1872. Victoria. Report (No. 3) of



Presented to both houses of Parliament by his Excellency’s Command.

By Authority: John Ferres, Government Printer, Melbourne.



  1. Past History of the Schools. 3 to 7
  2. Present Condition of the Schools. 8 to 13
  3. Reasons against Continuance of Present Schools. 14 to 25
  4. Local Provision for Destitute Children. 26 to 30
  5. The Boarding-out System. 31 to 34
  6. Objections to Boarding-out System answered. 35 to 39
  7. Success of Boarding-out System in Other Countries. 40 to 45
  8. Reformatories. 46 to 50
  9. Amendments proposed to be made in the Act. 51 to 53
  10. Appendix on Penal and Prison Discipline. 54 to 56
  11. Conclusion.


We, the undersigned Commissioners, appointed under Letters Patent from the Crown, bearing date the 8th day of August 1870, to inquire into and report upon the Condition of the Penal and Prison Establishments and Penal Discipline, and also into the working of The Neglected and Criminal Children’s Act 1864, have the honour to submit to Your Excellency this out third and final Report:-

  1. The concluding portion of the Commission invites our attention to “the working of The Neglected and Criminal Children’s Act 1864, and the system of Industrial and Reformatory Schools now existing, and what steps, if any, should be taken to increase the efficiency of the system.”
  2. We find that the schools at present existing are the following:-
  • Industrial Schools – Melbourne school (St. Kilda road), for boys under six years of age, girls, and infants. Geelong schools (Gaol and Ryrie street), for girls; and boys under six years of age. Sunbury school, for boys from six to ten years of age. Training ship Nelson, for boys over ten years of age. Ballarat school, for girls. Sandhurst school, for girls. Geelong and Abbotsford school, for girls of the Catholic persuasion.
  • Reformatories –
    1. For boys – Sir Harry Smith, Hobson’s Bay.
    2. For girls (Protestant) – Sunbury.
    3. For girls (Catholic) – Abbotsford.

All of these, excepting Abbotsford and Geelong and Sandhurst Benevolent Asylum schools, are Government institutions, and were established under The Neglected and Criminal Children’s Act of 1864.


  1. Prior to the passing of the Act No. 216, children coming under the care of the Government were kept at the Immigrants’ Home, Prince’s Bridge. In the years 1858, when Mr. Harcourt was appointed to take charge of the establishment, it contained about fifty children of this class, but the numbers increased very rapidly, so that in 1864 they amounted to nearly 600, and the rate of increase was yearly augmenting.
  2. This large increase was caused mainly by the extensive and indiscriminate immigration that flowed into the colony in the years following upon the gold discoveries, and the very unsettled state of society which arose from it, as a necessary consequence. The bulk of the population were for years without fixed homes; families were broken up by dissolute habits, children left destitute by the frequent fatal accidents that occurred at the mines, and the bonds or parental obligation were weakened or ruptures by a roving life and fluctuating fortunes. So long as this state of things continued, the rate of increase in the numbers of children thrown upon public charity augmented year by year; but there was reason to hope that when society had become comparatively settled and prosperous this rate would diminish. Experience has proven, however, that the reverse has been the case.
  3. It therefore became imperative on the Government to make provision for the maintenance and education of these children, and thus the schools were commenced. They were for some time carried on under conditions highly unfavourable both to the physical and moral well-being of the children. The first established was that at Prince’s Bridge, and afterwards that at Sunbury; in those, children were placed before adequate accommodation had been provided for them. They were of all ages, “from infants at the breast upwards,” and on that account they required more careful and discriminating management. But a large proportion, from their tender years or sickly constitutions, were wholly unfit subjects for an industrial school, and ought to have been provided for in an orphanage. There were, besides, no means available for classifying then with a view to their being properly instructed; the sickly and the robust were massed together; the appliances for health and comfort were extremely defective; and the medical superintendence was not of a very efficient kind. The consequence was, as tested by two members of the Commission, who were also members of a Board appointed by the Government to visit these schools in 1865, that the schools were for a long time in a state of complete disorganization; the inmates were allowed to sink into a condition of the greatest neglect; those diseases which especially exhibit the absence of care and comfort amongst children aggregated in large numbers – namely, cutaneous affections and ophthalmia – were almost universal, and the mortality during the two first years was excessively great. It should be added that the Government, upon being made aware of the existence of these evils, did all that could be done under the circumstances to remedy them; and in course of time they were mush mitigated. But their occurrence proves the exceedingly unfavourable conditions under which the system commenced; and some of its original defects are yet far from being removed.
  4. The site of the Sunbury school is ill chosen. The situation is exposed; the fuel requires to be conveyed from a considerable distance, and the water to be pumped from the creek at the base of the hill. The soil is unsuited for agricultural purposes for boys, being to stiff and hard a nature for them to work. The situation, besides, is difficult of access and too distant for public supervision, both these points being of great importance in reference to the frequent and systematic inspection of any school. Philanthropic persons, whose visits are so desirable for such institutions, are often deterred by these difficulties from visiting the Sunbury school.
  5. The schools in Geelong, Ballarat, Sandhurst, and in the training ship Nelson, were established subsequently, as necessity arose. Their commencement was not marked by those evils which proved so disastrous to the first inmates of the Sunbury and Prince’s Bridge schools; but in none of them, excepting that at Ballarat, has there been a satisfactory realisation of the objects for which alone industrial schools should be founded. “The mark was missed at the outset,” as one of the witnesses expressed it, and it has never yet been reached.


