The Victorian Infant Asylum (1877 – 1902) later known as Berry Street


  • Auspice: Berry Street Babies Home Committee of Management
  • Name: The Victorian Infant Asylum (1877–1902)
  • Alternative Names: The Victorian Infant Asylum and Foundling Hospital (1902–07); The Foundling Hospital and Infants’ Home (1908–64); Berry Street Babies’ Home and Hospital (1964–76); Berry Street – Child and Family Care (1977–92); Berry Street Incorporated (1992–94); Berry Street (1994–current)
  • Address: Hanover Street, Fitzroy (1877–81) ; Berry Street, East Melbourne (1882–current)

Agency history in brief

In 1877 the Victorian Infant Asylum was founded in Kew. In 1881, the asylum relocated to Berry Street in East Melbourne. By 1908, it was called the Foundling Hospital and Infants Home. It was non-denominational and controlled by a committee of management.

By 1956, Berry Street consisted of a Mothercraft Training Centre and two main residential units: Berry Street for infants aged zero to 18 months, and Vale Street for toddlers aged zero to two years old. In August 1956, Berry Street was declared an approved category 2 Children's Home. In 1960, Vale Street was converted to an adult nursing home.

In 1964, the name was changed to Berry Street Babies Home and Hospital. Berry Street was also an approved adoption agency.

By 1968, Berry Street comprised the Training School for Mothercraft Nurses, the adoption agency, an infant life-protection house, a long-stay home for children to three years of age (the toddlers’ wing) and a small house for unmarried mothers.

The home's infant life-protection work was seen as a critical agency function, particularly where family illness was putting pressure on mothers and Berry Street was able to provide respite and support.

By the late 1960s, 30–40 adoptions annually were being arranged from Berry Street.

By 1974 the home's orientation had shifted. Four family group homes had been established (two in Burwood, one in Ashburton and one in St Kilda), the mothercraft training function had been phased out, the toddlers wing converted to day care, and the main building (containing the nursery, administration, kitchen, dining room and single mothers accommodation) was demolished in favour of four home units, which housed 24 children, supervised by cottage parents.

Berry Street provided short term, emergency and residential care for 'protection of infant' cases and state wards. Two flats were also established for short-term family accommodation. The nurses’ home was converted to house the home’s administration function and a social work service. The social work service coordinated family aid and family counselling services, and a neighbourhood house.

In 1975 Berry Street also provided short-term care for 42 Vietnamese children brought to Australia in the official government-sponsored airlift.

In 1976 Berry Street made application to change its category 2 Children's Home classification to category 1, as it was now catering for a wider range of children. It had ceased to be a babies’ home and hospital, and had started providing child and family care, including residential care.

In 1977 Berry Street to established a family group home in Richmond to house children affected by the closure of St Cuthbert's Children's Home in Colac. Berry Street changed its name to Berry Street Child and Family Care in 1977.

In 1978, the range of services provided by Berry Street Child and Family Care consisted of a social work counselling service, a financial aide, a family aide program using volunteers, two temporary accommodation units each housing eight children, an information and referral service, a neighbourhood house in Richmond, a day care centre for 36 children, and four family group homes.

In 1980–81 the family group homes in Burwood were sold and the resources moved to the Richmond area. In 1994, Sutherland Youth and Family Services Inc. amalgamated into Berry Street Inc.

During the 1990s, Berry Street combined with the Sutherland Community Resource Centre in Watsonia in Melbourne’s northern region.

The agency operates today as Berry Street Victoria and has service centres across metropolitan and country 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 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.

List of records held by the department

Note for readers of the guide:

  • For information relating to the central management of 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.
  • For information relating to organisations and institutions that provided adoption and foster care services, please consult the guide to Adoption and Foster Care Applications, Case Files and Adoptee Enquiries, and the separate guides to the individual organisations.

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

File; Permanent VPRS Number 18069/P0001 and 18069/P0002

Content: The files essentially 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.

