Bomaderry Aboriginal Children's Home | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage

Heritage

Bomaderry Aboriginal Children's Home

Item details

Name of item: Bomaderry Aboriginal Children's Home
Other name/s: Bomaderry Children's Home (Former); Bomaderry Babies Home; United Aborigines Mission Home
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Aboriginal
Category: Historic site
Location: Lat: -34.8554482603 Long: 150.6008092750
Primary address: 59 Beinda Street, Bomaderry, NSW 2686
Parish: Bunberra
County: Camden
Local govt. area: Shoalhaven
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Nowra
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
 429DP2886
 529DP2886
 629DP2886
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
59 Beinda StreetBomaderryShoalhavenBunberraCamdenPrimary Address
79 Brinawarr StreetBomaderryShoalhaven  Alternate Address

Owner/s

Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Nowra Local Aboriginal Land CouncilCommunity Group 

Statement of significance:

Apologies to Aboriginal people for the ideology and some of the language discussed here which is historic and not the views of the Heritage Council. Please note there are also references to deceased persons within the text.

The former Bomaderry Aboriginal Children's Home provides tangible evidence of the social and religious theory of the twentieth century whereby the lives of Aboriginal people were controlled by the Government with the assistance of Christian Missionaries. By institutionalising children at an early age in the Bomaderry Home the United Aborigines Mission indoctrinated young Aboriginal children into their particular Christian world view whilst assisting the Aborigines Welfare Board in bringing about the assimilation of "half caste" Aboriginal people.
As well as its association with the United Aborigines Mission (UAM), the Aborigines Protection Board and the Aborigines Welfare Board; the Home is also associated with Kinchela Boys' Home and Cootamundra Girls' Home where the children were transferred when they reached a suitable age for training as labourers or domestic servants. The Bomaderry Home is associated with former Home children now known as the Stolen Generations.
The Bomaderry Aboriginal Children's Home has strong social significance for the former residents and for the families and communities from whom the children were removed. Former residents have strong memories and feelings from their time spent in the home and some speak of a sense of healing when they return. The Home buildings provide a tangible link to the past for former residents and an opportunity to find answers to things they previously did not understand or were not told.
The Bomaderry Aboriginal Children's Home is the only former Home for Aboriginal babies and young children run by Christian Missionaries in NSW. It was in operation longer than any other Aboriginal Children's Home in NSW and was the first home to be established for Aboriginal children in NSW in the 20th century. The design of the former home is rare as an early intact example of the physical application of "attachment theory" which was becoming prevalent in child care in the 1960's.
Whilst the practice of removing babies and children from their Aboriginal families affected every Aboriginal person in Australia in some way; the mainstream Australian population remained relatively ignorant to the practice until the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families in 1997 (Commission of Inquiry) raised public awareness. Bomaderry and the other two former Aboriginal Children's Homes provide Australians today with physical evidence of past assimilation practices and help provide a means to find understanding and compassion for the Stolen Generations.
The place has rarity as a non-denominational Christian missionary institution specifically for Aboriginal babies and young children in NSW. It is known of as the birthplace of Stolen Generations in NSW.
Date significance updated: 21 Dec 11
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.

Description

Designer/Maker: United Aborigines Mission
Construction years: 1908-1988
Physical description: The property is a corner block comprised of three lots. It slopes gently towards Brinawarr Street with a frontage of 183 metres to Brinawarr Street and 159 metres to Beinda Street. The existing vehicular access to the site is from Beinda Street however the original entrance was from the other frontage. The original fence is still partially evident along Brinawarr Street. The site has areas of exposed rock and some large trees. Two large gums survive in the centre of the site which can be seen in the earlier photos of the site. Dense vegetation still exists along the northern boundary.

In an open area between the surviving houses and Brinawarr Street the remains of the original cottage dormitories can be seen in pathways and remains of footings. These cottages had termite infestation and were demolished and burnt over a period from 1964 to 1972.

There are five existing houses on the property dating from the 2nd phase of the United Aborigines Mission occupancy period from 1964 to 1988. These are constructed of fibro/ asbestos sheet with aluminium framed windows and corrugated metal roofs. One house is currently used as an office by the Nowra Local Aboriginal Land Council, and an original cottage from the 1st phase (1908 to 1964) that was moved on the site to its present location during the 2nd UAM phase. It has some features including many original windows and doors but has been opened up internally for office use.