  1. We have visited the several schools and reformatories, and inspected the arrangements and the state of the children. The numbers and distribution of the inmates on the 30th June 1872 were as follows:-
  Boys Girls Total
Melbourne (Prince's Bridge) 183 230 413
Sunbury 687 - 687
Geelong (Ryrie street) - 259 259
Geelong (Myers street) - 183 183
Ballarat - 215 215
Sandhurst - 147 147
Nelson 383 - 383
Reformatory, Boys' (Sir Harry Smith) 125 - 125
Reformatory, Girls' (Sunbury) - 30 30
Abbotsford Industrial School - 128 128
Abbotsford Reformatory - 29 29
Geelong Industrial School - 27 27
Total     2626
  1. The condition of the children in these schools at the time of our visits, as regards their food and clothing, we found to be, on the whole, as good as under existing circumstances we could have expected. The peculiar evils which proved so very disastrous to the first inmates have, in many cases, quite disappeared. Cutaneous diseases and ophthalmia are of rare occurrence, although cases still arise, and the average rate of mortality (except amongst infants) has fallen very low. In two or three of the schools the management and the physical appearance of the children are certainly not inferior to those in the best-conducted institutions of a similar kind elsewhere; we may mention, with special commendation, those at Ballarat, Sandhurst, and the Catholic schools at Abbotsford and Geelong; and we may add the Nelson. The school at Sandhurst is under the supervision of a local committee, and its creditable condition proves the advantages accruing from that arrangement. To this point we shall subsequently refer. But in others of the schools neither the appearance of the children nor the provision made for their comfort is by any means satisfactory. There is, besides, in most of them an absence of that system of discriminative and effective industrial training which alone justifies the founding and maintenance of such institutions at the public cost, and, wanting which, the inmates can never be educated into useful and self-reliant citizens. The Ballarat school for girls is an exception, for in that the children are not only thoroughly instructed, but are taught the rudiments of household duties.
  2. At Sunbury, we regret to observe, the boys present a downcast and spiritless appearance, the very opposite of that usually worn by healthy schoolboys. There is no doubt due to their being without varied and congenial out-door labour, the absence of the ordinary appliances for boyish recreation, the monotony of their lives, and what has been well designated “the deadening influence of unexercised affections.” The boys as a rule are all under ten years of age; all above that are transferred to the Nelson. Their time is occupied in the schoolroom, drill, and such recreations as they can find for themselves, a few being sent to help daily in the kitchen and dairy, and others being occasionally employed in picking stones from the surface of the reserve. Industrial training amongst children so young is of course impracticable, but considerable improvement might be effected in providing them with varied occupation of a light kind, and means of cheerful amusement for their leisure hours. In its present state, the institution at Sunbury is in no respect an industrial school; it is at best but a juvenile charitable asylum, and all the money expended in providing industrial appliances has been simply wasted.
  3. The school building at Prince’s Bridge seem to us to be in all respects unsuitable for the purpose. The children – with the exception of about fifty boys who are employed in the Botanical Gardens, and who are kept in a separate division of the establishment – are all either girls or infants under six years old. Boys above that age are sent to Sunbury. The buildings form a portion of the military barrack, and the local military force occupies the other portion. Such a situation for a school of several hundred girls is so obviously unsuitable that it needs not to be enlarged upon. There are, besides, grave objections to the site. It lies on the edge of a swamp, and has an exceedingly cheerless aspect. There is no land around it for recreation; the only playground the children have being a bare yard, destitute of grass. The ventilation is defective, even to the extent of being prejudicial to health; and the appliances for physical comfort, although they may be suitable for a body of soldiers, are not adapted to the requirements of girls and infants. We beg to suggest that, in any event, the removal of this school should be determined on, and we may mention that the Model Farm, near Flemington, would be, in our opinion, a very fitting situation.
  4. The state of the Myers-street school, at Geelong, is by many degrees worse than that of any other, and it is difficult to speak of it without using terms of the severest condemnation. The building forms part of the gaol. Nothing can exceed the dismal and dispiriting aspect of its dungeon cells and corridors, without either sufficient light or proper ventilation. The placing of the children in such a building can only be excused on the ground of imperative necessity. As, however, the abandonment of the building and the transfer of the children to the Ryrie-street school has been resolved upon by the Inspector-General, with the concurrence of the Government, it is not necessary to dwell further on this point. The management of the school, it is fair to add, seems to be as efficient, and the children are fed and cared for as well as they can be under the circumstances.
  5. In the training ship Nelson the provision made for the health, comfort, discipline, and school teaching of the bots, is as good as it can be on board a ship, and various useful trades of the sedentary class are in operation. This school is thus the only one of those at present existing to which the term “industrial” can be properly applied. But, as will be subsequently shown, the occupations provided are not of a suitable kind, and there are many and strong reasons against keeping boys, the majority of whom never become sailors, confined in a ship.