The specific files relating to this home are dated 1927–86 and includes:

  • death of an infant life-protection child boarded out in 1927
  • general departmental correspondence regarding children, facilities, funding, 1939–83
  • infectious disease report and correspondence, 1939
  • notes on medical treatment of children, c.1950s
  • invitation to the opening of Berry Street Child and Family Services, 1976
  • reports/reviews of family group homes, Berry Street Child and Family Care. Description of how family group home works, including location of family group homes, review meeting minutes, interviews with staff, admission and discharge records, statistical tables, lists of residents, 1980–81
  • policy statement regarding adoption, and issues with adoption work, late 1960s
  • correspondence regarding incidents, c.1970s
  • correspondence relating to the restructure of Berry Street, c.1970s–80s
  • child identifying information including correspondence, lists, reviews et cetera (in date range 1939–82)
  • inspection, review and other reports, 1953–85
  • applications, correspondence and declarations of centre as an approved children’s home, 1956–83
  • accommodation and facilities, 1964–77
  • annual meeting minutes and charitable contributions list, 1974–1975
  • annual reports, 1974–1985
  • press clippings, 1977
  • notes on medical treatment of children, c.1950s
  • policy statement regarding adoption, c.1950s–1960s
  • financial documents relating to the restructure of Berry Street, c.1983
  • statement of principles, 1983
  • review of services, March 1985

Admission forms (1940-75)

File; Unappraised

Content: This collection contains admission forms that document admissions to Berry Street in the period 1940–75. They are loose sheets housed in folders marked with the year range of the admissions contained in the folders. Each form in the folders is numbered and they are arranged in that number sequence beginning at number 1 in 1940 and ending at admission number 3539 in 1975.

The format of the forms changes over time. Admissions mostly refer to children but some are admissions for mothers. Information recorded includes name, mother’s name and address, date of birth, religion, reason for admission and where discharged to. The forms may include names of adoptive parents.
Forms dated up to c.1965 may include information on the reverse side of the form under the title of ‘Further particulars to be supplied if child admitted without mother’.

Admission forms (copies) (c.1940-c.1955)

File; Temporary

Content: This single file contains photocopies of a small number of admission forms (or parts of forms) from circa 1940s to 1950s. There is no indication as to why these copies were created or who created them.

List of admissions (1940)

File; Unappraised

Content: This is a single file that contains a three-page list of 15 admissions in October to December 1940. Information includes name, date of birth and address of adult or child admitted and where discharged to, including names of adoptive parents if appropriate. There is no indication as to why this short list was created or who created it.

List of adoptions (1878–1917)

File; Unappraised

Content: This collection consists of a single file that contains a list of adoptions dated from 1878–1917. This list of seven foolscap pages is hand written and was probably created in the late 20th century. It provides, in columns, the following:

  • mother (name)
  • child (name)
  • a column with no heading that contains numbers
  • date of agreement
  • adopted by (name)

There is no indication as to whence the information was derived or for what purpose the list was used. It is also not evident if this is a complete or partial list of adoptions. Given the date range of the entries in the list they are likely to relate to de facto adoptions of children from Berry Street.

List of adoptions (1910–63)

File; Unappraised

Content: This single file contains a photocopied, hand written list of names and dates. Most pages have two columns of data. Each page is headed with the year or year range of its content from 1910–63 but there are no entries for the years 1939–59. Some pages are headed as well with the letters AD, which it is assumed means adoption date.

The dates therefore are assumed to be adoption dates and the names are assumed to be names of children adopted. Names include a family name but may otherwise only have an initial or a given name. Many entries have annotations made with ballpoint pen.

There is no indication as to whence the information was derived or for what purpose the list was used. It is also not evident if this is a complete or partial list of adoptions. Given the date range of the entries in the list they may relate to de facto adoptions of children from Berry Street.

List of adoptions – copy of index to adopters 1916–69

File; Unappraised

Content: This single file contains a photocopy of an alphabetical index. There is one or more pages for each letter of the alphabet and entries are recorded in columns headed:

  • surname of adopter (some entries include a date, presumably of adoption)
  • name of child
  • de facto number (entries are a number or sometimes a date or file reference)
  • date legalised.

List of mothers admitted (1936-39)

File; Unappraised

Content: This single file contains six photocopied pages. Each page relates to mothers admitted either at 30 June of a year, or for the year ending 30 June, for the years 1936–39. It is not clear if the copies are of full lists or partial lists.

Information varies slightly between lists and is recorded in columns that include:

  • number (presumably a registration or admission number)
  • name
  • M or P or S (presumably refers to married or pregnant or single. Column entries are either P or M)
  • religion
  • admission (date)
  • discharge (date)
  • how discharged (for example, to a person or place)
  • days (in residence at Berry Street)
  • remarks

Pages for whole years include statistics on number of mothers, days in residence, compiled from the lists’ contents.

