St John’s Home for Boys (and girls) (1926–96)


  • Auspice: Anglican Church
  • Title or Name: St John’s Home for Boys; St John's Home for Boys and Girls (1958–96)
  • Address: Multiple locations

St John’s Home for Boys (and girls) history in brief

In 1926, the St John's Home for Boys was established when St Martin's Home for Boys (Auburn) and St John's Evangelist Home for Boys in Canterbury were amalgamated under the same management committee. The Church of England provided the overall auspice. The Home was named after a benefactor, John Hindson, who had donated his Canterbury mansion 'Shrublands' to the home.

St John's Home for Boys, Canterbury accommodated up to 75 boys aged 5–15 years, some of whom were state wards. In 1944, the home also established the St Martin's Hostel on the Canterbury grounds, for ‘senior’ boys – young men – who would otherwise have had to leave when they turned 15.

In 1949, St John's became an approved voluntary child migration organisation accommodating migrant Protestant boys from England aged 5–11 years. (See separate entry on Approved Voluntary Child Migration Organisations)

From the 1950s

St John's had planned to convert from congregate care to self contained cottages as far back as 1955, but it was some time before the concept was actually introduced. A pilot 'cottage' was introduced at Sandringham in a house rented from the Ministering Children's League. Although this 'cottage' accommodated 20 boys, it was a significant change from existing congregate care arrangements operating in most children's homes at the time. This cottage was known as 'St John's by the Sea'.

In 1955 St John's was declared an Approved Children's Home, and opened four flats in a new wing on the Canterbury campus, retaining communal dining arrangements.

In 1956 St John's changed its admission policy to include girls so that siblings could be kept together.

In June 1959, St John's started building its first true cottage, a self contained home in its own grounds on the Canterbury site. In 1961 a second cottage was built in Doncaster, again for boys and girls. Two years later a third and fourth cottage followed at Nunawading and in Rochester Road, Canterbury. Further family group homes were later established at Doncaster and Nunawading.

In 1963 St John's again changed its name, this time to St John's Home for Boys and Girls.

In the early 1960s the concept of preventive welfare was emerging in Victoria. In 1965, St John's opened the 'Family Welfare Clinic' which aimed to keep families together in times of stress. The Clinic also supported the parents of children in St John's residential facilities.

Up until 1965, St John's focussed on caring for family groups of younger children, and boys aged 10 years and over. However, in 1968, St John's responded to the urgent need to provide residential care for troubled adolescents by establishing two new hostels in conjunction with the Church of England Boys Society (Molloy House and Fernhurst). These were halfway houses for young people on Children's Court probation. The original 'Shrublands' mansion on the Canterbury campus was restored to serve as a hostel for 14 young men coming from the country to work.

In 1969, 'Field House' was established at 53 Prospect Hill Road, Camberwell to accommodate boys over 13 years with academic potential. In 1971, St John's opened Hindson House, a campus on the Portsea seafront with three self-contained cottages each housing six children.

From the 1970s

In 1971 Wilson, Butler, Reynolds family group homes were also opened on the Canterbury campus. By this time St John's client base was mostly state wards.
In 1973, St John's CEO advised the Department that the agency would establish:

a community counselling service
a foster care service
a residential cottage service
a treatment service for more disturbed children.

In 1976, St John's Homes established the community-based preventive program, 'Care-Force', designed to provide a multi-service strategy delivering an integrated range of services on a regional basis. The aim was to strengthen family functioning at the local community level and reduce the need for residential placement.
St John's established two Care-Force teams: one in Preston for the north-eastern region and one in Canterbury servicing the eastern region.

In 1978, St John's closed Shrublands in Canterbury and re-established it in the Inner Urban region. Molloy House was closed and relocated to the Coburg/Brunswick area. The hostel at Surry Hills was transferred to the Outer Eastern Region, and the family group home in Doncaster and Field Cottage were relocated to the North Western Region.

