Skip to content
  • Open
  • Free general admission

We are updating our new website in stages. This page will be changed to the new design but is not currently optimised for mobile devices.

You are in site section: Exhibitions

The way in

WARNING: This website contains confronting and disturbing content, and names and images of deceased people. It may not be suitable for children under 15 years. Many of the historical images show an official, sanitised view which did not reflect reality. The faces of some adolescents have been blurred to protect privacy.

The way in

Wooden sign: 'Reception please enter.'

Entering Children's Homes and institutions

From the 1920s to the 1980s, about 500,000 children spent all or some of their childhood in Children's Homes and institutions in Australia.

Of these, about 50,000 were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and 7000 were child migrants from Britain and Malta.

The reasons why they came in were many, including removal by the state and being surrendered by families unable to manage in a time of inadequate welfare. Many if not most of the children had little idea what was happening.

More on the reasons children were committed to institutional 'care'

'What happened to our childhood?'

'We were Burnie kids' 12:46

This video includes a silent film from about the 1920s produced by Burnside Homes to promote its work and raise funds. It shows the Burnside Homes' association with the Presbyterian church and how children from poor families in inner Sydney were taken to Burnside Homes.

This video also includes personal documents from four people who experienced institutional life as children, and images of some of the homes and institutions in Australia where children grew up in the 20th century.

Footage: Uniting Care Burnside. The preservation of this footage was the result of a partnership between Uniting Care Burnside, Parramatta Heritage Centre and Anne Matthews

Images courtesy: Ann McVeigh; Brisbane City Council Archives; Care Leavers Australia Network; Jenny Bosanquet; Mary Terszak; National Archives of Australia; National Library of Australia; Nola Rollinson; Ray Brand; State Library of Queensland; State Library of South Australia and State Library of Victoria

Return to Top