  1. The conviction is general, both in Europe and America, that the whole system of aggregated charitable schools is based on a wrong principle, which, in its practical development, is alike injurious to the interests of the children brought up in them and to the State.
  2. The system in this country is hurtful to the health, the morals, and the intellectual and industrial training of the children, and tends to sink them in after-life into permanent pauperism or crime.
  3. Their health suffers from overcrowding, confinement, diet, too often from its very monotony unsuitable to young and delicate children, insufficient sleeping accommodation, liability to contagion, and other causes of a minor kind, incidental to all institutions, however well conducted, where large numbers of children are collected together. The deprivation of all the natural domestic associations, moreover, injuriously affects their health and spirits.
  4. The morals of the children suffer rom the inevitable admixture of a large proportion, the offspring of profligate or criminal parents, who, from their earliest infancy, have been familiarised with vice and crime, often in their worst forms. The contagious influence of evil example in such cases is proverbial. There is, besides, no opportunity afforded for implanting in their minds those virtues which spring from the exercise of the domestic affections. In addition, the mere numbers prevent that attention to the peculiar disposition of each child – that individualisation – which is the only effectual means of bringing moral and religious influences to bear either on children or adults.
  5. A similar objection applies to their industrial training. If they be indiscriminately set in masses to learn a particular trade, many of them will never master it sufficiently to make it the means of earning an independent livelihood in after-life. Unless a child possesses some degree of natural aptitude for a trade, the time he spends in endeavouring to learn it will be wasted, and might have been turned to mush better account, both for his present comfort and his future welfare. Thus many children fail to acquire those habits of steady industry and self-reliance indispensable to their subsequent success on life, and are liable, after their dismissal from the schools, to drift into pauperism of crime.
  6. A third objection to the aggregated system is that, even when the industrial training is made as efficient as, under the circumstances, it can be, the trades taught to the children are usually those which in after-life compel them to take up their residence in towns. Now, it is for many reasons desirable that the neglected and destitute children educated by the State should, when dismissed from the schools, be dispersed throughout the country. By this means they will be saved from those demoralising influences, so powerful for evil, which beset the young mechanic in large towns, but hardly exists in the quitter rural districts. It is, besides, obviously for the public interest that the tendency of the population to congregate in the towns should be as much as possible counteracted.
  7. A fourth objection is that the system is the exact opposite to the natural family training. The children grow up without ever having any means of forming the idea of a parental home. “to mass boys together in large numbers,” it has been well remarked, “with no home influences or habits and no attempts to draw out their affections, is dangerous; to do the same with girls is fatal.” Wanting the personal care, the reciprocal affection, the self-denial and loving obedience of the parental home, and the practice of homely household duties, it is unreasonable to expect that, of a number of girls collected at a pauper school, any large proportion will become virtuous and exemplary women. Their natural instincts are allowed no room for exercise and development. The most powerful motives to perseverance in a course of industry and good conduct are taken away from them. They grow up with the feeling that they are in some measure paupers and outcasts from society, a feeling which is subversive of self-respect, the very root of virtue in the female character. All experience proves that girls in pauper schools rarely turn out well. Those in English workhouses are, as a class, proverbial for their immorality, shamelessness, and uselessness; and there can be little doubt, as human nature is the same in all countries, that the like causes will produce the like effects in Victoria that they have produced elsewhere.
  8. A fifth objection is its injurious operation on the community at large. The well-known principle in political economy, THAT ALL STSYEMS OF PUBLIC CHARITABLE TABLE REFIEF HAVE A DIRECT TENDENCY TO AUGMENT THE EVIL THAT THEY ARE DESIGNED TO CURE, is peculiarly illustrated in this instance. The poor laws of the mother-country have been the means of fostering and perpetuating a hereditary pauper class; and, in like manner, the liberal public provision made here for the support of destitute children is calling into existence a large mass of permanent juvenile pauperism. Parents of improvident or dissolute habits feel but little compunction in abandoning their children, when they know that those children will be provided for at the public cost in a much better manner than they could have afforded, even had they been thrifty and industrious. The public bounty in this regard is thus perverted into an indirect premium on extravagance and vice. Even amongst parents of careful habits and respectable character too many are induced to relax the bonds of parental responsibility, and in view of the circumstances that, whatever may become of themselves, a comfortable asylum and a good education are assured for their children, give themselves up to wasteful or vicious habits, and expend the means which ought to be applied to the support of their families in profligate indulgence. There is, in addition, the criminal class, who are especially liable to be acted upon by the same considerations. The check exercised by natural affection on their disposition to preserve in a course of crime is very much weakened, and in many instances destroyed, by the fact that in any event their children will be sent to the schools. Examples painfully illustrating each of these three classes are almost daily brought before the courts.
  9. The provisions on the Act to compel parents – even when they can be found – to make contributions in support of their children in the schools has been confessedly a failure. They remove to a different locality under a feigned name, or to another colony, or even when they have been apprehended and brought before the magistrates for neglect of payment, they will plead want of means. The difficulty of enforcing this provision of the Act, so as to prevent evasion of payment of the contributions, is one of the great barriers to its efficient working. The elevation of the moral tone of society would, of course, be the best remedy for this class of evils; but in the meantime, some amendment, the nature of which we shall indicate further on in this Report, may be in the Act with a view to its improved operation.
  10. A sixth objection is the great expense the system entails on the State, which augments rapidly from year to year. The cost of building new schools as necessity arises is of itself a heavy item of public expenditure; it is increased by the yearly charges for additions, alterations, and repairs; to which must be added the annual charge for the maintenance of the children. The Sunbury school, for example, cost in building £49,495, and in alterations and repairs up to the present time an additional sum of £1231. This amount is equivalent, at 6 per cent., to a fixed annual charge of about £3000 on the general revenue, and if it be added to the yearly cost for supervision and maintenance, the total will show an average of £22 10s. for each child per annum. Take, again, the girls’ school at Ballarat, which cost £17,000 in building, and of which the annual expenditure for 221 children is about £3500. This gives an average of £21 for each child, a sum out of all proportion to the average amount expended on the care and education of children of the same class outside the schools. The Inspector-General, moreover, states that at the present rate of increase in the numbers of the children, there is an immediate necessity for two new schools of the largest size, one in Melbourne and one in Geelong. Thus the direct tendency of the system is to increase in ever-augmenting expense from year to year, so that in a comparatively brief period the annual cost would become positively enormous. It may be added that some of the schools are placed in buildings erected for a totally different purpose; but, as has already been shown in the case of those at Prince’s Bridge and Myers street, these buildings are quite unfit for the objects of an industrial school, and new buildings are therefore required.
  11. Many of the foregoing objections apply with special force to the training ship Nelson. It is true that the general condition of the boys kept there, in point of health and physical comfort, is almost as good as could be desired; but, on the other hand, they are picked boys, the sick and weakly amongst them being retuned to Sunbury. A ship, however, is not, nor can it be made, a fitting place for either the industrial or moral training of boys who are not expressly designed for a seafaring life. The associations connected with ship life also induce in the majority of them an unsettled and roving disposition, quite at variance with their afterwards betaking themselves to steady industry on shore. Only a very small fraction (not ten per cent.) of the boys trained on board the Nelson have voluntarily become sailors; and even if the proportion were larger, it would scarcely be a politic course to spend the public money in training up sailors for the marine service of other countries. It would be much better in every war for the boys, and of far greater advantage to the colony, if they were instructed in agricultural and other rural avocations, which would ensure them profitable employment from the time of their leaving school, would disperse them throughout the colony, instead of congregating them in the towns, and would, at the same time, add by so much to the productive labour force of the colony.
  12. These objections appear to us to be decisive against the continuance of the existing system. We have shown that the schools were commenced in a hurried manner, under pressure of circumstances; that many of their original defects still adhere to them; and that no adequate and fitting provision is made for the industrial training of the inmates. We have also shown that the system does not work well, either for the State or the children; that the number of children left destitute by reckless parents is increased by means of it; that it entails a very large and ever-augmenting public expenditure, which might be materially lessened by the adoption of another plan of disposing of the children; that the principle of maintaining large charitable schools at the public cost has been condemned by the experience of other countries; and that its tendency, both here and elsewhere, is to increase and perpetuate, rather than check and diminish, the growth of juvenile pauperism and crime.