Two smaller weatherboard buildings were originally used as wood sheds are located between the houses. There are two large and one smaller colorbond sheds which have been erected since 1996 at the northern end of the site.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The dormitory buildings from the 1908-1964 period have been demolished, but the interconnecting paths and some footings are still evident. The area should be treated as an archaeological zone.
The five surviving 1964 -1973 "contemporary cottages" are in good condition. The interior of the matrons cottage appears to be highly intact and includes evidence of the use by children, such as labelling shelves in a wardrobe. The interior of the Land Council house has been modified and the interiors of the other three were not inspected.
Date condition updated:25 Mar 11
Modifications and dates: 1964 - 1972 Demolition of original dormitory cottages and construction of five new houses.
1964 - the house "Ebenezer" was constructed.
1968 - the house "Maranatha" was constructed.
1970 - the house "Bethel" was constructed and it was occupied by the Matron Kennedy and children.
1972 - the house "Bethesda" was constructed and it was occupied by a couple and their own son, and three teenage boys.
1973 - the house "Salem" which was the converted Sisters cottage was occupied by a couple and their daughter and children of the home.
1988 - the children's home closed.
Current use: Nowra Local Aboriginal Land Council offices
Former use: Institutional home for Aboriginal children

History

Historical notes: BACKGROUND
Historically Aboriginal children were separated from their families from the earliest days of the colony. Governor Macquarie established the first Native Institution in Parramatta as early as 1814 and in 1823 another Native Institution was started in Blacktown. Both these institutions were considered failures, one reason being that once parents realised their children wouldn't be allowed to come home, they wouldn't give them up to the institutions. (5051312) The Government also subsidised missionary activity among the Aboriginal people, including that of the London Missionary Society in the 1820s and 1830s (State Records). On the frontier of Wellington Valley the Reverend Watson gained a reputation for stealing Aboriginal children and as a consequence the Wiradjuri hid their children from the white men.

With the spread of settlers and their livestock came conflict and dispossession. The first bill for the Protection of Aborigines was drafted in 1838 after the Myall Creek Massacre in June that year (5056626). Thus began a systemic government approach to the regulation and control of the lives of Aboriginal people that got tighter and tighter until the 1967 referendum finally brought significant change.
Until 1881 Aboriginal people were under the jurisdiction of the Colonial Secretary, Police and the Lands Department. In 1880 a private body known as the Association for the Protection of Aborigines was formed and following agitation by this body, the Government appointed a Protector of Aborigines, Mr. George Thornton MLC (State Records). The Board for the Protection of Aborigines was subsequently created in 1883. "The objectives of the Board were to provide asylum for the aged and sick, who are dependent on others for help and support; but also, and of at least equal importance to train and teach the young, to fit them to take their places amongst the rest of the community." (State Records) This objective became the basis of future child removal policy: that the inferiority of the Aborigines would only be dealt with by removing the children and educating them in white ways.

In Darlington Point Reverend Gribble established Warangesda Mission in 1880 and established a separate girls' dormitory. The dormitory followed the institutional model of its time, and taught housekeeping skills to the girls to prepare them for respectable employment in menial duties on nearby stations. It also housed them separately in a building which included a dining room and kitchen as well as the dormitory room. Girls were brought in from many places and kept under supervision of dormitory matrons as well as Mrs. Gribble or the wives of later managers (Warangesda HOD 5055095). This became a model for the later Government run Aboriginal Children's Training Homes at Cootamundra and Kinchela.

Frustrated by the lack of legislative power to control the education and lives of Aboriginal children the Aborigines Protection Board successfully lobbied for a new act which was introduced in 1909 (Aborigines Protection Act 1909 (No. 25)). The Board's Annual Reports of 1909 and 1911 show the emphasis on training of Aboriginal children. The Board felt limited by the Act because it only gave them direct control over children over 14 who could be apprenticed. To remove younger children they had to apply to the magistrate under the Neglected Children and Juvenile Offenders Act 1905. The Board was of the opinion that the children would only become good and proper members of "industrial society" if they were completely removed and not allowed to return (Brindley 48; A Board Official quoted by P Read and C Edwards). The underlying assumption was that Aboriginal people lacked the intellect to undertake anything but menial tasks. This later translated into the limits on the types of training provided; girls training for domestic service and the boys for labouring.

The Aborigines Protection Act was amended in 1915 and again in 1918 giving the Board the right "to assume full control and custody of the child of any aborigine, if after due inquiry it is satisfied that such a course is in the interest of the moral or physical welfare of such child. The Board may remove such child to such control and care as it thinks best." (Aborigines Protection Amending Act, 1915, 4. 13A.) A court hearing was no longer necessary. If the parents wanted to appeal it was up to them to go to the court.

