St Vincent de Paul Orphanage/Home (1854–1997)


  • Auspice: Christian Brothers
  • Name: St Vincent de Paul Orphanage (1854–1966)
  • Other names: St Vincent’s Boys’ Home (1967–97)
  • Address: Cecil Street, South Melbourne

St Vincent de Paul Orphanage Home history in brief

In 1854, Father Gerald Ward and the Sisters of Mercy opened the St Vincent de Paul Orphanage in South Melbourne, to provide care for boys and girls.

From 1867, care was offered to boys only. In 1874, the Christian Brothers took over the running of the orphanage.

Before 1955, the department had limited role in the running of non-government children's homes. From 1935 to 1955, the department file contains two documents, both letters from St Vincent de Paul Boys’ Orphanage on minor matters. The first departmental inspection report on file is dated October 1935, and indicated 'nothing to report'. The next departmental inspection did not take place until 1956. More substantial inspections took place in 1958 and 1959, when each ward’s file was also updated.

In 1955, the home’s capacity was 150 Roman Catholic boys aged nine to 16, more than half were wards of state. The boys slept in dormitories, each with 20 to 40 beds.

In 1967 the orphanage’s name was changed to St Vincent’s Boys’ Home. By 1968 the home had refitted its internal school premises, introduced uniforms for those in the school, improved its system of records for children and began a process of breaking up its large dormitories into small units with indoor play spaces, and a library attached.

By the late 1970s, there were far fewer boys at St Vincent's. By 1983, there were about 60 boys with siblings together in six self-contained units. About a third of the boys went to the campus school, the remainder in local state and Catholic schools.

In 1995, Christian Brothers' Child, Youth and Family Services assumed the auspice for St Vincent's. In 1997, the St Vincent's Boys Home became part of MacKillop Family Services.

In 1997–99, St Vincent's Boys' Home was redeveloped and replaced by specialised residential units in Southern and Northern Metropolitan Regions.

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 on the history 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.
  • VPRS 18069 / P0002, box 23, St Vincent’s Boys’ Home File

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 (1935–85)

File; Permanent (VPRS Number 18069 / P0001)

Content: Interaction between 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 for this home date 1935–84, relating to both St Vincent de Paul Boys' Orphanage (1935–67) and St Vincent’s Boys’ Home (1967–84).

File enclosures include:

File VH-035-1:

  • inspection reports 1935, 1956, 1958-59, 1966-70, 1973
  • correspondence regarding rules for state wards returning home, 1953
  • application for declaration as an approved children’s home, 1955
  • polio immunisation, 1956
  • reports regarding named wards, 1957, 1959
  • detailed correspondence regarding detrimental effects resulting from departmental visits, with criticisms and suggestions for improvements to procedures, 1959
  • individual reports on named wards, 1963
  • lists of wards with identifying information, 1966
  • report regarding a named ward and a home visit, 1969
  • appeal brochure, c.1969
  • organisation chart, c.1969
  • annual speech night program, 1971
  • newsletter, Thaballa, 1971-72
  • brochure, St Vincent’s brass band, c.1971
  • brochures, boys home, c.1971
  • report of meetings: Christian brothers and representatives of the department, 1971
  • brochure, 'Give them a holiday', c.1973
  • report on a named ward and his family, 1974
  • newspaper clippings, 1974
  • reports on several named wards, 1978
  • copy of a report on Nazareth House, Ballarat, re various issues, 1973
  • detailed report by Family Welfare Division on the home, 1973
  • report and correspondence on named ward, 1972-74
  • reports on named wards, 1975
  • list of wards travelling to Tasmania for holiday, 1976
  • list of wards placed for holidays, 1975
  • chronological history relating to a named ward, 1975
    (In a separate yellow folder in VH-035-1)
  • complaints and allegations about corporal punishment and brothers’ treatment of boys, 1976
  • reports from the Family Welfare Division on complaints and allegations re the Brothers’ treatment of the boys, 1976
  • public correspondence complaining about boys’ treatment and care, calling for an inquiry into treatment of boys at the home, 1976
  • reports of Family Welfare Division interviews with the Brothers, 1976

File VH-035-2:

  • superintendent will be absent for six months, acting superintendent appointed, 1976
  • file summary on two sibling wards of state, 1976
  • file note: punishment of three wards temporarily at Allambie, 1976
  • extensive correspondence and other documents re allegations of inappropriate corporal punishment of boys by priest staff, including interviews, statutory declarations, testimonies, reports, 1976
  • details case summaries of wards, 1976
  • report on future of two wards and placement options, 1976
  • current situation report, 1976
  • special report on a state ward, 1976
  • report of outcomes re three wards, 1977
  • minutes of meeting with St Vincent’s and St Augustine’s, 1977
  • behaviour modification program information, 1977
  • copies of procedures, St Vincent’s, 1977
  • summary on capacity and castings for grants, 1977
  • statistics regarding wards in residence, 1979
  • application for subsidy for alterations to home and grounds, 1979
  • visit report summary, 1980
  • staffing, 1981
  • reimbursement of costs, named ward, 1981
  • state wards remaining in the home after commencing employment, 1981
  • minutes of meetings, operations and future of the home, 1981
  • non-ward placements, 1981
  • correspondence including detailed case information regarding a named ward, 1982
  • file note on discharge of wardship and assessment of the decision, 1983
  • staffing, religious stipend increase, 1984
  • childcare staffing arrangements over Christmas, 1985

File VH-035:

  • annual reports 1962, 1979, 1981–84
  • brochures and booklets, c.1960s–c.70s
  • specification document, 1979, for works needed at 273 Cecil Street South Melbourne, 1979
  • newsletter, Thaballa, 1973
  • staff handbook, 1981

Staffing Priorities Committee, homes and hostels files (1976–83)

File; Temporary

Content: Files documenting Staffing Priorities Committee recommendations for staffing positions for homes and hostels; correspondence between 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. There are also minutes from the approved children's homes and hostels meetings 1978–80.

The specific file relating to St Vincent’s Boys’ Home dates from 1977–78. Note that this collection has had all permanent material removed.

Staffing Priorities Committee, homes and hostels, correspondence, guidelines for operation and minutes of meetings (1976–80)

File; Unappraised

Content: Ministerial correspondence; Staffing Priority Committee minutes and list of members.

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

File; Temporary

Content: Accounts and funding files for individual children’s homes, used for making 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(s) relating to the St Vincent’s Boys’ Home date 1972–75.

Reviewed 14 September 2016