  1. The system we recommend as a substitute for the present one is based on the principle pf compelling each district to make provision for the maintenance of its own destitution, instead of throwing the entire burden on the State. The Poor Law system of the mother country is founded on this principle, and it ought, we think, to be made the basis of all future legislation of a similar nature here. Nor are its advantages merely of an economical kind. With regret to juvenile destitution, it operates in many important ways for the benefit of the children themselves. For example, it gives them from the first a local residence, and prevents their being cast on the world as homeless vagrants. It recognises their right to be supported by those amongst whom they have been brought up, and thus induces in their neighbour’s sympathy and kindness on their behalf, whilst a reciprocal feeling of gratitude arises in their own minds. The children grow up with the conviction that they are amongst friends, and that their future life is to be spent in the place where they have received such kindly treatment; and their local guardians naturally accept as an obvious duty the responsibility of making provision for their future success in life. The natural relation so established thus yields to both parties. Another advantage attending the operation of the principle in this country would be its direct effect in fostering the sentiment of permanent local attachment – a sentiment so much needed where the habits of the general population are still of an unsettled and migratory character. It would, moreover, compel the recognition by local governing bodies of their obligation to make provision for the support of local destitution, and would thus relieve the State of a very heavy and yearly increasing burden. On all these grounds, as well as for minor reasons which it is not needful to specify, we strongly recommend that the twofold principle of keeping destitute children within their own districts, and throwing on the local authorities the responsibility of making provision for their maintenance and education, shall be carried into effect as speedily as possible.
  2. We have already referred to the Industrial School at Sandhurst as affording a favourable illustration of the principle we are advocating. This school is a local institution, and is under local control, although it is subsidized and inspected by the Government. The experience drawn from its history goes far to illustrate the advantages enumerated in the preceding paragraph; nor can there be the slightest doubt that, as both as regards their present condition and their future prospects, the children brought up in it are more favourably circumstanced than they would have been if they had passed through any of the pauper schools.
  3. Similar considerations to those he pointed out induced the English Poor Law Board, some years since, to sanction the establishment of district schools for pauper children. A large number of these are now in operation, and the uniform testimony of the local authorities, and of the Board itself, is that they are in every respect superior to schools in poor-houses taught by paupers. Their great expense, however, is a serious objection to them, and in many unions where they have been established efforts are being made either to supplement or wholly supersede them by adopting the system of boarding out the children, on the method we shall subsequently explain.
  4. But whilst the principle of local provision for local destitution should be steadily maintained, it would be desirable to assist its operation in respect of destitute children by liberal subsidies from the State, both in the form of grants towards building local industrial schools and of annual payments for children supported. This would, in fact, be an application of the method of relief no adopted in regard to the local and private charitable institutions. The amount of the subsidy might be proportioned to the special circumstances of each district, but in general it would, we think, be an equitable arrangement to divide the annual cost of maintaining the children equally between the district and the state.
  5. The right to inspect the children under the care of the local authorities, at such times as may be deemed necessary, should in any case be strictly preserved by the Government.


  1. The system of boarding out destitute children, instead of congregating them in pauper schools, has been for some time in extensive operation in England and other countries, and has been found invariably to work well. It possesses many advantages. In the first place it is much more economical, inasmuch as it does not require a large expenditure in buildings and repairs, and dispenses with a great proportion of the supervising staff. It is free from the grave moral defect’s inseparable from schools where large numbers are collected together. It secures more effectually industrial training. By means of it, moreover, that individualisation is gained, without which, as was before stated, no real education is possible. But above all, it is the nearest approach to the natural home-life for the homeless that can possibly be devised. Children placed with respectable families in their own rank in life, where they are cared for as if they were members of the household, lose that feeling of homelessness, isolation, and pauperism which is inseparable from the routine and constraint of a pauper school. Their intelligence is stimulated by the fresh objects and interests of their new life; the natural affections are called into health play; the sentiment of individual responsibility is quickened; and thus, the foundations are laid of sound mental education and moral character.
  2. The general details of the system are well known and exceedingly simple. All the inmate’s pf the industrial schools, so far as may be found advisable and practicable, should be boarded out with respectable families, under strict regulations, and upon a graduated scale of payment. All children hereafter brought before the courts of petty sessions should be similarly boarded out in their several localities, under the supervision of locally-appointed committees. The existing schools, thus greatly reduced in numbers, should be maintained only as receiving schools for children prior to their being boarded out, and for those returned by, or taken from, the parties with whom they have been placed. Small schools or receiving houses should be established in towns where none exist at present. In the disposal of the children, both in respect of their boarding out and their ultimate destination, the aid of the ministers of the various religious denominations and of benevolent ladies in the several localities should be obtained and organised.
  3. We have invited the attendance of clergyman representing the various religious denominations and consulted with them on the best means of securing the co-operation of the religious bodies in obtaining suitable families for boarding out the children. We were gratified to find that in every instance the strongest interest was exhibited in the object, and earnest promises were given of hearty co-operation with the Government in carrying it out. The ministers of the several Protestant denominations declared their willingness to merge their minor differences and to act in unison, so that in the disposal of Protestant children no distinctions of sect would be allowed to interfere with the general working of the plan. The Catholic Bishop states his willingness to take under his care, and provide for, the whole of the children of that denomination at present in the industrial schools and reformatories, together with those who may hereafter be brought in, on condition of the State making a weekly payment for each child. The co-operation of the religious bodies being secured, as well as that of the leading citizens and of benevolent ladies in the various localities, there can hardly be a doubt that a sufficient number of suitable families would be found. The same valuable agencies, moreover, would be kept constantly in action by means of the local committees to watch over the children, so as to secure for them proper mental and religious instruction. The system, when thus carried out, and kept carefully under official inspection, becomes very far superior to any other method that could be devised. The point of perfection in dealing with destitution is reached when the mutual co-operation of private charity with State bounty is brought into the fullest activity.
  4. The minor details of the plan here sketched out could be readily drawn up in General Regulations, to be approved by the Government, or by a Board of Visitors of the schools appointed for the purpose. Those details would include the best means of periodically inspecting the children boarded out; the times and places for making payments to the parties in charge of them; the best plan for apprenticing or otherwise disposing of them, and their removal from those who neglect or misuse their trust. The machinery for effecting these various purposes would be almost entirely free from the complexity and expensiveness of the present system.


