Heritage

Former Children's Court Building, Including Interior

Item details

Name of item: Former Children's Court Building, Including Interior
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Law Enforcement
Category: Courthouse
Primary address: 66-78 Albion Street, Surry Hills, NSW 2010
Parish: Alexandria
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Sydney
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
66-78 Albion StreetSurry HillsSydneyAlexandriaCumberlandPrimary Address

Statement of significance:

The building is socially significant for its impact on girls and boys affected by the juvenile justice system between 1911 and 1983, including the "stolen generations" of aboriginal people. Its importance in Sydney social life is illustrated by its mention in the novel "Come In Spinner" and. "The Boys' Shelter is a powerful symbol of institutional discipline under the Child Welfare Act 1939. The Children's Court reminds us of the laws which used to govern relations between husbands and wives, parents and children, when private processes broke down. It symbolises the government's control over children's lives, even when exercised with the best of intentions.."(page46, Christa Ludlow "For Their Own Good" The building also dates from one of the key periods of the development of Surry Hills as a direct result of the subdivision of the Riley Estate. It is aesthetically significant as a good example of a Federation Courthouse complex by prominent government architect Walter Liberty Vernon on a prominent corner site which makes a positive contribution to the streetscape.
Date significance updated: 21 Jun 05
Note: There are incomplete details for a number of items listed in NSW. The Heritage Branch intends to develop or upgrade statements of significance and other information for these items as resources become available.

Description

Designer/Maker: Walter Liberty Vernon
Builder/Maker: C.C. Coleman
Construction years: 1910-1911
Physical description: The building is 2 storey in Federation Academic Classical style on a prominent corner site which addresses both streets. The building is constructed of face brickwork with sandstone detailing and timber windows and doors. The prominent curved coner entrance features Ionic colums with an inscribed panel and enclosed verandah above. The elevations to each street are divided into bays by brick columns and a dominant pedimented gable with sandstone cornices, capping and detailing.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
In good condition with a high degree of original fabric intact externally and high potential for restoration.
Date condition updated:02 Mar 03
Modifications and dates: The building has had little external modifications since constructed.
Further information: Heritage Inventory sheets are often not comprehensive, and should be regarded as a general guide only. Inventory sheets are based on information available, and often do not include the social history of sites and buildings. Inventory sheets are constantly updated by the City as further information becomes available. An inventory sheet with little information may simply indicate that there has been no building work done to the item recently: it does not mean that items are not significant. Further research is always recommended as part of preparation of development proposals for heritage items, and is necessary in preparation of Heritage Impact Assessments and Conservation Management Plans, so that the significance of heritage items can be fully assessed prior to submitting development applications.
Current use: Offices
Former use: Children's Court

History

Historical notes: The "Eora people" was the name given to the coastal Aborigines around Sydney. Central Sydney is therefore often referred to as "Eora Country". Within the City of Sydney local government area, the traditional owners are the Cadigal and Wangal bands of the Eora. There is no written record of the name of the language spoken and currently there are debates as whether the coastal peoples spoke a separate language "Eora" or whether this was actually a dialect of the Dharug language. Remnant bushland in places like Blackwattle Bay retain elements of traditional plant, bird and animal life, including fish and rock oysters.

With the invasion of the Sydney region, the Cadigal and Wangal people were decimated but there are descendants still living in Sydney today. All cities include many immigrants in their population. Aboriginal people from across the state have been attracted to suburbs such as Pyrmont, Balmain, Rozelle, Glebe and Redfern since the 1930s. Changes in government legislation in the 1960s provided freedom of movement enabling more Aboriginal people to choose to live in Sydney.

(Information sourced from Anita Heiss, "Aboriginal People and Place", Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/barani )