Client files (mothers) date of birth 1937–1972

File; Unappraised

Content: This collection contains 11 files. They are identified by the name of the client (the mother admitted to Berry Street). File titles also include, in most cases, the name and date of birth of the child or children of the mother. Dates of birth of children are in the year range 1937–72.

Content of the files varies but may include :

  • correspondence with the mother and others, including adoptive parents
  • signed consents and agreements
  • medical information

There is no indication as to why these files were created but it is possible that they relate to responding to requests for adoption information.

Adoption information requests (1949-83 and 1980-2006)

File; Unappraised

Content: Records in this collection list or document requests for adoption information.

There is one file, titled ‘Berry Street adoption information requests 1949 to 1983’, that lists requests for adoption information in that period and provides limited detail.

There is another single file documenting a request for adoption records for an individual born in 1928.

The remaining, majority of files in this collection are arranged alphabetically by surname of the applicants in two sequences: 1980–2005 and 2005–06. These files contain details associated with each individual application for adoption information dealt with by Berry Street Adoption Information Service in the periods specified.

Berry Street reports (1961-82)

File; Unappraised

Content: This collection is composed of a single file containing a small number of reports associated with Berry Street. They are:

  • report to president and committee, 12 April 1967
  • matron's report on admissions, 26 April 1967
  • list of life governors, 1961–82
  • report regarding bed count and costs, 1967.

Adoption applications (1923-72)

File; Unappraised

Content: This collection consists of files each of which contains documentation relating to a number of applications to adopt a child or children. Each file is identified by the alphabetical range of surnames of applicants in the file, and overall the files are arranged alphabetically by surnames of applicants.

There are two alphabetical sequences: the larger has files for applications received up to 1963, and the smaller sequence relates to applications in the period 1963–72.

Contents of files will vary but may include:

  • application form completed by the applicants providing personal details such as names, occupations, residential situation, plus adoption preferences. The forms may include annotations added by Berry Street personnel
  • supporting documentation such as medical certificates, personal references, evidence of employment
  • correspondence and other papers prepared by staff such as house inspection reports
  • photographs of children.

Index to adoption consents, children’s names (1939-55)

Volume; Unappraised

Content: This single, slim volume is an index to consents to adopt. It specifically indexes the forms in 13 volumes of consents to adopt for the years 1939–55.

Entries are in alphabetical sections within the volume and are arranged by family name. They show the family and given names of the child and the consent number (or form number) that will enable the consent form to be located within the volumes of consents.

Adoption consents (1924-55)

Volume and File; Unappraised

Content: This collection contains volumes and files that contain the consents of mothers for the adoption of their children. The records are in several formats.

  • Consents to adopt 16 March 1924 to 16 July 1934
    There are two small books that contain counterfoils of forms signed by the persons who were giving their children up for adoption. They are headed, ‘Foundling Hospital and Infants Home (incorporated), Berry Street, East Melbourne’ and are memoranda of agreement between the person and Berry Street in which the person agreed to hand over the child to Berry Street for adoption. The forms are numbered and include the name of the mother and child and the child’s date of birth.
  • Consents to adopt May 1934 to January 1939
    This small volume is similar to the ones above except that the forms are sanctions in which the mother agreed that she wanted her child to be adopted and gave up all legal rights to the child. The mother and child’s names and the child’s date of birth are included.
  • Consents to adopt 14 November 1939 to 4 March 1955
    These 13 volumes contain full-page (foolscap or larger) forms for consent to adoption. They include details of the name, address and occupation of the person giving consent and the name and date and place of birth of the child. The bottom half of the form is an affidavit in which the signatures of the person giving consent and their witness are further certified. The forms were meant to be a carbon copy of an original but many of the copies are in fact written in long hand. They are arranged in the volumes in chronological order and each is numbered in a sequence beginning at number 2 in the first volume. The volumes are arranged both by date range and number range of content. There is a separate name index to consents in these volumes.
  • Consents to adopt, miscellaneous documents, 1928 to 1955
    There are five files each with its own date range with content arranged alphabetically by surname of the mother. The documents are mostly loose, unattached sheets that are a mixture of handwritten consents, completed forms of consent, correspondence, court documents et cetera.