The depression and drought years of the 1920s and 1930s were particularly difficult for Aboriginal people. Conditions in the reserves remaining from the soldier settlement land redistribution, were poor, often overcrowded, and it was easy for the government to prove neglect and remove Aboriginal children. In 1937, in response to public pressure from academic and missionary groups sympathetic to Aboriginal people, a meeting was convened of State and Commonwealth Aboriginal authorities. The result was an official assimilation policy formed on the premise that "full-blood" Aborigines would be soon extinct and the "half-caste" should be absorbed into society. Meanwhile the Aboriginal people were organising to become a force of resistance. The Sesquicentenary was marked by a National Day of Mourning and a call for the abolition of the Protection Board. (The Abo Call 1st Sept 1938).

The Aborigines Protection Board was finally abolished and replaced by the Aborigines Welfare Board in 1940. Aboriginal children were then subject to the Child Welfare Act 1939 which required a magistrate's hearing and the child had to be proven neglected or uncontrollable. Aboriginal children continued to be sent to Cootamundra, Bomaderry and Kinchela, some went to Mittagong or Boystown. There were no specific homes for uncontrollable Aboriginal children so these were sent to State corrective institutions such as Mt Penang or Parramatta Girls. (Brindley p60) The education of Aboriginal children had generally been one of segregation until, in 1940, the Department of Education officially took on the role.

In the 1960s the work of British psychiatrist John Bowlby on "attachment theory", began to influence the institutional care of children in Australia. That an infant needs to develop a relationship with at least one primary caregiver for social and emotional development to occur normally: rather than only being treated with affection as a reward (Cupboard Love) which was the prevailing theory of the 1940s (Wikipedia). Fostering then became the preferred option and a more common occurrence. In accordance with the assimilation policy which was still prevalent, Aboriginal children were fostered with non-Aboriginal parents. In the case of Bomaderry the property was redesigned.

In May 1967 a referendum changed the Australian constitution bringing positive changes for the Aboriginal people. One resultant change was the abolition of the Aborigines Welfare Board in 1969.


BOMADERRY ABORIGINAL CHILDREN'S HOME HISTORY
In June 1884 the Native Christian Endeavour Society was formed in La Perouse. In 1899 it became known as the New South Wales Aboriginal Mission then in 1907 it became the Australian Aboriginal Mission. Finally the organisation became known as the United Aborigines Mission (UAM), an organisation whose central task was to teach the Gospel to Australian Aboriginal people. UAM established children's homes, schools, hospitals, and community stores around Australia, as well as undertaking transport and language work.
In 1907 a baby girl came into the care of two missionaries and in 1908 an Aboriginal woman died leaving behind 6 orphaned children; together these 7 children became the first residents of the Bomaderry Aboriginal Children's Home established by UAM in 1908. (Goodfellow) The Home opened in 1908 in a three bedroom cottage on 3 1/4 acres of land next to the Shoalhaven River. It is often referred to as the "first children's home" as it predates the others established under the 1909 Act and was established as a home for orphaned and neglected children. As more children arrived, the cottage was enlarged and another cottage was built on an adjoining block of land. By 1913 there were 17 children from 3 1/2 years to 12 years. A newspaper report of the time stated that "quite a number (of children) have been drafted out to comfortable houses" (SMH 20Sept 1913).
The cottages were located in bushland and there was a walking track to the river. In 1914 a building was moved from Roseby Park to the Home to become the boys' dormitory. By 1916 there were three cottages and twenty nine children in the home, with ages ranging from two to sixteen years (SMH 1916). A third parcel of land was donated to the home by Mr Mark Morton. Likewise furniture, clothing and food came from donations from the community.
Under the 1909 Aborigines Protection Act children were removed from their families if they were found to be neglected. The Act was originally intended to enable the training of Aboriginal children and was therefore aimed at older children. The Act was amended in 1915 to allow younger children to be taken and to give the Board more power to act without parental consent. (P. Read) An article in the Sydney Morning Herald in 1921 reported in the words of an official from the Aborigines Protection Board "that the principal work of the Board was the rescuing from the Reserves of all children who had reached the age of 14 years, and the taking of children from parents whose neglect warranted the board's intervention." (SMH 28 Dec 1921) Children removed by the Board who were old enough for training were taken to the Board's own institutions such as Cootamundra Girl's Training Home or Kinchela Boy's Training Home. If the children were taken very young, or as babies, they were first taken to Bomaderry Children's Home. UAM supported the activities of the Aborigines Protection Board by providing a home for these young Aboriginal children.
In 1922 there were 45 children at the home with the two eldest being apprenticed by the mission. On the site were three buildings with a fourth under construction (SMH 17 April 1922). The number of the children at the home must have fluctuated around the upper 30s as in 1924 there were 36 children.
The children at the Bomaderry Aboriginal Children's Home were housed in dormitory cottages up until the 1960s. There was a separate cottage for kitchen and dining and for the sisters' accommodation.

