St Joseph’s Foundling Hospital (1901–75); Babies’ Home (1976–97)


  • Name: St Joseph’s Babies’ Home (1976–97)
  • Other names: St Joseph’s Foundling Hospital (1901–75)
  • Address: Glenroy

St Joseph’s Foundling Hospital; Babies’ Home history in brief

In 1901, the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart established St Joseph's Foundling Hospital as a purpose-built infants' home for up to 300 babies. St Joseph's was a very large institution that also provided accommodation for expectant mothers, mainly single women.

In the early 1930s, the department contracted St Joseph's Foundling Hospital to care for an additional 60 infant state wards, in addition to between 160 to 175 non-wards in residence at any one time.

From 1931, St Joseph's also operated a mothercraft training school.

In 1940, an inspection report recorded 130 mothers and 260 children in residence – among them 73 state wards and 17 babies under ‘Infant Life Protection’.

By 1956, inspection reports noted only six mothers and 120 children in residence. Staffing difficulties, greater use of foster homes and fewer parents placing their children in institutions resulted in two of the home's nurseries closing.

In 1957, one former nursery was converted to mothers’ quarters and the number of single mothers increased to about 40.

By 1965, there were growing numbers of children being referred for placement. So too were the numbers of children with intellectual disabilities and mental illness for whom there were no suitable placements available.

In the late 1960s, the home had four completely self-contained nurseries each with about 20 children in groups with a range of ages. This enabled children to remain in familiar surroundings for longer with mothercraft nurses who provided plenty of individual attention.

In 1967, the facility's name was changed to St Joseph's Babies’ Home.

By the early 1970s, St Joseph’s had two major functions: the care of single mothers, and the tending of babies for adoption. Most of the 90 babies in care were awaiting adoption through the Catholic Family Welfare Bureau (adoption agency). The average stay for these children was only a matter of months.

In 1972, the three children's homes administered by the Sisters of St Joseph had two Sisters who were also social workers. The Order separated St Anthony's, Kew, into family group homes and established a temporary care unit as it sought to close its large institutions and localise operations in Broadmeadows and Carlton.

By the end of 1976, St Joseph's had moved from the old complex at Broadmeadows to establish the St Joseph's Babies Home in Glenroy. St Joseph's became increasingly involved in foster care and maintained a small four-bed residential unit, predominantly for babies awaiting adoption. It also undertook some counselling activity for single mothers.

In 1985, St Joseph's established a small residential unit for single pregnant women at Loongana Avenue, Glenroy.

In 1997, St Joseph's became part of MacKillop Family 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 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 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.1930–85)

File; Permanent (VPRS Number 18069 / P0001)

Content: The files essentially record interaction between the various Voluntary Homes and the Government. This filing system was created in 1975 and combined earlier correspondence and other records to create one system with ‘VH’ prefixes.

The specific files relating to St Joseph’s Babies Home are dated 1929–85 and include:

File VH-56-78:

  • Departmental correspondence (Secretary Children’s Welfare Department to the Chief Secretary), statistics re 1) children under six, and 2) children under two who were made wards of the state during the previous two years and who were boarded out, showing religion, years boarded out, rates of payment, 1929
  • List of religious homes for children of different Christian denominations, c.1929
  • Correspondence from Children’s Welfare Department to heads of Catholic, Presbyterian and Methodist churches regarding the lack of children’s homes for boarding out; responses to correspondence, 1929.
  • Correspondence with heads of the churches to arrange for more child state wards to be taken into church facilities under agreed financial conditions, 1929–31
  • Department correspondence (including Archbishop Mannix and Sisters of St Joseph) regarding funding and plans to build a facility in Broadmeadows, 1931
  • Correspondence and statistics regarding the numbers of children in residence, 1933–43
  • Children with measles, 1942
  • Correspondence regarding named children requiring psychological examination, 1947
  • Annual inspection including names and details of wards, 1938, 1940
  • Annual inspection report, 1942, 1946–48, 1952–55
  • Report on a fire at the home, 1939
  • List of wards, mothers and addresses, 1940
  • Cases of meningitis, 1939
  • Correspondence: department’s financial obligations as agreed 1932; payments relating to building agreement, 1947
  • Payment for 60 wards, 1932
  • Holiday placements, 1955
  • Memoranda re boarding-out of wards, 1955
  • List of state wards placed for adoption from Broadmeadows, 1955.

File VH-056-78A:

  • Annual reports, 1972-74
  • Comprehensive list of children placed for adoption includes: birth name, date orders granted, child’s new name, last recorded address, foster parents’ names, 1955
  • Application for declaration of St Joseph’s Foundling Hospital, Broadmeadows East, as an approved children’s home, 1956
  • Polio immunisation, 1956
  • Annual inspection report, some listing named wards, 1956–57, 1959–61, 1963, 1965–69
  • List of RC babies (names and DOB) accommodated at the nursery, Turana, 1957
  • File note, admission of pregnant girl to Broadmeadows, 1960
  • Correspondence re admission of intellectually disabled children, 1962
  • St Joseph’s children requiring psychological assessment, 1962
  • Named wards, 1967
  • Sale of land to Education Department, 1971
  • Statistics, 1969–72, 1972
  • Reports on future of St Joseph’s home, and new programs (such as terrace home program), 1972–73
  • Report on an intellectually disabled ward, 1973
  • Report on the home, 1973
  • Correspondence re possible lease of St Josephs to the Mental Health Authority, 1974
  • File note on rostering of staff, 1985

File VH-056-78B:

  • Correspondence, maintenance funding, 1975–76
  • Annual report 1975
  • Position paper including statistics, 1975

File VH 056 78C:

  • detailed report and correspondence on maintenance funding of St Joseph’s Babies Home, 1975

Reviewed 19 September 2016