Nazareth House, Geraldton, Western Australia
In 1938, four Sisters of Nazareth from the Order's Hammersmith establishment came to Western Australia with a party of boys being sent to the St Mary's Farm School at Tardun, under the child migration scheme. The Sisters were to assist in the running of the School, which was one of four institutions in the state run by the Christian Brothers for training migrant and orphan boys in agricultural and trade work. The Bishop of Geraldton, Dr J.P. O'Collins, proposed, with the support of the Sisters, that a home along the same lines for girls should be established and, to this end, a plot of 29 acres was acquired between Crowtherton Street and the Chapman River.
Initial plans for the building, to be named Nazareth House like its British counterparts, were sketched by Monsignor John Hawes, a Catholic priest who had originally trained as an architect. Hawes' outline plans for the 'Spanish Mission' style structure were then completed by Basil Berry. Construction work began in October, 1939, and the foundation stone for the building was laid by Bishop O'Collins on June 2nd, 1940. The outbreak of the Second World War slowed progress on the building but the Sisters were able to move into the home on June 27th, 1941. The war had also brought a halt to the child migration scheme so the first residents were orphaned Australian children, the first of whom arrived on September 26th, 1941. The intake of the home was also extended to the aged poor, as was the practice in most other Nazareth Houses. The official opening of the new Nazareth House took place on September 28th, 1941, when it was reported that the building, the largest outside the metropolitan area, had cost nearly £35,000.
Although primarily for girls, the home housed boys up to the age of seven when they were transferred to the Farm School at Tardun. The girls stayed at Geraldton where they were educated and trained in the 'domestic arts' to prepare them for domestic service. Funding of the home came from various sources. As well as charitable fund-raising, payments were also received from the State Government for the children housed at the home. Contributions would also have come form the pensions of the elderly residents.
The first migrant children arrived at Geraldton on September 23rd, 1947. The twenty-five children had travelled on the Asturias to Fremantle, many of them coming from Nazareth Houses in the UK.
The winding-down of the emigration scheme and a general decline in demand for places at children's residential homes in the 1960s and 1970s led to the closure of the children's part of the home on December 16th, 1977, at which date there were only three child in residence.
The establishment, still run the Sisters of Nazareth, continues to provide residential care for the elderly.
Note: many repositories impose a closure period of up to 100 years for records identifying individuals. Before travelling a long distance, always check that the records you want to consult will be available.
- Sisters of Nazareth Archive, Sisters of Nazareth Archive, Nazareth House, 169-175 Hammersmith Road, London W6 8DB. The archivist is Christine Hughes. The archive contains material from the very beginnings of the order in the 1850s up until the present day. The archive is not open to the public and does not have facilities for personal searchers, although exceptions can be made for Sisters and for academic researchers. Enquiries are welcomed by post only for privacy and confidentiality reasons and replies are by also letter. There is no fee for dealing with enquiries, although donations to the Sisters are appreciated.
- Fothergill, Anne Memoirs of a Nazareth House Girl (2013, Quoin Publishing). Memories of the Middlesbrough Nazareth House.
- Gray-Wilson, Shirley It isn't Always Raining: Children in Care, 1939-1948 (2000). Life in the Carlisle and Newcastle Nazareth Houses.
- Kelly, Judith Rock Me Gently: A Memoir Of A Convent Childhood (2006, Bloomsbury). A memoir of life at Bexhill Nazareth House in the early 1950s. The factual veracity of this book has been challenged, and charges of plagiarism levelled against the author (e.g. see Catholic Herald 2/9/2005). The introduction to the current edition of the book acknowledges some of these criticisms.
- Reilley, Frances Suffer The Little Children: The True Story of An Abused Convent Upbringing (2009, Orion). Memories of the Belfast Nazareth House.
- Nuns 'abused hundreds of children' (Guardian article 16/8/1998)
- Sisters of No Mercy (Guardian article 1/4/2003)
- Compensation for care homes abuse (BBC News item 15/8/2006)
- Sisters of Nazareth become second Catholic order to admit to child abuse (Guardian article 14/1/2014)
- Children at Derry care homes were made to eat vomit, inquiry told (Guardian article 27/1/2014)
- A Time for Penance? (BBC Scotland 'Frontline' TV feature on abuse in Scottish Nazareth Houses)
- Bagnell, Kenneth The Little Immigrants: The Orphans Who Came to Canada (2001, Dundurn)
- Birt, Lilian M The Children's Home-Finder: the story of Annie Macpherson and Louisa Birt (1913, J. Nisbet)
- Corbett, Gail H Nation Builders: Barnardo Children in Canada (2002, Dundurn)
- Higginbotham, Peter Children's Homes: A History of Institutional Care for Britain's Young (2017, Pen & Sword)
- Kershaw, Roger and Sacks, Janet New Lives for Old: The Story of Britain's child migrants: The Story of Britain's Home Children (2008, The National Archives)
- Kohli, Marjorie The Golden Bridge: Young Immigrants to Canada 1833-1939 (2003, Natural Heritage Books)
- McEvoy, Frederick J 'These Treasures of the Church of God': Catholic Child Immigration to Canada (in CCHA, Historical Studies, 65 (1999), 50-70)
- Parker, Roy Uprooted: The Shipment of Poor Children to Canada, 1867-1917 (2010, Policy Press)
Except where indicated, this page () © Peter Higginbotham. Contents may not be reproduced without permission.