Australia Orphans and Orphanages

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Orphans are persons, especially children, bereaved of both parents.[1] The word has an extended usuage to refer to children who are abandoned or neglected.[2] In the 19th Century, this latter class included a group termed "pauper children" who were targeted by British authorities for migration to Australia and other dominions of the British Empire; the practise continued into the 20th Century and Australia received thousands of child migrants sometimes deceived into believing they were orphaned, often under duress..

An orphanage is an institution for orphans[3] sometimes also called in Australia a benevolent asylum, an orphan school, an infants' or babies' or children's or boys' or girls' or foster home, receiving home or depot, a foundling home, a boys' training home or farm. The first orphanage in Australia was established on Norfolk Island by Governor King who also founded the first orphanage on the mainland: in 1801 he formed the Female Orphan School in George Street, Sydney to house destitute young girls.[4]

The concept of adoption is foreign to the English common law and legislation was required to establish adoption arrangements in each of the Australian jurisdictions. Australia is a federation with a division of legislative and administrative power between the States (former colonies) on the one hand and the Commonwealth on the other. Responsibility for orphans, adoption and child welfare generally has been a function of State governments except in the territories where it falls to the Commonwealth to make arrangements.

In the 19th and 20th Centuries government and charitable agencies removed aboriginal and Torres Strait islander children from their families, placing them in institutions, creating what has been known as the "Stolen Generations".

Records[edit | edit source]

There are several types of Australian records about orphans including orphanage registers, school records, apprenticeship records, and charitable relief office reports. For more information about orphanage school records, see Australia School Records.

Orphanage registers give detailed information about each orphan, including name, age, parent(s), ship of arrival, religion, and remarks (such as death date, discharge information, and whether apprenticed). Many of these records are indexed.

Details about orphan immigrants can be found in ship passenger lists. For further information on ship passenger lists, see Australia Emigration and Immigration.

Orphanage records in Australia can be found in national archives, state archives, and other local repositories and libraries. See the following for a list of orphan and orphanage records in Australia and where they are deposited:

Vine Hall, Nick. Tracing Your Family History in Australia: a guide to sources. 2nd ed. Albert Park, Victoria, Australia: North Vine Hall, 1994. (Family History Library Call Number 994 D23v.)

Online Databases[edit | edit source]

There is an online index for records of the Sydney Benevolent Society, who provided poor relief (indoor and outdoor) for men, women, and children, including foundlings. The inmates journals recorded familial information, where the person came from, if known, and why they were seeking relief. Copies of original records can be ordered from the New South Wales Archives.

See Ancestry for additional asylum and hospital records databases:

Victoria, Australia, Asylum Records, 1853-1940

New South Wales, Australia, Hospital & Asylum Records, 1840-1913

New South Wales, Australia, Registers for the Randwick Asylum for Destitute Children, 1852 - 1915

The Family History Library has collected some records relating to orphans and orphanages. These records are listed in the Place Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under:


References[edit | edit source]

  1. "orphan, noun 1. a." in The Macquarie Dictionary Online (Macquarie Dictionary Publishers Pty Ltd) accessed 3 August 2013.
  2. "orphan, A. n. 1." in Oxford English Dictionary (2013, Oxford University Press, online edition) accessed 3 August 2013.
  3. "orphanage, noun 1." in The Macquarie Dictionary Online (Macquarie Dictionary Publishers Pty Ltd) accessed 3 August 2013.
  4. Australian Women's Archives Project Accessed 29 June 2016.

Wikipedia has more about this subject: Stolen Generations
Wikipedia has more about this subject: Child migration