Agency history in brief
In 1937, Lady Northcote, an admirer of Kingsley Fairbridge and his Farm School initiative, left a bequest to establish the Northcote Farm School at Glenmore, near Bacchus Marsh, Victoria. The Farm School was based on Fairbridge principles.
Although the Northcote Farm was established independently of Fairbridge, it soon developed a close relationship with the Fairbridge Society and the Society agreed to select and send children from Britain to the farm school.
In July 1937, the first group of migrant boys arrived at Northcote Farm, Bacchus Marsh. In May 1938, a group of 28 children, 16 boys and 12 girls (the first girls to be placed at the farm school) arrived on the Largs Bay ship. The Age newspaper reported at the time that many of these children were related to the earlier-arrived migrant boys.
From 1937–58, the Northcote Farm School received a total of 273 child migrants (Lost Innocents: righting the record - report on child migration, 30 August 2001, Table 3.2 Numbers of Fairbridge Child Migrants).
According to the entry in the Victorian Heritage Database:
'Due to the war, child migration was suspended between 1939 and 1948, and in view of the decline in arrivals, in 1944 all Northcote children, and a number of cottage mothers were sent to the Fairbridge Farm School at Molong. From 1948 until 1958, 17 more groups of children were brought to the Lady Northcote Children's Village. As child migrant numbers were in decline, 'One Parent' and 'Two Parent' schemes were adopted by Northcote in 1959.'
The Northcote School Act 1960, made it possible for other children, including Victorian wards of state, to be placed at the Home.
In the mid 1970s, the Northcote Trustees sold part of the farm school site at Bacchus Marsh in Victoria and gifted the village to the Victorian Government (the terms of this sale were set out in the Northcote Trust Fund Act 1975).
In 1976, the administration of the then titled “Northcote School” was transferred to the Social Welfare Department. It then operated as a Departmental children's home accommodating boys and girls up to school leaving age, in cottages in a campus setting.
The numbers of children placed at Northcote was never large and decreased over time. This was a reflection of the Department's policy to provide alternative residential care as close as possible to their own parents, families and communities. Improved prevention services also reduced the number of children who needed this form of care.
In 1979, the facility was closed and the funds used for replacement family group homes and to support other regional family service programs.
In 2008, the Recreation Camp was owned by Sport and Recreation Victoria and continues its association with children and young people. In October 2008 the Lady Northcote Recreation Camp was included in Victoria's Heritage Register for its cultural heritage significance. It is the only institution in Victoria to have been constructed specifically for child migrants.
In 2016 the site is now named the Lady Northcote Recreation Camp and is run by YMCA Camps. One of its buildings, House 12, was granted to the 'Old Northcotians', the former residents' society.
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 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. See Find & Connect for more detail on the history of child welfare in Australia.
Find & Connect History & information about Australian orphanages, children’s Homes & other institutions Website: https://www.findandconnect.gov.au
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
For information relating to the central management of care leavers and wards of state, please consult the guide 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.1960–65)
Content: A single file containing records relating to the placement of around 50) of children at the "Northcote Farm Children’s Home”, from about 1960–65.
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
• date term expires (when child is aged 18 years)
• 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
• and so on.
There is generally one document per child. In some cases, additional or different documents include police, court or psychiatric reports.
The records are arranged in alphabetical order by children’s’ names. They were transferred to Archival Services from Warawee reception Centre some time after its closure in c.1989. Given the nature of the records it is likely that they were created by government officers dealing with 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.
Departmental Children’s Homes files (1956–78)
File; Permanent (VPRS Number 18072 / P0001 )[Open Consignment] and Permanent (VPRS Number 18072 / P0002) [Closed Consignment]
Content: The files essentially record interaction between the various departmental homes and the department. This filing system was created in 1975 combining earlier correspondence and other records to create one system with ‘DH’ prefixes.
The file(s) relating to this home dated 1956–79 include:
• Declaration of Establishment as an Approved Children’s Home on 1 Feb 1956
• Lists of children and school attendance lists 1975
• Movement of Children List Name & Ward Number & Date Out to 18 Dec 1976
• Placement of children on 10 Jan 1979, 1976
• Alleged incident report re holiday host, c 1976–78
• Closure of Home on 8 Jan 1979
Community Services Victoria Central Registry Unit - Central Administration Files - annual single number (1981–87)
File; Permanent (VPRS Number 14838 / P0001)
Contents: Key correspondence & policy files (series 1981–87; contents 1960–90) maintained by the department of Community Welfare Services (1979–85), which was superseded by the Department of Community Services (also known as Community Services Victoria CSV, 1985–92).
Pre-1981 files concerning issues of continuing significance were 'top-numbered' into the new system at the start of 1981 & file covers replaced (a procedure also known as file conversion), which is not indicated in the control records.
A degree of original order was retained by a numerical classification system. Files were accessed via a card index arranged alphabetically under subject title & individuals' surnames.
The file titled “Res Child Care – Northcote Children’s Home” relates to the transfer of the land and the government’s development of the land, 1974–76.
Community Services Victoria (and predecessor Departments) Personnel Files (c.1950s–88)
Content: Central employee filing system for the department.
Charting each employee’s history including: employee's name, date commenced, positions held, leave details, position changes and promotions, salary increases, termination details. Some files include the employee's leave card as well as various employment history details. Records are arranged in alphabetical order by surname.
The files include staff working at the reception centres, training centres and children’s homes.