St Joseph’s Home(s) for Children (1888–1997)


  • Auspice:St Vincent De Paul Society
  • Title or Name:St Joseph’s Home for Destitute Children, South Melbourne (1888–1925)
  • Later Names:St Joseph’s Home for Boys, Surrey Hills (1925–67); St Joseph’s Home for Children, Surrey Hills (1967–81); St Joseph’s Home for Children, Flemington (1981–97)
  • Address: Nelson Road, South Melbourne


  • Auspice:St Vincent De Paul Society
  • Title or Name:St Joseph’s Home for Destitute Children, South Melbourne (1888–1925)
  • Later Names:St Joseph’s Home for Boys, Surrey Hills (1925–67); St Joseph’s Home for Children, Surrey Hills (1967–81); St Joseph’s Home for Children, Flemington (1981–97)
  • Address: Nelson Road, South Melbourne

St Joseph's Home(s) for Children history in brief

In 1889, the St Vincent de Paul Society established St Joseph's Home for Children in South Melbourne. In 1890, its operation transferred to the Sisters of St Joseph.

In 1893, the home moved to Kent Road, Surrey Hills. 


By the mid-1950s, the home catered for Roman Catholic boys aged six to 12 years.

Capacity in 1956 was 112 and children slept in large dormitories with 12 to 29 beds. About 50 per cent of the boys at St Joseph's were state wards. 

By the mid-1960s, capacity was about 80 boys aged five to nine years. Exceptions were made for siblings younger than five years and for slower boys to continue at St Joseph’s primary school after nine years. There was higher ratio of wards to private placements.

By 1965, there were four 17-bed dormitories. Children were accepted only if referred through the Catholic Family Welfare Bureau.

By 1969, St Joseph's had both boys (aged two to 10) and girls (aged two to 12) in four self-contained 10-bed units. St Joseph's also introduced a temporary care unit, and had two family group homes near their main campus in Surrey Hills. 


In the early 1970s, there were three children's homes controlled by the Sisters of St Joseph (St Joseph's Broadmeadows, St Anthony's Kew and St Joseph's Surrey Hills). Each home retained its autonomy, but met to overview all services.

Children aged 12 months to 12 years referred by the Catholic Family Welfare Bureau were placed in the 10-bed temporary care unit (Surrey Hills) to provide professional support to help prevent breakdown of the family unit. They could stay a maximum of three months.

In the mid-1970s, St Joseph's Surrey Hills established a service presence in the western suburbs.


In 1981, the Order closed the Surrey Hills campus.

St Joseph's was already operating family group homes in the Inner Eastern Region and in the north-western suburbs, and it extended its family group home program into the Inner Urban Region. 

In 1981, the temporary/emergency care unit was relocated from the Inner Eastern Region to the inner suburbs. Management and administration of St Joseph Homes for Children was consolidated at Flemington.


In 1991 the Christian Brothers assumed auspice responsibility for St Joseph's Flemington.

In 1997, the service became part of MacKillop Family Services.

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 & Connect.


  • 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-c.1985)

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 files relating to St Joseph’s date from 1941–78 and include:

File VH-033-78:

  • seeking advice from the department on named wards’ baptisms, 1941, 1942
  • inspectors’ reports 1956, 1957, 1959, 1965, 1969
  • correspondence regarding immunisation and poliomyelitis, 1956
  • application for and approval for declaration of St Josephs, 1 Kent Road, Surrey Hills, as an approved children’s home, 1956
  • consent for surgical and other procedures to wards, 1960, 1962
  • report on application for registration for Infant life protection children under s. 612 part 7 of the Children’s Welfare Act 1958, 1967
  • correspondence regarding a family of children, 1962
  • file notes re closure of St Joseph’s and conversion to family group homes, 1970
  • overall scheme of Josephite child care in Victoria: relates to St Anthony’s Kew, St Joseph’s Surrey Hills and Broadmeadows, c.1972
  • press clippings, 1972–73
  • account of special education program, 1974–75
  • application for a holiday house for St Joseph’s, 1975
  • application for maintenance funding of 4 Kent Road and 28 Durham Road Surrey Hills, 1975
  • evaluation of St Joseph’s bridging program for children, 1975
  • correspondence regarding a ward of state, 1977
  • subsidy request, 1978
  • annual report 1972–73.

File VH-033-2:

  • correspondence relating to approval of St Joseph’s nursery and an approved children’s home, 1969
  • inspection reports, some including children’s names, 1960, 1962, 1963
  • list of children, 1960
  • application for declaration as an approved children’s home, 1960
  • correspondence regarding health benefits for state wards and infant life protection children, 1963
  • reimbursement of named ward’s transport, 1964
  • possibility of taking more wards due to overcrowding at Allambie, 1970

File VH-033-1:

  • correspondence regarding review admission of long or short term placements, 1977
  • future of St Joseph’s, Surrey Hills, 1977
  • funding submissions, special education reports and statistics, submissions by St Joseph’s, c.1976–c.78
  • proposed expenditure, 1978–79
  • report on possible relocation of a congregate care unit from Surrey Hills to Bennetswood, 1979
  • correspondence regarding acquisition of a property 10 Madeline Street, Burwood, 1979
  • documentation regarding a family of four children resident at St Joseph’s Surrey Hills, placement options, 1979
  • moving from congregate care to small community-based care, listing wards and possible placements, 1979
  • conversion fund application for relocation of congregate care to family group home, 10 Madeline Street, Burwood, 1979
  • purchase of two family group homes in inner urban region, transfer of congregate, temporary care unit at Surrey Hills to separate inner urban region, 1979
  • copy of conversion fund application assessment documents including letter granting funding to St Joseph’s and subsequent grant claim, 1979–80
  • copies of draft agreements between Department of Community Welfare Services and St Joseph’s Home for Children, c.1980
  • documentation of proposals to open temporary/emergency care facilities in Flemington, 1980
  • annual report with history of St Joseph’s and developments in Flemington attached, 1979–80
  • correspondence regarding property in Kensington for family group home, 1980
  • conversion funding correspondence, 1981–82, application and declined grant, 1981

Staffing Priorities Committee homes and hostels files (1976-c.83)

File; Temporary

Content: This collection comprises 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 positions required. Individual homes and hostels are listed accompanied by comprehensive material concerning each children’s 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 St Joseph’s dates from 1977–78.

Staffing Priorities Committee, Homes and Hostels, Correspondence, Guidelines for Operation and Minutes of Meetings (1976-80)

File; Permanent (Unappraised)

Content: The material comprises 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.

Family Welfare Division funding and accounts files (1971-77)

File; Temporary

Content: These accounts and funding files are for individual children’s homes and are used to make allocations. They contain a monthly census giving names and dates of birth to calculate per capita expenses. There are annual reports of homes, income statements, reports on conditions of homes as assessed on visits. The records are arranged in a broad chronological order.

The specific file relating to St Joseph’s Babies Home is dated 1971–74.

Reviewed 26 August 2016