Australia Orphans and Orphanages

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Australia Gotoarrow.png Orphans and Orphanages

Orphans are persons, especially children, bereaved of both parents.[1] The word has an extended usuage to refer to children who are abandoned or neglected.[2] In the 19th Century, this latter class included a group termed "pauper children" who were targeted by British authorities for migration to Australia and other dominions of the British Empire; the practise continued into the 20th Century and Australia received thousands of child migrants, often under duress, sometimes deceived into believing they were orphaned.
Wikipedia has more about this subject: Child migration

An orphanage is an institution for orphans[3] sometimes also called in Australia a benevolent asylum, an orphan school, an infants' or babies' or children's or boys' or girls' or foster home, receiving home or depot, a foundling home, a boys' training home or farm. The first orphanage in Australia was established on Norfolk Island by Governor King who also founded the first orphanage on the mainland: in 1801 he formed the Female Orphan School in George Street, Sydney to house destitute young girls.[4]

The concept of adoption is foreign to the English common law and legislation was required to establish adoption arrangements in each of the Australian jurisdictions. Australia is a federation with a division of legislative and administrative power between the States (former colonies) on the one hand and the Commonwealth on the other. Responsibility for orphans, adoption and child welfare generally has been a function of State governments except in the territories where it falls to the Commonwealth to make arrangements.

Details about these orphan immigrants can be found in ship passenger lists. For further information on ship passenger lists, see Australia Emigration and Immigration.

There are several types of Australian records about orphans including orphanage registers, school records, apprenticeship records, and charitable relief office reports. For more information about orphanage school records, see Australia Schools.

Orphanage registers give detailed information about each orphan, including name, age, parent(s), ship of arrival, religion, and remarks (such as death date, discharge information, and whether apprenticed). Many of these records are indexed.

Orphanages in Australia date back to almost the beginning of the British settlement. Orphanage records in Australia can be found in national archives, state archives, and other local repositories and libraries. See the following for a list of orphan and orphanage records in Australia and where they are deposited:

Vine Hall, Nick. Tracing Your Family History in Australia: a guide to sources. 2nd ed. Albert Park, Victoria, Australia: North Vine Hall, 1994. (Family History Library Call Number 994 D23v.)

The Family History Library has collected some records relating to orphans and orphanages. These records are listed in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:



  1. "orphan, noun 1. a." in The Macquarie Dictionary Online (Macquarie Dictionary Publishers Pty Ltd) accessed 3 August 2013.
  2. "orphan, A. n. 1." in Oxford English Dictionary (2013, Oxford University Press, online edition) accessed 3 August 2013.
  3. "orphanage, noun 1." in The Macquarie Dictionary Online (Macquarie Dictionary Publishers Pty Ltd) accessed 3 August 2013.
  4. "Orphan schools", "The gift of charity", Religion, church & missions in Australia, "Discover our collections". State Library of New South Wales, 2012. Accessed 3 August 2013.