By 1964 the dormitory cottages were in poor condition and had to be removed. On the weekend of 14th July 1964 volunteers commenced building the first of five new cottages to replace the dormitories. Many local businesses donated or subsidised the cost of materials; much of the furniture was donated by a company in Sydney (Hipkin). In direct response to the "attachment theory" of childcare, which was prevalent at the time when new buildings were needed, the design of the new dwellings at the Bomaderry Aboriginal Children's Home became focused on a single "family" unit. Each cottage would have a parent figure or parent couple who would be in charge of a group of up to 9 children, some of whom were siblings. Each cottage had four bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchen, laundry and lounge and were self sufficient in terms of cooking and cleaning.

Today the Bomaderry Aboriginal Children's Home has enormous significance for the people sent there as children. It is a place associated with deep emotional ties, there are feelings of both hurt and affection for the place. People associated with the Bomaderry Aboriginal Children's Home include Harry Penrith (Burnam Burnam), of Woiworung and Yorta Yorta heritage, who was born at Wallaga Lake on the south coast of New South Wales. He was taken from his family and placed in the United Aboriginals Mission Home at Bomaderry and later transferred to the Kinchela Boys Training Home (National Museum of Australia).

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Aboriginal cultures and interactions with other cultures-Activities associated with maintaining, developing, experiencing and remembering Aboriginal cultural identities and practices, past and present. All nations - living under the Aborigines Protection Act 1909-1969-
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Aboriginal cultures and interactions with other cultures-Activities associated with maintaining, developing, experiencing and remembering Aboriginal cultural identities and practices, past and present. All nations - the stolen generations-
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Aboriginal cultures and interactions with other cultures-Activities associated with maintaining, developing, experiencing and remembering Aboriginal cultural identities and practices, past and present. All nations - controlling dispossesed peoples-
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Aboriginal cultures and interactions with other cultures-Activities associated with maintaining, developing, experiencing and remembering Aboriginal cultural identities and practices, past and present. All Nations - associations with Aboriginal war service-
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Aboriginal cultures and interactions with other cultures-Activities associated with maintaining, developing, experiencing and remembering Aboriginal cultural identities and practices, past and present. All nations - reconciliation events-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Developing roles for government - caring for orphans-
7. Governing-Governing Welfare-Activities and process associated with the provision of social services by the state or philanthropic organisations Providing a home for disadvantaged children-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Religion-Activities associated with particular systems of faith and worship Conducting missions-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The former Bomaderry Aboriginal Children's Home provides tangible evidence of the social and religious theory of the twentieth century, that Aboriginal people were a "child" race and had to be protected for their own good. The task of the UAM was to convert Aboriginal people to the Christian faith. By taking in orphan children, many of whom were not in fact orphaned, they could engage in a direct Christianisation of the children and thus save them from themselves.
Bomaderry Aboriginal Children's Home provided a home for Aboriginal children deemed to be wards of the State. According to oral history the missionary carers provided a more caring environment than that of the State run institutions.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The former Bomaderry Aboriginal Children's Home is directly associated with the United Aborigines Mission, the Aborigines Protection Board and the Aborigines Welfare Board.
The Home is associated with Kinchela Boy's Training Home and Cootamundra Girl's Training Home where the children were sent from Bomaderry when they reached a suitable age for training as labourers or domestic servants. Many children also had older brothers or sisters whom were at the other homes.
The Home is associated with prominent individual Burnam Burnam ( Harry Penrith).
The Home is associated with the 1997 National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families (Commission of Inquiry).
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
Does not meet this criterion.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The Bomaderry Aboriginal Children's Home has strong social significance for the former residents and for the families and communities from whom the children were removed. The place is associated with stories of social and cultural dislocation; memories and feelings about the home are generally intense due to the age of the children when removed.