  1. The only objection of any weight that can be urged against this proposal is, that there are not yet to be found in this country a sufficient number of families of the fitting kind who would be willing to take the children on the terms offered, and that the settled condition of society essential to their proper mental, moral, and industrial training scarcely yet exists. But this objection by no means invalidates the general soundness of the plan; and it is fully met by the proposition to board out the children now in the schools gradually, and only according as perfectly fitting places can be found for them. It is, besides, quite certain that a large proportion of them could be at once profitably and advantageously disposed of amongst the rural population. As regards those hereafter found destitute, there can scarcely be a doubt that means will be readily found for boarding them out in their various localities.
  2. In every country where the system has been tried the same objection was at first raised against it. But experience has fully proved that even in new countries – America for example – there is always to be found in rural districts a sufficient number of respectable families willing to take charge of one or two destitute children upon payment of a reasonable weekly sum. To such families the money payment is a specially desirable object. They can, as a rule, obtain an abundant supply of the more common necessaries of life from their own farms and gardens, and are thus able to feed the children at an almost nominal cost, whilst the money payments are a most important and valued assistance towards the general provisions for the household. In Scotland, where the system is extensively in operation, this motive is found to act so powerfully that the application for pauper children to be taken as boarders always exceeds the number at the disposal of the Poor Law Guardians. Instances have been known, both in that and other countries, in which the pauper children were even better cared for and instructed than those of the family, merely from the large value set on the money payments. In this country the same circumstances exist in a still higher degree. The necessities of life are more abundant in the rural districts than they are in Scotland, and the value relatively attached to ready money is correspondingly greater; it is consequently a reasonable inference that much eagerness would be shown by respectable families, in localities morally as well as physically suitable for the children, to receive them as boarders upon a moderate scale of remuneration.
  3. In no case, however, should more than two children be permitted to board with the same family. This rule would prohibit the possibility of anything like the “farming-out” system every coming into existence.
  4. It may be further objected that, even if a sufficient number of suitable families can be found, the domestic accommodation of the majority of the households in our rural districts is too limited and insufficient to allow of boarding-out children being properly cared for. To this objection it may be replied that, whilst care would of course be taken to secure adequate accommodation for the child in each case, there is no reason why destitute children thrown upon the public bounty should be maintained and education in a style far superior to that of others in their own rank in life brought up in parental homes. The ordinary training received by the latter is not only sufficient for the destitute class, but it is the best that can be given them, inasmuch as it teaches them those habits of industry and careful economy which they will be obliged to exercise in after-life, and familiarises them with the common difficulties of everyday experience. The money payments made on their account, besides, will act as an inducement to the families who receive them to enlarge and improve the domestic accommodation. The official periodical inspection, and the continual local supervision, will prevent anything like persistent hardship being inflicted on any of the children. They will in all respects fare as well as those of their own class, with whom they will daily mingle at the local common school. And it cannot be too distinctly borne in mind, that just in proportion as the maintenance and education given by the State to destitute children excel that of others of the same rank in general society, is the disposition of parents to throw their children on the public bounty stimulated and encouraged.
  5. A third objection may be raised, that there would be a difficulty in many cases in determining the district upon which a child would be properly chargeable. This objection might be obviated by making the locality in which a destitute child is found liable for its relief in the first instance, and giving legal power to the local authorities to show cause why it should be provided for in a different locality. In the case of destitute children improperly sent from other colonies, it would be necessary to pass an Act empowering this Government, by arrangement with the neighbouring Governments, to return such children to the places whence they came.


  1. The boarding-out system, in all countries where it has been tried, has been so successful as to leave no room for discussion as to its superiority over the method of industrial schools. The testimony of many competent witnesses might be cited on this point, but a few examples will suffice.
  2. The English Poor Law Board, in their Report for 1869-70, state that numerous applications having been made to them by Boards of Guardians to sanction the partial adoption of the system, they had, after much deliberation, come to the conclusion that a fair trial ought to be given to it. Accordingly, an order was issued on the 25th November 1870 empowering Boards of Guardians to board out pauper children, even beyond the limits of their parishes or union, wherever this might be deemed desirable. To the end of May 1871, the number of Boards that had acted upon the order was thirty. In each locality a Boarding-out Committee co-operates with the local Board of Guardians in the disposal and supervision of the children. The system is spreading rapidly in England, and is likely to become general. It had been in partial operation in a few unions prior to the issuing of the order, but proper places for boarding out the children could not be found in the large towns, and without a specific order of the Poor Law Board they could not be boarded out in the country. This difficulty is now removed. It may be added, that the regulations framed by the Poor Law Board for the disposal and supervision of the children are of an extremely minute and elaborate kind, and might serve as the model of a similar code of regulations for this country.
  3. Before issuing the order just referred to, the English Poor Law Board directed their inspectors to inquire into and report upon the working of the boarding-out system in Scotland and in those parts of England where it had been partially adopted. The Board state that the results of these inquiries, which were conducted in considerable detail, and were embodied in a report printed by order of the House of Commons on the 12th April 1870, tendered clearly to confirm the representations advanced by the advocates of the system, although, as might be expected, its success was found to vary with the nature of the locality in which the children were boarded out, and the care exercised by the different Boards of Guardians in watchfully superintending its administration. In his report one of the inspector’s states:-

“The physical appearance of the children was, as a whole, very satisfactory. Certainly, as a class there was a marked superiority over ordinary workhouse children, and they looked cheerful and contented. The clothing of the children, with trifling exceptions, was quite sufficient, and the bedding clean and good.”

