Baltara Reception Centre history in brief
Entry to the Baltara Reception Centre circa 1970s.
Late Turana – early Baltara transition
During the 1960s, the Family Welfare Division's Turana Youth Training Centre in Parkville accommodated up to 64 male wards of the state, 10 to 14 years of age. In the late 1960s and early ‘70s, four new sections were added, each accommodating 20–25 boys and young men. The sections were given Aboriginal names: Kinta (laughter), Mawarra (a pleasant place); Warrina (place of rest); and Akora (dwelling).
Residents were housed in the:
- Billabong reception centre
- Parkside classification centre, for boys on security and remand including those awaiting court appearances.
- Kinta, a medium-term 'open' section that accommodated wards unable to be placed in available children's homes
- Mawarra, a short-term (up to three months) treatment section for wards aiming to return home or to placement.
- Warrawong, constructed as a security unit, but initially used as a short-term placement unit for children awaiting transfer to other forms of care.
In October 1968, the Baltara Reception Centre was established on the same Parkside site as Turana. The Baltara Reception Centre operated as a separate entity, but Baltara’s officer in charge reported to Turana’s superintendent.
Baltara initially provided interim accommodation for boys and young men aged 10–14 years whose situations led to Children’s Court intervention. The boys were either awaiting a court appearance or were wards awaiting adoption or placement in foster care, family group homes, children’s homes or mental health facilities. Their stays varied from a few weeks to several months, depending on the complexity of their court cases and the availability of other placements. The centre also acted as a remand centre for boys in the same age group.
During the 1960s, Baltara had capacity for 60–80 boys and young men. However, real numbers varied widely depending on the availability of places in children's homes. Shortages of suitable children's home placements meant it was not uncommon for more than 100 boys to be residing at Baltara, meaning capacity was an issue.
In the early 1970s, Baltara established its own school and administration block, reinforcing its separation from Turana.
In 1973, three new classrooms were added. Also added over the years was an indoor games centre, a sports oval, a swimming pool and an adventure playground.
In the late 1970s, Baltara began to function as a long-term facility, mainly catering for boys who had experienced unsuccessful placements or breakdowns in home release.
By 1975, Baltara had the following sections:
- Parkside – security and remand.
- Warrawong – open/semi-security placement, remand, and internal classification of boys not needing a full security placement at Parkside.
- Alkoomi (new section created from a wing of Parkside) – halfway house between Parkside and open section for older boys not needing long-term placement but needing group counselling and activities before home release.
- Akora – boys on home release expected to make an early adjustment back to the community.
- Kinta – remands and wards awaiting transfer to children's homes.
- Mawarra – state wards (often long term) with complex needs who faced difficulties being placed in children's homes.
In the late 1970s, a review led to one section for remand and assessment, two sections for boys working towards home release or placement, and a fourth section for security cases.
In 1981–82, a new early adolescent unit housed eight wards of the state from Baltara Reception Centre who progressed to more long-term placements in hostels or other units in the community. The after-care service was transferred to regional centres, which were now preferred over metropolitan institutions.
In the 1980s, separation of children from their families and communities became widely regarded as not only undesirable, but counterproductive. Rather than placing children in large central institutions, multiple small, geographically dispersed, short-term residential units were established in neighbourhood settings.
In 1985, youth and child welfare facilities statewide were redeveloped as an alternative to metropolitan institutions. The early focus was on services for pre-adolescent and adolescent wards and offenders in Turana, Winlaton and Baltara. These institutions continued short term but the youth training centres were to only provide programs for young people sentenced to detention.
From 1985, Baltara became a youth training centre.
Final years and closure
The Children and Young Persons Act 1989 established different divisions in the Children’s Court to completely separate child protection matters from criminal/custodial matters. The Act also instigated separation of service provision for children and young people on protective orders and young offenders in custody.
The Children and Young Person’s Act 1989 led to Baltara’s progressive closure in 1991–92.
Resources from Baltara were channelled into a network of small-scale, geographically-dispersed, community-based residential and reception units, including secure welfare services and short- and medium-term housing.
Baltara closed in 1992, and its residents were transferred to the Nunawading Youth Residential Centre. When the Nunawading Youth Residential Centre closed in 1993, residents were moved to Parkville Youth Residential Centre.
The Children and Young Persons Act 1989 required that the provision of services for children and young people on protective orders be separated from those provided to young offenders in custody. The Act established different divisions in the Children’s Court to completely separate child protection matters from criminal custodial matters.
The 1989 Act also established the term ‘children in need of protection’, replacing old terms ‘ward of state’ (from the Neglected Children’s Act 1887) and ‘trainee’ (from the Social Welfare Act 1960). Children and young people involved with child protection and sentenced young people are now all classified as ‘clients’.
Young people who entered the youth justice system before the 1989 Act was implemented, kept their trainee case history files, but not the later Client Relationship Information System institutional files (JJ CRIS prefix). This explains why the older records continued until the late 1990s – well after the terminology had changed.
The term ‘client’ is still used for all care leavers in Victoria.
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 .
Genealogical finding aid: children's homes and hostels – a finding aid developed to assist in the identification and retrieval of records of children's homes and hostels now in the custody of Archival Services. Compiled by Archival Services, Department of Human Services, June 1996.
Guide to out-of-home care services 1940–2000: volume one – agency descriptions, James Jenkinson Consulting, North Melbourne, November 2001.
Victorian Government gazette no. 86, 1 September 1982, P.2889 [established Baltara to be a children’s reception centre]
Victorian Government gazette no. 47, May 9 1962, P.1569 [established Parkside, at Turana, to be a remand centre
Victorian Government gazette no. G 10, 11 March 1992 P.592 [established Warrawong section, in Baltara, to be known as Parkville Secure Welfare Service]
PLEASE NOTE: Patients could be admitted to a Receiving House for short-term treatment and care, but were not permitted to remain longer than two months.
Patients still needing treatment after two months could be sent to a Psychiatric Hospital, in the same institution/complex or another. Hence, there could be more than one set of records for any one person. Please check each location for former patient records.
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Reviewed 10 August 2016