St Joseph’s Orphanage was established by the Grafton Sisters of Mercy in 1912.
The Orphanage, formerly a primary and secondary school with accommodation for boarders was situated on the banks of the Clarence River, near Wingfield Bridge at Cowper. The Orphanage had a school on site and was also a small working farm with dairy cows and a vegetable garden.
In 1972, the facilities at Cowper were closed and the Sisters of Mercy transferred their works to North Grafton and established cottage style homes known as St Joseph’s Cowper Children’s Homes. Four cottages each with 10 children and an administration block with large kitchen and laundry facilities were purpose built. Children attended local schools.
In 2017, the operations of St Joseph’s Cowper Children’s Homes were transferred to MacKillop Family Services.
Records for St Joseph’s Orphanage at Cowper and its successor St Joseph’s Cowper Children’s Home at Grafton in New South Wales were transferred to the Heritage and Information Service of MacKillop in 2018.