The Home buildings provide a tangible link to the past for former residents and an opportunity to find answers to things they previously did not understand or were not told. Memories associated with the place whether painful or not, are recalled when former residents visit the former home. Some former residents speak of the healing process experienced when returning.

A plaque and memorial garden located on the grounds is dedicated to all the former residents and commemorates the "birthplace of the stolen generations".

The Bomaderry Aboriginal Children's Home provides tangible evidence of the practice of removing babies and children from Aboriginal families, a government practice which affected the lives of every Aboriginal community but was outside the consciousness of mainstream Australians. With the Bringing Them Home report (from the Commission of Inquiry) the nation was made aware of how widespread the practice of removal was. The Bomaderry Aboriginal Children's Home provides contemporary Australia with physical evidence as a means to comprehend of the pain and suffering of past assimilation practices.
The home provides evidence of the ongoing public debate which polarised the Australian community with the publication of the findings of the Commission of Inquiry in 1997. There was considerable debate, particularly over whether there should be a public apology to the so-called "stolen generations". In 2008 the Prime Minister issued a public apology.
The assimilation policies and removal of children have created ongoing issues for contemporary Aboriginal communities which have to deal with the cultural divergence that is the result of some Aboriginal people being raised in non-Aboriginal families or institutions.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The former Bomaderry Aboriginal Children's Home has the potential to provide insight into the care of Aboriginal wards of the state by missionaries in the 20th century in NSW.
The site of the former dormitories is an archaeological site which has the potential to provide evidence of the social and physical organisation of an Aboriginal Children's Home in the early 20th century. It provides evidence of the dormitory era which pre-dates the 1960s cottages located on the site today.
The existing cottages demonstrate the 1960s change in philosophical approach to the institutionalisation of children by placing them in self sufficient "family" groups. This aspect of the management of the Home has potential for further research.
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
The Bomaderry Aboriginal Children's Home is the only former Home for Aboriginal babies and young children run by Christian missionaries in NSW. It was in operation longer than any other Aboriginal Children's Home in NSW and was the first home to be established for Aboriginal children in NSW in the 20th century.
The design of the former home is rare as an early intact example of the physical application of "attachment theory" which was becoming prevalent in child care in the 1960's.
SHR Criteria g)
[Representativeness]
The former Bomaderry Aboriginal Children's Home is representative of the work of the United Aborigines Mission with Aboriginal people which was intended to convert Aboriginal people to Christianity; to help them be assimilated into non-Aboriginal society and to provide a home for Aboriginal children who were sent to them by the Aborigines Welfare Board.
Integrity/Intactness: The post 1960 buildings are very intact. The pre 1960 buildings have been demolished but their footings can be seen in the grass.
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:

Original details such as the pen marks in the wardrobe should be conserved.

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
HERITAGE ACT 1977
Notice of Order Under Section 57 (2) of the Heritage Act 1977

I, the Minister for Planning, pursuant to subsection 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, do by this Order:

1. revoke the Schedule of Exemptions to subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act made under subsection 57(2) and published in the Government Gazette on 22 February 2008; and

2. grant standard exemptions from subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977, described in the Schedule attached.

FRANK SARTOR
Minister for Planning
Sydney, 11 July 2008

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Sep 5 2008

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0187417 Feb 12 20464

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written 1938The Australian Abo Call
Written 1912Sydney Morning Herald
WrittenBill Hipkin2008Myths and memories - Bomaderry Children's Home 1908 - 2008
Oral HistoryBringing them home oral history project2001Herb Simms interviewed by John Maynard View detail
WrittenEllice Goodfellow Five Cottages
WrittenNSW Department of Community Services1998Connecting Kin - Guide to Records View detail
WrittenPeter Read2007The Stolen Generations - The removal of Aboriginal children in NSW 1883-1969
WrittenReport of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Toresse Strait Islander Children from their Families1997Bringing Them Home
WrittenUnited Aborigines Mission1994Challenging the Almighty
WrittenUnited Aborigines Mission Cut Without Hands, or The Miracle of the United Aborigines Mission
WrittenWikipedia John Bowlby - Attachment theory View detail

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

rez rez rez rez rez rez
rez rez
(Click on thumbnail for full size image and image details)

Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage Office
Database number: 5061330
File number: 11/03405


Every effort has been made to ensure that information contained in the State Heritage Inventory is correct. If you find any errors or omissions please send your comments to the Database Manager.

All information and pictures on this page are the copyright of the Heritage Division or respective copyright owners.