Another inspector states:-

“On personally inspecting the residence, l found all the children in a satisfactory state as regards cleanliness, clothing, and general appearance, and the condition and character of the foster parents appeared highly respectable.”

A third inspector states:-

“The Guardians report very favourably of their general appearance, state of clothing, and personal cleanliness.”

The exceptional instances noted are only such as involve minor details; as regards the excellence and superiority of the system, the testimony of the inspectors is uniform.

  1. The Inspector for Scotland reports that the system has been practised in that country for many years – in Glasgow for more than a century. Sir John McNeill, the late Chairman of the Board of Supervision for Scotland, in his evidence before the House of Commons Committee in 1869, describes it in these striking words:-

“What happens is this: The children are boarded out in the country, one, perhaps two, rarely more than three in a family. They grow up with the family, they are treated as members of the family, they acquire the habits and feelings of the persons amongst whom they are brought up; they see the struggles of the family to maintain their own independence; they see the kind of feeling that is entertained in reference to paupers; they acquire a sort of domestic attachment to the father and mother, or to the old woman with whom they are boarding; and they are well educated, and ultimately they melt into the population, so that you cannot find a trace of them, and they are not distinguishable from the people who are brought up in independence. Anything more satisfactory than the working of the system l have not to boast of in the administration of the Poor Law.”

Additional testimony to the same effect is given n the Report of the Parochial Board of Glasgow City Parish for 1864:-

“Great care is taken in the selection of the families in which the children are placed, and when so placed a constant supervision is kept, and if an unsatisfactory arrangement is made the child is immediately removed. But this is seldom necessary, as the committee have always on their list applications from numerous good families, and can make a suitable selection. The children look upon the heads of the family as their parents, and the younger branches as brothers and sisters; the best feelings of the heart are engaged, the affections are cherished and drawn out, not smothered in the child’s breast as if amongst strangers. The endearing terms ‘father’ and ‘mother’ are used and believed in by the younger ones; and though, as they grow older, this relationship is better understood, yet the attachment is formed and has a beneficial effect in after-life. The children often return to this family home for counsel in difficulties and sympathy in distress. The holiday excursion, or any more joyous occasion, furnishes an opportunity eagerly embraced to visit their foster parents. The committee recommended all those who really wish to obtain information as to how these children are brought up to accompany the committee in their visits, and see their homes and the schools they attend. They do not certainly come in from school or play with the precise, demure, and well-disciplined appearances that you find in a well-managed orphanage; but, what pleases the committee more, they appear with a buoyancy of spirit, a confidence of manner, and happiness of countenance, which show that they are at home, are happy, and well cared for.”

The number of children thus boarded out is estimated by the Inspector at about 5000. They are of all ages, from infants at the breast upwards. As to their general condition the Inspector testifies:-

“As a whole, the boarded-out children were cleanly, creditable, and healthy in appearance, and their clothing was even better than that of others in the school with them.”

The conclusions drawn by the Inspector from his investigations were as follows:-

  1. “That the system, as conducted by the large city parochial boards generally, tends to improve the children physically and mentally, and effectually breaks their connection with the poorhouse.”
  2. “That, if properly carried out, it is preferable to the present system of the poorhouse provision for children in Scotland.”
  3. “That the education of the children is carefully attended to.”
  4. “That the medical attendance and extras are sufficient.”

There are some other points included in the Inspector’s summing up, but they refer exclusively to matters of purely local interest and minor details.

  1. In Ireland the system has not yet been introduced except one Dublin poorhouse, but it has been in most successful operation in some private charitable institutions. The Dublin Protestant Orphan Society, for example, was commenced in 1828 with twenty-four destitute orphans, who were sent into the country to board with respectable families, chiefly of the small farming class. In 1866, the number of children boarded out had increased to 2208, and the society had placed out in the world 5376. Out of 1817 orphans taken in charge by the society at its principle establishment, no fewer than 428 had been subsequently restored to their friends, whose circumstances had sufficiently improved to warrant their restoration. In the fourteenth annual report of the society it is stated:-

“the society is so simple in its moral constitution that all its resources are expended on its legitimate objects, and not wasted on cumbrous and unprofitable machinery. Every shilling tells, and the connexion is immediate and palpable between the outlay and the gain. It is the best substitute in existence for parental kindness; and sometimes excels in this respect the provisions of nature, because, even where affection fails, other feelings come in to supply its place; and most of the virtues and the faults of common life work together for the orphan’s good.” – Quoted in “Children of the State,” by Florence Hill, p. 134: London, 1868.

A similar orphanage was established nine years ago by some Catholics in Dublin:-

“Within seven years of the commencement 500 children had been taken in charge, of whom only three or four had turned out ill, while 200 were already working for themselves at trades, in service, or growing up in the families and as the sons and daughters of their foster parents.”

  1. In Prussia, a society for boarding out abandoned and neglected children was instituted in 1845, and is working very satisfactorily. In Berlin, half the pauper children are boarded out. In Hamburg, the same system is pursued. In Russia there exists a public institution with a similar object. In France, the plan has been followed for several centuries, and with the best effect. And orphanage was founded in Paris is 1856 by the Prince Imperial, and is conducted entirely on this plan, with like satisfactory results. We may add that, in Massachusetts and some of the other American States, the system either exists already or is rapidly coming into operation, both in regard to private charitable establishments and public reformatory schools and cognate institutions.


