Presbyterian Babies Home (1928-78)


  • Auspice: Presbyterian Sisterhood, Presbyterian Church 
  • Name:Presbyterian Babies Home (1928–78)
  • Other names: Canterbury Family Centre (1978–2000);Connections Uniting Care (2000–current)
  • Address: Lansdowne Street, East Melbourne; 19 Canterbury Road, Camberwell

Presbyterian Babies Home history in brief

In 1928, the Committee of Management of the Presbyterian Sisterhood established the Presbyterian Babies Home in Lansdowne Street East Melbourne. The home for mothers and babies cared for babies needing specialist substitute care, and also trained infant welfare centre staff and mothercraft nurses.

In the home's first 15 or so years, most were voluntary placements by parents and clergy. Most needed care because they were premature, frail or sick. Most of these returned to their parents once their health or dietetic needs had been met. (This is in comparison to the Methodist Babies Home where most placements were via a care and protection application and were subsequently adopted.)

In 1933, the home relocated to larger premises in Camberwell. Around this time, there were 70 children. After the World War II, the home shifted its focus to the provision of substitute care for children needing day care, short-term and intermediate accommodation due to family breakdown or financial crisis. Support was also given to parents while the child was in the home's care.

The Presbyterian Babies' Home was an approved children's home and began to admit wards of state. In 1961, the home employed a professional social worker. In the mid-1960s, the home introduced a foster care program. Counselling and support to parents helped admissions decline and kept stays shorter.

In 1966 the admission ages for both the Presbyterian Babies' Home and Kildonan Children's Home changed. The Babies Home lowered the maximum age to two years, and Kildonan lowered their entry age to two years. This brought younger children into Kildonan’s family group home care program.

From 1970, the alliance between the Presbyterian Babies Home and Kildonan ended and both became part of a wider service network coordinated through the Presbyterian and Methodist Child Care Service. The Presbyterian Babies Home provided temporary care for children and a small number of infants awaiting adoption, and offered families counselling and support aimed at returning children home.

In 1974, the Presbyterian Department of Social Services recommend that the Home move to small group care. Mothercraft nurse training was phased out in 1975.
In 1977, a committee recommended a number of programs and services be managed and funded by the former Methodist, Congregational and Presbyterian churches.These included adoption, inter-country adoption, foster care and residential programs (e.g. the campus family group home programs at Orana, and Kildonan Family Group Homes).

Additionally, some ongoing experimental facilities (such as Copelan Street Family Centre) and drug and alcohol treatment programs at Moreland Hall were rationalised. Operations at the Babies Home consolidated around residential care for children under five years, in particular short-term placements where working with the family was prioritised.

In 1978, the Presbyterian Babies Home became the Canterbury Family Centre. Capacity was 30–35 children in the new on-campus residential units
The Canterbury Family Centre provided temporary 24-hour therapeutic care and respite to statewide referrals, and assessed families and children for future needs. The centre also cared longer-term for some handicapped children with no alternative placements.

In 1985, the Canterbury Family Centre’s new family admission program allowed an entire family to be admitted to a residential unit for assessment, support and work on family functioning.

More innovative programs were introduced over the following 10 years including localised Families First programs in Dandenong, Camberwell and Croydon, a family support crisis-oriented service (FICSS), a community-based support service for young pregnant and parenting women (Starting Out) and a consultancy for challenging behaviours.

In 2000, the Canterbury Family Centre, Copelen and the Wheelers Hill Family Centre amalgamated to form Connections Uniting Care.

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

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.

Voluntary children’s homes files (c.1930-85)

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.

The specific file(s) relating to this home are dated from 1938 to 1984 and include:

File VH-062

  • inspection reports (Presbyterian Babies Home), 1938, 1941, 1943, 1949, 1951–60, 1962–63, 1969, 1977
  • correspondence regarding institutional payments, 1952
  • application for declaration as an approved children’s home (Presbyterian babies home), 1956
  • poliomyelitis immunisation, 1956–57
  • correspondence , Presbyterian and Scots Church Children’s Aid Society, Kildonan homes, 1963
  • ward names, and correspondence, 1962, 1963
  • correspondence regarding medical benefits for wards and infant life protection babies at Presbyterian Babies Home, 1966
  • correspondence regarding named wards, 1966
  • list of wards at the home, 1966, 1977
  • report, assessment of possibility of foster care as an alternative placement to residence in the babies home, 1972
  • list of wards at Allambie nursery awaiting placement in a children’s home, 1974
  • correspondence with department, regarding inquiry into present and future use of the babies home, 1975
  • Report of Committee of Inquiry into operation of the babies home, 1976
  • correspondence relating to capital grants for proposed alterations and proposed staffing salary subsidies, 1976
  • Director Family Welfare’s report on future of the home, 1977
  • summary of meetings with Presbyterian Babies Home including discussion of staffing plans, 1977
  • file notes relating to families of wards, 1977
  • correspondence with Uniting Church on future of the babies home, 1978
  • report on the Uniting Church Babies Home in Canterbury, and documentation including recommendations for its future and recommendation on
  • departmental funding, 1978
  • Correspondence and Summary of meetings at Canterbury Family Centre (formerly the Babies Home) regarding government funding for proposed facility and future programs, including detailed descriptions of program and staffing, 1980, 1981
  • file note of a complaint regarding staffing levels at the Canterbury Children’s centre, 1984.

Reviewed 29 August 2016