The building is within the area that was part of the original grant to the first Surry Hills landowner - Captain Joseph Foveaux, who was assigned 105 acres in 1793 and subsequently increased his holdings to encompass most of Surry Hills. By 1800, John Palmer - farmer and grazier, had acquired more than 200 acres of Surry Hills and become Commissary General. However by 1814, Palmer had fallen into financial trouble and lost his position in the colony, resulting in his estate being divided and sold at public auction. Edwards Riley attempted to reassemble the Palmer Estate during the 1820s, although after his suicide in 1825 the holdings were once again subdivided according to Meehan’s original plan and sold to the public. The economic boom of the 1830s acted as the necessary catalyst for residential development in Surry Hills with the original allotments being initially subdivided into villa estates. With much of the Riley Estate still locked up in a legal battle, the early development in Surry Hills focused on the lands around Albion and Bourke Streets. It wasn’t until the gold rush boom of the 1850s that the Riley Estate finally become available, and provided substantial land for the development of workers housing locally employed by the breweries and other industries. In 1908 the NSW Government allocated funds for the construction of a children's court and shelter in a more central location (than the existing children's court operating from Juniper Hall, Paddington at the time). The site chosen in Albion Street (corner Commonwealth Street) was part of the Fosterville Estate. The corner block was owned by the Sparke family in the 1880s but ownership was transferred to Sydney Municipal Council in 1905. In 1906 the new Central Railway Station opened nearby, making the site more accessible. The Government Architect Walter Liberty Vernon designed the Children's Court and Shelter and it was constructed by builder C.C. Coleman of Petersham for 9555 pounds, replacing earlier buildings.The Court was completed in 1911, opening on 7 October 1911. In the first six months of operation 553 boys passed through the Shelter. By 1913 boys were being remanded to the Shelter by the Magistrate for up to 2 weeks for offences such as petty theft and truancy. Scenes in the Children's Court during World War II were incorporated into Dymphna Cusack and Florence James' novel "Come in Spinner" (later made into a film). The internal courtyard was used as an overcrowded waiting area. The Boys Shelter became outdated, and detention rules were changed in 1976, after adverse publicity concerning absconding and violent incidents. "In a dramatic gesture signifying the changes in child protection policy of the time, the Minister for Young and Community Services Rex Jackson took an axe to the detention room door in November 1980. Jackson's ambition to close the Shelter, which he called 'one of the most obnoxious complexes in Australia', was realised on 14 November 1980 [when all the boys were transferred to Minda Remand Centre at Lidcombe]" (page 37 "For Their Own Good.."Christa Ludlow ). The last sitting of the Albion Street Children's Court was held on Friday 29 April 1983. The building has since been used by Sydney City Mission and a range of community organisations.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
7. Governing-Governing Law and order-Activities associated with maintaining, promoting and implementing criminal and civil law and legal processes (none)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The building has historic significance as representative of the system of juvenile justice in NSW from 1911 to 1983,and as it dates from a key period of development of Surry Hills and the consolidation of residential estates to commercial development.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The building is associated with prominent government architect Walter Lliberty Vernon.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The building is a prominent element in the streetscape and good example of a Federation Court House building with typical key elements of the style. The design, with its interior courtyard, reflects the requirements of the juvenile justice system in 1911.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The building is socially significant for its impact on girls and boys affected by the juvenile justice system between 1911 and 1983, including the "stolen generations" of aboriginal people. Its importance in Sydney social life is illustrated by its mention in the novel "Come In Spinner" and. "The Boys' Shelter is a powerful symbol of institutional discipline under the Child Welfare Act 1939….The Children's Court reminds us of the laws which used to govern relations between husbands and wives, parents and children, when private processes broke down. It symbolises the government's control over children's lives, even when exercised with the best of intentions.."(page46, Christa Ludlow "For Their Own Good" The building continues to be of social significance as the premises of a number of social welfare organisations such as ACOSS (Australian Council for Social Services).
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The area is not identified in an archaeological zoning plan and the area has been well researched and it is unlikely that the site would reveal further information that would contribute to the significance of the area.
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
The building is not rare.
SHR Criteria g)
[Representativeness]
The building is a representative example of a Federation period Courthouse in NSW.
Integrity/Intactness: High Externally
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Recommended management:

The building should be retained and conserved. A Conservation Management Plan and Heritage Impact Statement should be prepared for the building prior to any major works being undertaken. There shall be no vertical additions to the building and no alterations to the facade of the building above awning level other than to reinstate original features. Any additions and alterations should be confined to the rear in areas of less significance, shall not be visibly prominent and shall be in accordance with the South Sydney Council Heritage Conservation DCP. The building should be retained and conserved. A Heritage Assessment and Heritage Impact Statement, or a Conservation Management Plan, should be prepared for the building prior to any major works being undertaken. There shall be no vertical additions to the building and no alterations to the façade of the building other than to reinstate original features. The principal room layout and planning configuration as well as significant internal original features including ceilings, cornices, joinery, flooring and fireplaces should be retained and conserved. Any additions and alterations should be confined to the rear in areas of less significance, should not be visibly prominent and shall be in accordance with the relevant planning controls.

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanSydney LEP 2012I140914 Dec 12   
Heritage study 2.101   

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
South Sydney Heritage Study1993 Tropman & Tropman Architects  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenAnita Heiss Aboriginal People and Place, Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City
WrittenChrista Ludlow1994"For Their Own Good": a history of the Children's Court and Boys' Shelter at Albion St, Surry Hills
GraphicWalter Liberty Vernon1910Plans

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Local Government
Database number: 2420422


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