  1. In our second Report we had the honour to make some suggestions relative to the best means of dealing with the growing number of juvenile crime, and these it will be necessary to carry out before any material improvement can be effected in the existing reformatory system. Additional evidence has been brought before us of the increasing prevalence of demoralising habits amongst the youth of both sexes in several localities. The facts stated to us give still greater force to this recommendation.
  2. The chief defect in the system is, the want of adequate means for classification and segregation. It is found that even amongst youths there are the same varieties of criminal character, and the same degrees of depravity, as amongst adults. It is true that the total number of inmates in the reformatories – 125 boys and 59 girls – it is not large in proportion to the population; but it ought to be the constant effort of the Government to prevent the growth of this class amongst us, and in the attainment of that end the question of public expense becomes a minor consideration. Even viewed economically, however, it is sounder policy to expend money on the reclamation of the youthful offender, and on training him up to become a good citizen, than, by neglect or parsimony, to allow him to become a heavy and permanent charge on the State as an adult confirmed criminal. For these reasons the supervision and individual separation of juvenile offender’s ought to be made even more strict and unvarying than in the case of adults, and the means of accomplishing this object ought to be liberally supplied by the Government.
  3. The foregoing remarks chiefly apply to the reformatory for boys on board the Sir Harry Smith. It is admitted by all persons of experience that a ship is not a fitting place for reformatory purposes of the boys be not expressly designed for a seafaring life. Experience too clearly proves that immoral practices of the worst kind spring up amongst them which can never be effectually suppressed. And as the proportion of boys from the Sir Harry Smith who voluntarily become sailors is very small (as it is also amongst the Nelson boys), whilst by far the larger number betake themselves, on their discharge, to industrial occupations on shore, it is evidently very desirable that the use of the ship should be abandoned, so soon as a fitting building for the boys can be provided. It is right to add that the supervision, industrial teaching, and general management of the boys at present on board appears to be as efficient as, under the circumstances, they can be made.
  4. With regard to the girls – thirty in number – who are in a separate building at Sunbury, it is very much to be regretted that means cannot be found for disposing of them in a manner similar to that adopted by the Catholic body at Abbotsford. Female children, some of whom are scarcely more than infants in age, are permitted to accumulate in a public prison as youthful criminals. It ought to be on of the first and most pressing duties of all religious bodies to take up such children, and to provide means for their reclamation and their proper moral and religious training. The reformatory system carried on at the Abbotsford school can scarcely be spoken of in terms of too high commendation.
  5. It has been found in England that the reformatory schools are used too largely for the reception of children, and especially of boys, after a first conviction. This practice results from the same causes that unduly adds to the number of the inmates of the industrial school. It is, however, a mistaken feeling, and leads to mischievous results. The Inspector of Industrial and Reformatory Schools in England dwells upon this point in his report for the year 1870, and warns magistrates that “the association and the habits of a reformatory school may be an injury rather than a benefit to those for whom the school is not really needed, and for whom it is not designed.” There is, perhaps, less of a disposition of this kind shown here, but the caution may be quoted with the view of pointing out the evils to which an indiscriminating benevolence of feeling on the part of magistrates may sometimes lead.


  1. The evils we have pointed out in a previous chapter have been aggravated by the misapplication of The Neglected and Criminal Children’s Act. It has, in fact, been from the first used as a Juvenile Poor Law. Advantage has been taken of its provisions to send to the schools numbers of children who did not come under the strict definition of “neglected” or “criminal,” but who had been left destitute from many other causes. In these cases, although the Act expressly provides that no children, excepting those who are “neglected” or “criminal,” shall be sent to the industrial schools, a not unnatural feeling of humanity has led to a too liberal interpretation of its terms, in preference to adopting the alternative of sending children away unrelieved. Instances of this kind are of very frequent occurrence; and thus has arisen the serious evil of the State being compelled to make permanent provision for merely casual The certain result is, that casual destitution seeking public relief immediately begins to present a deeper and more permanent character, and thus a recognised pauper class is established. The true principle on which any system of casual relief ought to be based is that of recognising the destitution as being only accidental and temporary. This principle especially applies to the case of children, who may in numerous instances be rescued from sinking into pauperism by administering a little temporary relief in a judicious manner until their friends should again be in a position to take charge of and maintain them. It must not be omitted to state that the mis application of the Act here pointed out has been concurred in alike by the Government and the local bodies throughout the colony, to the latter of whom the plan has saved the local taxation with a Juvenile Poor Law would necessarily entail.
  2. It is therefore manifest that a more rigorous administration of the Act No. 216, as well as a modification of some of its provisions, are imperatively demanded; and with this object we take leave to suggest the following alterations and amendments:-
    1. Section 8. – Servants in the schools to be appointed and discharges by the Inspector-General, instead of the Governor in Council.
    2. Section 12. – The age under which a boy or girl to be deemed a “neglected child” to be fifteen years, and a “convicted child” eighteen years.
    3. Section 13. – Sub-section (vi.) to be struck out, and in its place to be inserted “Any child deserted or left without adequate means of support.”
    4. Section 15. – Whenever any child shall be brought before two or more justices in petty sessions, and charged with being a “neglected child,” the said justices shall, by a summons, require the local authorities of the city, town, borough, shire, or road board within which the said child is found, to show cause by their clerk or other officer why such child should not be assisted or provided for by them. Should no sufficient cause be shown to the contrary, the justices may, of they deem it necessary, direct such child to be sent forthwith to an industrial school; or they may make an order on the local authorities for its care and maintenance. Such order may from time to time be modified or cancelled by the justices in petty sessions, on proof that it is no linger necessary. Should the local authorities be dissatisfied or aggrieved by the decision of the justices, they may appeal to the next court of general sessions. No child, except a “neglected child” within the meaning of the Act, shall be sent to or maintained in any industrial school.
    5. Section 23. – The Inspector-General to have power to board neglected children out, and to license any inmates of a reformatory or industrial school, with some person willing to take charge of them, under such general regulations as may be approved by the Governor in Council. The Inspector-General also to have power to remove the child from such person, and return it to the reformatory or industrial school.
    6. Section 39. – The age of fifteen years to be altered to sixteen years in the case of neglected children, and to twenty-one in the case of convicted children.


