This blog explores welfare collections held at the State Library that may assist you to find children and in-firmed persons who lived in institutions or belonged to benefit societies. Most of these collections have finding aids that list the contents in detail so you can ascertain whether it will be helpful for your research. Access to the collections vary so each collection is explained in detail below. Please be aware that many collections are restricted due to privacy legislation.

Try Boys band with charabanc H86.108/4

Melbourne Benevolent Asylum records from 1849 to 1999

The collection includes general registers of applicants and inmates 1852-1936; deaths and departures 1882-1917; books of bequests 1871-1898; medical officer’s report book 1896-1923; clothing book 1886-1902; diet ledgers, rations book, minutes and financial records. You can find a detailed list of the contents of this collection in our online finding aid.

This collection is restricted because of the size, fragility, and complexity of the volumes. Contact Library staff with a name and date of death of a resident so they can undertake limited searches.

Melbourne Benevolent Asylum, North Melbourne H92.330/267

Melbourne Orphan Asylum (Vic.) records from 1845 to 1989

The collection comprises case files, ca. 1858-1959, admission book ca.1850-1986, official register of inmates, 1887-1975; reports on apprentices, 1913-1917, minute books, annual reports and other documents. You can find a detailed list of the contents of this collection in our online finding aid.

The Admissions book is a very large, heavy volume so the information has been transcribed into the typescript pictured below. This typescript can be consulted for you by Library staff and if files are found they can be viewed in the Library’s Heritage Collections Reading Room.

Access to records that are older than 99 years are available without restriction. To access records 99 years and under please contact OzChild for permission.

Transcription of Admissions book, ca. 1850-1986

Victorian Children’s Aid records from 1893 to 1993

The collection includes case histories, court committals, fostering and adoption records of children under the care of the Society and correspondence relating to children under the control of the Society. The finding aid for this collection is not available online but can be viewed by contacting Library staff.

Access to records that are older than 99 years are available without restriction. To access records 99 years and under please contact OzChild for permission.

Melbourne Orphan Asylum, Brighton, Vic. Some of the orphans and some of the staff at Xmas H2001.20/14

Children’s Protection Society (Vic.) records from 1896 to 1985

This collection includes files relating to children (1921-1985); copy letter books; minute books; ledgers; cash books; press cuttings; printed material relating to the Children’s Services Acts and related matters; photographs; statistical sheets (1961-1970); and letters and press cuttings concerning St Martin’s and St John’s Homes (1936-1939) and Newhaven Boys’ Home (1934).

This collection is restricted but has an online finding aid. Any person wishing to view material must contact Kids First Australia (previously known as the Children’s Protection Society) who handle all requests.

Gordon Homes for Boys and Girls records from 1887 to 1947 and 1960 to 2012

There are two collections for this institution:

Records of Gordon Homes for Boys and Girls 1887-1947

This collection comprises case files, correspondence 1902-1904; letterbooks 1906-1936; minute books 1904-1947; boys’ registers 1887-1937; children’s registers 1900-1910; cash books and records of expenditure; visitors’ book; records of application for work 1889-1902; and miscellaneous papers.

The finding aid for this collection is online.

Records of Gordon Care ca.1960-2012

This collection comprises case files from Gordon Care’s residential program which closed on 30 June 2012. Also included are some administrative records such as Committee of Management meetings 1961-1974, and financial records. Four boxes of plans concerning new buildings, renovations, and extensions are included.

Records 99 years and under are restricted. To gain access, permission must be sought from the Care Leaver Record Service at the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing.

William Forster Try Boys’ Society (South Yarra, Vic.) records from 1887 to 1986

This collection includes annual reports; letter books; minute books; ledgers; receipt books; bank books; rule books; roll and attendance books; members’ subscription records; list of employers and lads employed; copies of the “Try Boys’ Excelsior News” and the “Australian boys’ paper”; society histories; programs and tickets; and correspondence and minutes of reports of various related institutions, e.g. City Newsboys’ Try Society, Hawksburn Girls’ Club, Melrose Boys’ home.

The finding aid for this collection is online.

Access to material up to the end of 1940 is available. To access records from 1941 onwards, permission must be sought from Sparkways.

Member of Try Boys’ Society, John Clarke H37578/40

Carlton Refuge (Vic.) records from 1875 to 1949

This collection is of an administrative nature, the only personal records are of baptisms 1931-1938 and marriages 1936-1937. All records are available for consultation. There is no finding aid for this collection.

Melbourne Newsboys’ Club Foundation records from 1897 to 1976

This collection includes correspondence, annual reports, minutes of meetings , finalised bequests and legacies, photographs and miscellaneous material relating to the club.

