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St Joseph's Home for Boys

One of Australia’s oldest orphanages, the St Joseph’s Home for Boys was founded in 1888.

The St Joseph’s Home for Boys in Surrey Hills was founded in 1888, originally known as St Joseph’s Home for Destitute Children and located in South Melbourne.

The South Melbourne home was established by the St Vincent de Paul Society, set up in response to the ‘child rescue’ movement of the time – a campaign to aid children living in poverty and neglect and unable to be cared for by their parents. The home offered children an education and safe place to live.

However, with the 1889 Great Depression came increased poverty and greater need for the St Vincent de Paul program. When a permanent property in Surrey Hills became available in 1890, Mary MacKillop and the Sisters of St Joseph bought the building, and established St Joseph’s Home for Boys.

From 1925 the home cared only for young boys - those who had outgrown ‘toddler care’ but not old enough for the all-male environment offered at that time by the Christian Brothers. The number of state wards and privately placed children increased during the 1930s depression, resulting in overcrowding which continued during World War II.

In the late 1960s, to keep brothers and sisters together, St Joseph’s welcomed girls as well as boys. Dormitories were converted into units with smaller bedrooms and self-contained living and dining areas. Most children attended local primary and secondary schools although a school on site was retained for those with specialist educational needs. In 1980 St Joseph’s relocated to Flemington. With the needs of vulnerable children changing, support included temporary residential care, or family group home care where longer placements were needed.