Birch and Read Cottages, Canterbury remained in the Inner Eastern Region, as well as Appleby Hostel, Mont Albert; St Martins Hostel, Canterbury (converted to a specialist hostel); and the three family units on the Balwyn Road, Canterbury campus.

Need was reviewed for the three campus family group homes at Sorrento and they were either phased out or relocated.

The old ‘Shrubland’ building in Canterbury was converted to a 'Resource Unit' providing casework, consultation and education services for St John's.

The Care-Force concept, originally established in February 1976 in the north-eastern region, was expanded to adjacent regions. By 1979 there were four Care-Force teams.

In 1974, St John's moved back to residential (non-family group home) care for 'socially and emotionally disturbed' children, using rostered staff to fill a perceived gap in available services. St John's and the Church of England Boys Society established a hostel in Reservoir for school age boys.

In 1976, they established George Hall Cottage in 10 Bell Street Box Hill.

In 1997, St John's Home for Boys and Girls amalgamated with the Mission of St James and St John and the Mission to the Street and Lanes, to form Anglicare Victoria.

Client Records

Enquiries about the possibility of access to early Mission of St James and St John records should be made to:

The Heritage Client Practitioner
Anglicare Victoria
103 Hoddle Street
Collingwood, Victoria 3066
Phone: 03 9 4102 6133

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 & ConnectExternal Link for more detail of child welfare in Australia.


Guide to Out of Home Care Services 1940 – 2000 Volume One Agency Descriptions, Compiled by James Jenkinson Consulting North Melbourne, November 2001.

Source: Find and Connect – Timeline of hostels/homes

Under: St John’s Home for Boys (1924–58)

1923 Alice Hindson donates her mansion at 16 Balwyn Road, Canterbury ('Shrublands') to the Church
1926 Combined homes of St Martins [formerly in Auburn] (older boys) and St Johns (younger boys) are opened on the ‘Shrublands’, Canterbury site.
1934 A new wing to the ‘Shrublands’ mansion opened
1944 St Martins Hostel Canterbury opened
1951 St John’s by the Sea, Sandringham, opened

Under: St John’s Home for Boys and Girls (1958–96)

1959 work begins on a new cottage at St Johns homes in Canterbury
1961 St Johns opens cottages in Doncaster (?) and Nunawading (?)
1968 Molloy House (1968–78), opened
1968 Fernhurst Hostel, opened
1969 Field House, Camberwell, opened
1971 Hindson House, comprising three cottages in Portsea, opened
1971 Wilson, Butler and Reynolds family group homes are opened on the Canterbury site.
1974 St. John's established a hostel in Reservoir in the northern suburbs, run in conjunction with Church of England Boys' Society.
1976 George Hall Cottage, Bell Street, Box Hill opened. Some St John's Homes remained in the inner-eastern region: Birch and Read Cottages in Canterbury, Appleby Hostel in Mont Albert, St Martin's Hostel in Canterbury, and three family units on the Balwyn Road, Canterbury, campus.
1997 St John's Homes amalgamated with the Mission of St James and St John and the Mission to the Streets and Lanes to form Anglicare Victoria.

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.

Departmental administration

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

File; Permanent (VPRS Number 18069 / P0001) and Permanent (VPRS Number 18069 / P00012)

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 files relating to St John’s Boys’ Home are dated 1946–84 and include:


  • Copy of report,”The Residential Children’s Home – a Technique for Analysis; research study by [staff of] Children’s Home Section, Social Welfare Department.” November 1973 – April 1974
  • Warden and manager advises changes to the order’s children’s homes: St Martin’s home for boys, Auburn, now known as Boys Hostel located in the grounds at 19 Rochester Road, Canterbury (formerly St John Evangelist’s home for boys) now known as St John’s Home for Boys. Also their desire to become an approved children’s home, 1946
  • Application for declaration for St John’s home for boys as an approved Children’s home, 1955
  • Inspection report 1956, 1958–59, 1963–66, 1968
  • Newspaper clipping, 1965
  • Application for declaration 20May Street, Doncaster and 12 Alern Court, Nunawading, as approved children’s homes to be family group homes, 1965
  • Allowance towards cost of school uniforms for wards, 1966
  • Inspection report, Field House, 53A Prospect Hill Road, Camberwell, 1966
  • Newsletter, CARE, St John’s Home for Boys, 1970
  • Application for declaration as an approved children’s home, Seacombe, 3440–3444 Nepean Highway, Sorrento, and inspection report, 1971
  • Correspondence re golden jubilee celebrations for St John’s homes: New Sorrento establishment opening marks the jubilee, 1971
  • Meting between St Johns and department re current situation at St John’s, 1971
  • List of wards approaching school leaving age, 1971
  • Booklet, St John’s Home for boys and girls, 1921–71, 1971
  • Annual report, 1972
  • Correspondence, proposed treatment unit for emotionally disturbed children, to care for 20 children, 1973
  • Query re funding for extensions, Sorrento, 1973
  • Newsletter, CARE, 1974
  • Correspondence re three part-Aboriginal wards, and their education requirements, 1974
  • Report and correspondence for foster care assessment for a named ward, 1975
  • Home release of a ward, 1975
  • Declaration for 10 Bell Street Box Hill North as an approved children’s home, 1976
  • Grant application for emergency child accommodation facility in Preston, interested in using Department’s vacant family group home: department declined, 1976
  • Information re St John’s current allocation of wards across their three establishments, details of the wards, 1976
    Architectural drawing, Proposed additions to Hindson House, Sorrento and St Johns Canterbury, 1974

File VH-031-1 (Central file 1977–82)

  • draft proposal, St John’s pre-school, flats: Project Child Care brochure, 1977
  • proposals, correspondence, file notes relating to St John’s flats, including list of current wards and their coittages,1977
  • meeting notes, Director family and adolescent services and director, St John’s: relocation of facilities including Sutherland Hostel (to be closed and re-established in the inner region), Molloy House youth hostel (to be sold and re-established in Coburg area), Doncaster family group home 20 May Street, Doncaster (to be sold and relocated to the western region), Field Cottage family group home (to the North western region), Surrey Hills hostel (to Ringwood region), and correspondence re sale of 20 May Street, Doncaster,1978
  • file note and correspondence, proposal for St John’s to establish a new or renting departmental family group home in north western suburbs at 21 Elizabeth Street Coburg, 1978-79
  • correspondence regarding family of five children, named wards of the state, who need to be clothed, 1979
  • agreement, St Johns and Department of Community Welfare Services, for a family group home program in the north west region, 1979
  • correspondence re rental agreement for Elizabeth street Coburg, family group home, 1979
  • report, proposed service directions for St Johns, 1979
  • submission for the establishment of a youth refuge program in north eastern suburban region, 1979
  • correspondence citing named wards for new cottage at Coburg, 1979
  • copy of a paper on campus care, 1979
  • file note, family case history and placement of a teenage ward, 1979
  • correspondence re future of St John’s, 1979
  • proposal for conversion funding for family group home in north western suburbs, 1979
  • correspondence, cessation of lease of Elizabeth Street, Coburg, due to establishment of new family group home on Longview Street, Pascoe Vale, 1980
  • correspondence, maintenance allowance for named wards, 1980
  • correspondence and copy of St John’s response to Education Department’s green paper, 1980
  • correspondence re St John’s new family group home15 Muchell Grove, East Coburg and application for transition funding to redevelop the property, 1981
  • correspondence re named ward requiring clothing, 1981
  • correspondence, file and meeting notes re provision of an adolescent program in the eastern suburbs at Field Cottage, 1982
  • correspondence re psychological services for wards of the state, 1982
  • correspondence re approved purchase of 120 Canterbury Road, Surrey Hills, for establishment by St John’s of a family group home, 1982

File VH-031-2 (Central file 1982–ct)

