Ballarat Orphanage (1909–68)


  • Auspice: Ballarat Orphanage Committee of Management
  • Title of home:Ballarat District Orphan Asylum (1865–1909); Ballarat Orphanage (1909–68); Ballarat Children’s Home (1968–82); Ballarat Children’s Homes(1982–92) Ballarat Children’s Homes and Family Services (1992–98); Child and Family Services Ballarat (1998 - )
  • Address: 200 Victoria Street, Ballarat

Ballarat Orphanage history in brief

In 1865, the Ballarat District Orphan Asylum was a non-denominational children’s home for up to 300 children of both sexes aged four to 16 years.

In 1909, it became the Ballarat Orphanage. In the late 1920s, a Boys' Hostel and new Toddlers' Block were established. Capacity was never reached. In 1953, there were 198 children, 144 of whom were state wards.

In 1956 the orphanage had a state primary school within its grounds; 42 older children attended local secondary schools and five attended a special school for children with intellectual disabilities.

By the late 1950s, the home also had an 'approved juvenile hostel' for older boys of working age. This was closed in 1961. From the early to mid-1960s, the older buildings were gradually replaced.

In 1966, the home had an older section for 50 children aged five to nine; a new unit in three sections for 54 boys; the W Leach Cottage for 40 girls and 20 boys; and Farrell Cottage, a unit for 30 older girls.

In 1968, the Ballarat Orphanage became Ballarat Children's Home. In the early 1970s, Ballarat Children's Home began to move towards smaller cottages and family group homes, and started admitting pre-school children. The cottage program extended outside the campus and, in 1976, a family group home was built at Black Hill.

By 1979–80, Ballarat Children's Home accommodated between 40 and 65 children on the original Victoria Street campus and 36 children in six family group homes across Ballarat. It was also conducting family aid and debt counselling programs.

In 1981–82, another three family group homes were established for children displaced by the closure of St Joseph's Children's Home, Sebastopol. In 1981–82, Ballarat Children's Home established a Youth Support Unit, providing residential accommodation and an 'attendance centre' for young people coming before court and into care.

In 1981, the Victoria Street campus phased out residential care services to focus on community-based care. In 1982, the name changed to Ballarat Children's Homes reflecting the changed care options now provided.

In 1992, the name changed again to Ballarat Children's Homes and Family Services Inc. The agency continued helping children with residential care and added other programs for adolescents and families.

In 1998, the organisation became Child and Family Services Ballarat Inc. In 2015, Child & Family Services Ballarat (CAFS) celebrated 150 years of supporting children, young people and families.

In 2000, the Heritages Services Program was established to support past residents of the orphanage and children’s homes.

Warning about distressing information

This guide contains information that some people may find distressing. If you experienced abuse as a child or young person in an institution mentioned in this guide, it may be a difficult reading experience. Guides may also contain references to previous views, policies and practices that are regrettable and do not reflect the current views, policies or practices of the department or the State of Victoria. If you find this content distressing, please consult with a support person either from the Department of Health and Human Services or another agency.


Please note that the content of this administrative history is provided for general information only and does not purport to be comprehensive. The department does not guarantee the accuracy of this administrative history. For more information on the history of child welfare in Australia, see Find & ConnectExternal Link .


  • Guide to out-of-home care services 1940–2000: volume one – agency descriptions, compiled by James Jenkinson Consulting, North Melbourne, November 2001.
  • CAFS Child & Family Services Ballarat Inc. website

List of records held by the department

For information relating to the central management of care leavers and wards of state, please consult the guide to Central department wardship and out-of-home care records. These collections date back to the 1860s and include ward registers, index cards and ward files.

Child placement records (C.1950-65)

File; Unappraised

Content: This is a single file that contains information relating to the placement of children at the Ballarat Orphanage in the 1950s and 1960s. The most frequently occurring record is a ‘history sheet’ that may include information such as:

  • institution (name)
  • name (of child)
  • date and place of birth
  • date admitted or committed
  • reason for admission or committal
  • ward number
  • religion
  • date term expires (at 18 years of age)
  • court (where case may have been heard)
  • case history (describes circumstances surrounding the child’s admission or committal)
  • father (name and address)
  • mother (name and address)
  • siblings (names and ward numbers if appropriate)
  • movements or transfers.

In most cases there is a single document relating to a child, but in some instances there are multiple documents for a child. Noting that there may not be a sheet for every child placed at the orphanage in this period. Other documents that may be found include internal departmental correspondence and reports, correspondence with parents and so on.

The records are arranged in alphabetical order by children’s names. They were transferred to the department from Warrawee Reception Centre some time after its closure in 1989. Given the nature of the records it is likely that they were created by government officers with responsibility for placement of children and monitoring their care in babies’ homes. It is also likely that if the child was a ward, information in these records, will also be found on the child’s ward file.

Voluntary children’s homes files (c.1930-c.1985)

File; Permanent VPRS Number 18069 / P0001

Content: The files record interaction between the various voluntary homes and the government. This filing system was created in 1975, combining earlier correspondence and other records to create one system with VH prefixes.

Files relating to this home date from 1940 to 1987 and include information on:

  • inspectors’ reports, 1940–70s
  • departmental correspondence, 1945–80s
  • registration of the orphanage, 1955
  • child immunisations
  • statistics
  • policies
  • newspaper clippings
  • annual reports 1970–87
  • copies of Government gazettes
  • Bodna report, 1973, and establishment of family group homes 1970s–80s
  • Educational Projects Fund for Aboriginal Children, 197
  • maintenance and financial issues, staffing issues
  • ncidents and allegations
  • submission and government response, 1981
  • sell-off of homes.

Family Welfare Division funding and accounts files (1971-77)

File; Temporary

Content: These accounts and funding files are for individual children’s homes and are used to make allocations. They contain a monthly census giving names and dates of birth to calculate per capita expenses. There are annual reports of homes, income statements, reports on conditions of homes as assessed on visits.

The records are arranged in a broad chronological order.

The specific file(s) relating to this home date from 1971-75.

Staffing Priorities Committee homes and hostels files (1976-c.83)

File; Temporary

Content: This collection comprises files documenting the recommendations for staffing positions for homes and hostels, correspondence between the Minister of Community Welfare Services and senior officers as well as funding information.

The Staffing Priorities Committee made recommendations to the minister regarding priority of positions required. Individual home and hostels are listed accompanied by comprehensive material concerning each home, family group home or hostel. There are also minutes from the approved children's homes and hostels meetings from 1978–80.

The specific file relating to this home dates from 1977–78:

  • correspondence and applications for government subsidised funding of staff positions, 1977–78
  • ‘Submission Youth Support Unit, Auspice Agency: Ballarat Children’s Home’, c.1978. Funding submission for a Youth Support Unit for young people with severe behavioural or mental health issues, for 40 to 50 people. [No notification on file regarding government response to submission.]

Staffing Priorities Committee, homes and hostels, correspondence, guidelines for operation and minutes of meetings (1976-80)

File; Unappraised

Content: The material comprises ministerial correspondence, and Staffing Priority Committee minutes and list of members. The Staffing Priorities Committee made recommendations to the minister regarding priority of positions required.

Reviewed 23 August 2016