Adoption agreements (1928-74)

Volume; Unappraised

Content: These records are the form of agreement signed by individuals who agreed to adopt a child from Berry Street. The records are contained in small volumes and take the form of counterfoils in which originally there were two copies of the agreement on each page, separated by a vertical perforation. The right-hand copy, once completed and signed, was torn off and presumably handed to the adopting person or put to other use. The left-hand copy remained bound in the small book.

The records are on printed stationery headed ‘Foundling Hospital and Infants Home (incorporated), Berry Street, East Melbourne’. The signed documents are memoranda of understanding between Berry Street and the adoptive person. Information includes the date, the adopting person’s name, the child’s name and date of birth. Each page is numbered. Some pages are annotated in various ways and some have correspondence or the original, right-hand copy of the agreement, attached.

Individual volumes are identified by both the date range of their contents and the number range of the agreements. Only part of the volume for 1928 has survived and the individual agreements are clipped together.

Adoption files, Berry Street [Defunct Agency Adoption Files][numbers A2410 to A2613] (Dates of births 1964-74)

File; Permanent VPRS 17943 / P0002

Content: These files are part of a collection entitled ‘Defunct agency adoption files’.

The collection has that name because when a number of non-departmental adoption agencies ceased to provide adoption services, their records were taken into the custody of the department. The department’s Adoption Information Service gathered the records of the various agencies together after its inception c.1985, and numbered the files sequentially with an ‘A’ prefix.

The files referred to here were created by Berry Street and were subsequently incorporated into the defunct agency adoption file system. They are numbered in a sequence from file number A2410 to A2613.

Content of files will vary but may include.

  • application to adopt for
  • documents and correspondence supporting the application
  • consent to adopt and correspondence
  • legal documents
  • birth certificates
  • photographs.

Adoption register (1963-66)

File; Unappraised

Content: This single file is described as the Berry Street Adoption Register for the period 1963–66. It contains summary information relating to adoptions arranged through Berry Street for the specified period.

Adoption orders and other records (1931-74)

File; Unappraised

Content: This collection contains a small number of various records associated with the adoption process. They appear to be fragments of systems and include:

  • Berry Street adoption orders with correspondence, 1931–56• hearings and placements lists, 1962–69
  • revocations of consent, 1970–73
  • adoption hearings diaries, 1971–74.

Medial reports for adoption (1946-69)

File; Unappraised

Content: This collection contains two files of reports on the health and medical condition of children who were being considered for adoption. The reports essentially state whether or not a child was suitable to be adopted. The reports are signed by a medical practitioner.

Medical record cards, children born 1931–1975

Card; Temporary

Content: This collection contains medical records of babies resident in the Foundling Hospital and Infants Home/ Berry Street Babies Home.

The basic record is a folded, double-sided card that has space on one side to record information about the baby and parents (although the parent information is not recorded on most cards), and charts for weight and height on the reverse.

This card appears to be a pre-printed card suited for use in a variety of child health care facilities, not specifically Berry Street. Child information includes an initial examination, milestones and immunisation. The second half of the front of the card provides for chronological recording of observations including weight monitoring, diet and remarks.

Most of the cards are either pink (for girls) or blue (for boys). There are some that are white and some that are larger in format, but they mostly provide the same information and may indicate that that record was forwarded to Berry Street from another institution.

Attachments to the cards may include:

  • additional cards that expand the recording of observations, et cetera
  • infant welfare centre, hospital and other institutions’ records in cases where a child was previously in attendance elsewhere
  • correspondence and notes
  • copies of certificates such as christening or baptism.

The cards are in alphabetical order by surname and relate to babies with dates of birth form 1931–75. It is not apparent whether or not this is a complete set of cards.

Gippsland Region, Berry Street Family Group Home, incident reports, correspondence and memoranda (1992-94)

File; Unappraised

Content: This entry relates to a small number of files created in the department’s Gippsland regional office in Morwell that relate to a Berry Street family group home in Gippsland. The files contain:

  • incident reports, 1993–94
  • correspondence and memoranda, including start-up and report on clients, 1992–94.

Staffing Priorities Committee, Homes and Hostels files (1976-83)

File; Temporary

Content: This collection comprised 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 staffing positions required. Individual homes 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 Berry Street Family and Child Care dates from 1970–79.

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

File, Unappraised

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

Reviewed 10 August 2016