St Vincent's Boys' Orphanage - South Melbourne, Victoria

Black and white photo of St Vincent's Boys' home Cecil Street, South Melbourne 1940s

1854 - St Vincent de Paul’s Orphanage
Father Gerald Ward established the first Catholic orphanage in Melbourne when he took on the care of three boys – William, John and Laurence Sherry – whose parents had literally drunk themselves to death in their Collingwood home. The orphanage, under the auspices of the St Vincent de Paul Society, began in temporary accommodation in a house in Prahran to respond to the needs of children who were orphaned, abandoned, destitute or neglected.

1857 - St Vincent de Paul’s Boys’ Orphanage
St Vincent de Paul’s Orphanage moves to its site in Cecil Street, South Melbourne (present site of MacKillop Family Services’ Heritage Centre) and in 1861 the Sisters of Mercy assumed responsibility for the orphanage.

1874 - St Vincent de Paul’s Boys’ Orphanage
As the number of children in need increased, the boys and the girls were divided into two institutions. The boys stayed on site and the Christian Brothers assumed responsibility for the newly named St Vincent de Paul’s Boys’ Orphanage. The girls moved to a site on the other side of Church Street which became St Vincent de Paul’s Girls' Orphanage.

1967 - St Vincent de Paul’s Boys’ Home
The number of orphans was now minimal and the presenting problems were changing. The name was changed to St Vincent’s Boys' Home. The on-site school offered an intensive learning program enabling children to move to outside schools more quickly.

1976 - St Vincent’s Boys’ Home
A program of changing the large dormitories into smaller, more “home like” apartments began and was carried to completion into the eighties. Social workers were employed and became a significant part of each boy’s case management.