Any father or mother, or putative father, wilfully deserting or neglecting to support their children, or any stepfather or stepmother, uncle, aunt, or other relative person, wilfully deserting or neglecting to support the children under their care, as the case may be, to be apprehended and punished, on summary conviction before two or more justices in petty sessions, by fine or imprisonment; and ordered (should the justice think fit) to pay a certain sum for the support of the said children, and to find security, if required, for such payment.

The expense of maintaining convicted criminal children in reformatories to be defrayed by the Government.

The expense of maintaining neglected children to be borne by the local authorities, aided by a grant from the general revenue.

Power to be taken to require the local authorities to levy a rate, or apply part of the ordinary rate, for the above purpose, should private charity prove insufficient.

Until suitable arrangements be made by the local authorities for the care and maintenance of neglected children, they may be sent to the nearest industrial school pro tempore.

Neglected children sent to industrial schools shall, whenever practicable or advisable, be boarded out; and, if suitable age, required to attend the common school. Certificate of attendance from the schoolmaster to be produced, and the child shown, by the person in charge, on applying for payment.

Children in industrial schools to attend the common school of the district in preference to being taught in the asylum.

General regulations to be framed for boarding the children out; including attendance at school for those of suitable age, and provision for medical assistance in case of sickness.

A magisterial inquiry to be held in cases of death of children boarded out; or in asylums.

Any person adopting any child exposed or abandoned by the parent, or person in charge of it, may, with the sanction of the magistrates, or of the Inspector-General, have the legal care and custody and responsibility of such child until it shall reach the age of twenty-one years.

  1. Arrangements should be made with the Governments of the neighbouring colonies for backing warrants to apprehend offenders who desert their families, or abscond on order to avoid paying orders made for their support; so that they may be brought back to Victoria in default of making satisfactory arrangement for payment.


  1. The two previous Reports we had the honour to present to Your Excellency contained various practical suggestions which, as it seemed to us, is was needful to have carried into effect with as little delay as possible. Those in the first Report adopted by the Government have been attended with results, so far, of an entirely satisfactory kind. The Inspector-General, in his Report on Pentridge for 1871, states that the Commissioner’s recommendations were such as

“supplied additional incentives to industry and good conduct on the part of the prisoners”;

That he has no hesitation in stating that the regulations framed in accordance with the recommendations, although

“they have not been long enough in operation to warrant him in saying that they have been fairly tested, have worked well so far”; That

“the condition of the prisoners has been improved under them, habits of industry fostered, and in some cases a hopeful spirit has been engendered, which is of especial value as furnished a basis for that part of the system the object of which is the reformation of the criminal.”

With special regard to the prisoners employed on public works, in accordance with the recommendations, the Inspector-General reports that

“it is satisfactory to be able to state that from these working parties no man has attempted to abscond, and from the officers of the department under whom these prisoners are employed he has most favourable reports of their industry and good conduct.”

Further, the estimated value of the labour performed by the prisoners in Pentridge during last year is stated by the Inspector-General to have been very mush larger than in any previous year, although the decrease in the number of prisoners was fully one-third; and he calculates that when the new workshops, now in course of erection, as recommended by the Commission, are completed,

“the cost of supervision can be reduced more that £2000 per annum, while the efficiency of the over-sight will be much improved.”

  1. The suggestions embodied in the two Reports form parts of one complete and methodised scheme of penal reform, which, to be effectual, must be adopted as a whole; and we entertain no doubt that, when those contained in the second Report shall have been carried out, still further beneficial results will follow.
  2. The practical recommendations to which we refer are those relating to amendments in the criminal law; the adoption into the Statute Book of the English Habitual Criminals Act of 1869, to which we may now add to Act of 1871 for the Better Prevention of Crime; the abolition of the system of remitting sentences, and of life sentences; the adoption of the modified Crofton system as detailed in the Report; the employment of prisoners on useful and reproductive public works; the abolition of the Melbourne Gaol; the conversion of the Geelong Gaol into a place of detention for disabled and decrepit prisoners, and of the other country gaols into “gaols of the first instance,” or houses of detention, and not building any more country gaols; the erection of a House of Correction at Pentridge; the adoption of a more summary punishment for juvenile offenders; the adaption of more effective means for suppressing drunkenness and disorderly conduct in the streets, and also for the suppression of demoralising public entertainments; and, lastly, the appointment of a Board of Honorary Visitors of Penal Establishments, somewhat similar in its constitution and duties to the Boards of Management for Scotch and Irish Prisons appointed under Acts of the Imperial Parliament. We law especial stress on this latter point, because it is an indispensable part of the scheme of penal discipline which we have recommended.


The recommendations contained in the foregoing Report are, in substance, that the existing industrial school system shall be discontinued, and the plan of boarding out destitute children in their own localities substituted for it; and that local provision, supplemented by State bounty, shall be made for their maintenance.

In concluding our labours we beg to state that we have founded the practical recommendations we have taken the liberty to suggest on facts, gathered from many authoritative sources, in addition to the evidence taken before us. We have carefully examined the reports of the various systems of penal discipline and juvenile pauper relief at present existing in Great Britain and other European countries, as well as in many of the American States, and we have drawn from them such suggestions as we deemed best adapted to the special circumstances of this country.

The preparation of this Report has been considerably delayed by the absence from the colony, on leave, of our Chairman.

We regret that the absence of the Hon. A. Michie, one of the Commissioners, on account of ill health, prevents his signing this Report.

We cannot forbear to mention the valuable services rendered to us by our Secretary, Mr. David Blair, whose efficiency in the discharge of his duties greatly facilitated our labours.

All which we have the honour to submit for Your Excellency’s consideration.

Witness our hands and seals this 12th day of August A. D., 1872.








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