  • correspondence, need for an overview of services, 1982
  • documentation of case, voluntary and temporary placement of children (wards of the state) from a named family, and proposal to provide a family group home in Forest Hill for the combined children from the family,1982
  • correspondence re facility, Wilson Unit, a pre-school unit established 1977 for sibling groups from Allambie: now children established in the unit have no prospect of retuning home to parents; proposal that children and carers be relocated to another property in the eastern suburbs; seeking continuing funding, 1983
  • meeting notes, Department and St John’s, relocate a move a campus unit, 1983
  • report on adolescent unit, Field Cottage, 1984
  • documentation, St John’s current facilities and future directions, including the phase-down of St John’s campus units, closure of Broadhurst Hostel and withdrawal from specialist hostel service, 1984–85
  • documentation re funding for staffing positions and other services, 1985
  • correspondence re new service agreements, 1987

File VH-031-A

  • brochures, Care-Force caring in the community, c.1973
  • editions of CARE newsletter, 1976–79, 1981
  • newspaper clipping, re a Balwyn man making an old church building available to St John’s for use as a job training centre, 1983

File VH-031-78

  • application for a grant to operate and emergency accommodation cottage in the north eastern region in conjunction with Care-Force Program in that region 1974

File VH-031-78A (St John’s Study File 3)

  • copy of report, Keeping Them Out of Prison (a report on some of the services provided for delinquent boys in England and the USA), 1965
  • list of bibliographies, suggested reading, potential research material and research methodology for research into child care institutions; includes reference material, research scope documents, printed lists of daily routines of children in the cottages, timetable of proposed visits to ten of St John’s cottages, and issues for discussion,1973
  • notes, correspondence and memorandum from St John’s re clientele of the campus units, 1974
  • copy of Harrison House manual, scope notes, reference material including St John’s hostel programs, lists of staff and wards at cottages. 1975–76


  • Copy of report,”The Residential Children’s Home – a Technique for Analysis; a research study by [staff of] Children’s; Home Section, Social Welfare Department.” November 1973 – April 1974
  • Material supplied by St Johns for the research study (three reports):
    o St John’s homes for boys and girls and the Church of England’s Boys’ Society Halfway Houses For Delinquent Youth (no date)
    o An Inquiry Into Most Suitable Forms of Accommodation Required for Young Working Girls and Other Girls Unable to Remain at Home (no date)
    o Farm Training, (by chairman of the Church of England Boys’ society (no date)


  • Copy of draft report,”The Residential Children’s Home – a Technique for Analysis; a research study by [staff of] Children’s Home Section, Social Welfare Department.” November 1973 – April 1974

V- (NO NUMBER: Manilla envelope labelled “St John’s Study”)

Content relates to a research study that explored goals, objectives, research team members, including visit reports of staff from the department, 1973-74.

Complaints and allegations raised in relation to the care provided by foster carers (1985–94)

File; Unappraised

Content: Small collection of files documenting complaints or allegations raised about foster care provided to wards placed by St John's Home For Boys and Girls, Careforce Foster Care. (Collection is attributed to Children and Youth Services, Child Placement and Support section)

The complaints or accusations relate to category one incidents.

Staffing Priorities Committee hostels (1976–83)

File; Temporary

Content: Files documenting the recommendations for staffing positions for homes and hostels, correspondence between the Minister of Community Welfare Services and senior officers, and funding information.

Individual homes and hostels are listed accompanied by comprehensive material concerning each home, family group home or hostel. Also minutes from the approved children's homes and hostels meetings, 1978–80.

The specific file relating to St John’s Home for Boys and Girls is dated from 1977–79.

Hostels mentioned are:

• Appleby Lodge
• Fernhurst Hostel
• Molloy House
• Ruthven Hostel
• St Davids Hostel
• St Martins Hostel
• Surrey Hills Hostel

Note that these records have had all permanent material removed and placed in the collection below.

Staffing Priorities Committee, homes and hostels, correspondence, guidelines for operation and minutes of meetings

File; Unappraised

Content: These records comprise ministerial correspondence, and Staffing Priority Committee minutes and list of members.

Reviewed 22 September 2016