St Aidan’s Orphanage (1905–81)


  • Auspice: Catholic Church Convent of the Good Shepherd, Bendigo
  • Title or Name: St Aidan’s Orphanage (1905–81)
  • Other names: St Aidan's Children's Centre; St Aidan’s; Maryfields; St Euphrasia Juvenile School
  • Address: 308 Barnard Street, Bendigo

St Aidan's Orphanage history in brief

In 1905, the Bishop of Bendigo asked the Convent of the Good Shepherd, Bendigo to establish St Aidan's Orphanage for homeless children. It was the only Good Shepherd Convent in Australia to care for boys.

Until the 1970s, St Aidan's operated as a congregate care residential facility, one of Victoria's larger, almost self-contained institutions. In 1955, St Aidan’s built the St Euphrasia Juvenile School on the St Aidan’s site.

In 1958, The Orphanage housed 100 girls aged three to 17 years; the 'Boys Block' housed 30 boys aged three to nine years; and the 'Re-education Centre' housed 110 older girls.

By 1970, St Aidan's had built self-contained units for junior section children to replace the dormitories. The number of children and young people in the institution was down to about 100.

During the early 1970s, the Order became responsible for about 150 elderly women who had been involved with the Order's institutions for most of their lives. The women had disabilities and were disabled and totally dependent on the Order for care.

In 1972, the senior section was renamed Maryfield, and the junior section was renamed St Aidan's Children's Centre. St Aidan's Children's Centre provided care for approximately 50 children aged three to 16, the majority of whom were wards of state. All were accommodated in separate units in groups of 10.

St Aidan's emphasised education and many older girls went into nursing at age 16–17. By 1977–78, St Aidan's had established five family group homes in the Bendigo area for 30 children from long-term residential care.

In 1981, St Aidan's terminated its involvement in residential child care. A number of women with disabilities remained in care from 1977, until the property was sold to Girton College in 1984.

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-c.1985)

File; Permanent VPRS Number 18069 / P0002

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 the St Aidan's Children's Centre date from 1936–85 (after the residential facility had closed) and includes:

  • inspectors’ annual reports and periodic reports of visits with names of wards and infant life protection children, 1939–73
  • declaration of St Aidan’s Orphanage as an approved children’s home on 27 March 1956
  • application for St Euphrasia’s building on the site of St Aidan’s to be a Juvenile School, 1 November 1955.
  • correspondence with the department regarding annual inspections, funding and allowances towards schooling costs, consent of medical treatments for wards, staffing matters, children’s education and school books, wards in employment residing at the home
  • list of wards and case plans prior to closure of facility, 1980
  • complaints regarding management of a case, 1970
  • notification of intent to close down family group homes, and list of residents, 1981
  • financial statements for the Social Welfare Department, 1979
  • relocation of resources from the closure of St Aidan’s Children’s Centre, Bendigo to other residential programs, 1982
  • correspondence regarding valuation of 20 Crook Street, Kensington, and St Aidan’s 308 Barnard Street, Bendigo
  • correspondence relating to the sale of the Family Group Homes and Department’s equity in 20 Crook Street, Kennington, 1984–85.

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 home 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 Aidan's Children's Centre dates from 1977–78.

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

File; Unappraised

Content: The material includes 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.

Reviewed 23 August 2016