theOrphanage…the boys at the Orphanage were suitably clad, but…there was a want of variety in the food which made it distasteful to them…on many occasions…the boys of the Orphanage were short of bread…the jury advise that…the boys be given more variety in their food, more particularly in regard to solid food such as meat….
…owing to the want of supervision, there has been an indiscriminate use of the cane and corporal punishment which is not justifiable…Mr. Hockliffe was guilty of unsympathetic and unjust treatment of the inmates of the Swan Boys' Orphanage…Mr Jones is considered incapable of carrying out the responsibilities of either superindendent or acting-superintendent…Messrs. Coward and Elliott…are adjudged to be utterly unfitted to havethe control of the Orphanage boys, and in our opinion have ill-treated those boys under their charge…
…there has been a neglect on the part of the State Children's Department…[the jury] recommend that an officer be appointed…for the exclusive purpose of paying surprise visits from time to time to all charitable institutions under the control of the State…[and that these institutions] be periodically visited by a medical officer, a dentist, and an oculist. Western Mail, 22 July 1911, p.45
In his response to the findings of the Coronial Inquiry, the Colonial Secretary upheld the conduct of the Public Charities and State Children Department, the Anglican Orphanages Committee and Reverend Burton.
A letter of appreciation of the The Daily News Orphans' Christmas Cheer Fund in 1915 gives another insight into life at the Swan Boys' Orphanage. The letter shows that donations enabled the children to occasionally have extras that were not part of their daily experience:
…sports material, games, and story books were bought for the children, and extra fruit and provisions were provided for their picnics. Letter, 23 August 1916 published in The Daily News 2 December 1916, p.10
Sources used to compile this entry: Report by the Superintendent of Relief and Inspector of Charitable Institutions for the year, Government Printer, Perth, 1897; Report by the Inspector of Charitable Institutions, Government Printer, Perth, 1898; 'The Swan boys' coffinage', Sunday Times, 8 March 1908, p. 5, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article57578265; 'Little Oliver Twists', Northern Times, 15 July 1911, p. 3, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article74888776; 'Swan Boys' Orphanage', The Daily News, 20 May 1911, p. 5, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article80206817; 'The Swan Orphanage [North Inquiry]', The Daily News, 26 April 1911, p. 3, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article81746128; 'Swan Orphanage Management', Kalgoorlie Miner, 27 May 1911, p. 8, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article90992304; 'Swan Orphanage reforms', Western Mail, Charles Harper, J.W. Hackett, James Gibey, for the Western mail office, Perth, 22 July 1911, p. 20, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article38831497; 'Swan Orphanage, death of George Jones', Western Mail, Charles Harper, J.W. Hackett, James Gibey, for the Western mail office, Perth, 22 July 1911, pp. 43-45, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page3474583; 'The Daily News [Christmas Cheer Fund]', The Daily News, 2 December 1916, p. 10, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article81358001; Peterkin, A. Roy, The Noisy Mansions : the story of Swanleigh 1868-1971, Perth Diocesan Trustees, Anglican Church of Australia, Midland, Western Australia, 1986. pp.17, 27.; Western Australia. Charities Department, Report by the Superintendent of Public Charities and Inspector of Industrial and Reformatory Schools, Government Printer, Perth, [W.A.], 1899-1907. 1899, 1900, 1902, 1903, 1904, 1905, 1906, 1907..
Prepared by: Debra Rosser
Created: 3 September 2012, Last modified: 12 November 2018