You can find a detailed list of the contents of this collection in our online finding aid

All records in this collection are available for consultation.

City Newsboy’s Picnic, Melbourne, State Government House December 1909 H36531/18/80

Old Colonists’ Association of Victoria records from 1869 to 1966

This collection comprises letter books, 1880-1927; cash book, 1898-1966; members’ register, 1869-1945; biographical register; statements of receipts and disbursements, 1928-1942; statements of receipts and expenditure, 1901-1928; press cuttings books, 1925-1955, including theatrical clippings and Old Colonists’ photographs; donations register, 1911-1912; index of receipts; record book listing Council members, 1869-1872, 1909-1915; and a ledger, 1921-1937. The records also include a history of the Association.

You can find a detailed list of the contents of this collection in our online finding aid.

This collection is available apart from the members’ register which is not issued due to its size and fragility. There is an alphabetical card index of the transcription of members’ names which can be consulted for you by Library staff.

Old Colonists Home. Approximately 1890. H13947

If you have any questions about these collections or would like to gain access to their finding aids please contact us via our Ask a librarian service.

More to explore

Further reading

Butler, JC, (comp.), 1961, The first hundred years: being a brief history of the Melbourne Orphanage from 1851-1951, Janicke, JC, (comp.), 1961, The next decade, The Melbourne Orphanage, Melbourne?

Kehoe, Mary, 1998, Melbourne Benevolent Asylum: Hotham’s premier building, Hotham History Project, North Melbourne

Sellers, Travis M, 2012, Melbourne Benevolent Asylum: haven of rest: a register of patients from the Melbourne Benevolent Asylum, Cheltenham who lie buried at the Cheltenham Pioneer Cemetery, Melbourne, Victoria, Friends of Cheltenham and Regional Cemeteries Inc., Cheltenham, Vic.

Szwarc, Barbara, 1990, Love, sweat and tears: the story of the enduring battle for survival of Joshua and Daniel Szwarc, Victorian Children’s Aid Society, Highett, Vic.

Hilton, Della, 1993, Selina’s legacy: from VCAS to Oz Child, Oz Child / Children Australia, Oakleigh, Vic.

Bracey, Lucy, Poulton, Fiona, 2016, Journey of hope and resilience: safeguarding children for 120 years, Children’s Protection Society, Heidelberg West, Vic.

Barnard, Jill, Twigg, Karen, 2004, Holding on to hope: a history of the founding agencies of MacKillop Family Services 1854-1997, Australian Scholarly Publishing, Melbourne.

Gherardin, Walter, 2001, The Gordon homes: a history and tribute, The Gordon Home for Boys and Girls Inc., Highett, Vic.

The Gordon Homes for Boys and Girls, 1978?, The Homes, Highett, Vic?

William Forster Try Boys Society, Try Times, The Society, [Hawksburn, Vic.]

Annual report, the William Forster Try Boys’ Society, 1918- , [The Society, South Yarra, Vic.]

History of children’s services: the history of the Carlton Refuge from the 1850’s to 1920, 1992, Crow Collection Association, [Footscray, Vic.]

Kernot, MJ. (Mary Jane), 1847-1932, 1919, Reminiscences of the Carlton Refuge, 1854 to 1919, The Refuge?, Melbourne

Onions, Edith, [1953], Read all about it, Colorgravure Publications, [Melbourne, Victoria]

O’Neill, Frances, 2005, A place of their own: the old colonists’ home in Victoria, Australian Scholarly Publishing in association with the Old Colonists’ Association of Victoria, Melbourne

O’Neill, Frances, 1991, Picturesque charity: the old colonists’ homes, North Fitzroy, Monash Publications in History, Dept. of History, Monash University, Clayton, Vic.

This article has 17 comments

  1. Does the library have any records of the Lady Duggan home in the 1940s?

  2. Would there be any records of the Darling Street, Malvern Babies Home run by the Church of England nuns?

  3. My great great great grand mother was Anne Free of Saint Helena. Do your have any information of her and her descendants in Australia.
    Jim Johnson

  4. Hello, I’m wondering if there is any information about ‘informal adoptions’ and the fostering of children during the depression please?

  5. Thank you. An excellent blog post. I always think of welfare records being at PROV, but of course they only deal with government records. There were many non-government welfare agencies. Now I will think to look here as well as PROV for welfare records in my family history research.

  6. Hi just wondering if there is any information on Berry street foundling home ?

    • Hello Carol,

      thank you for your query. I have lodged it through our online Ask a Librarian service, and one of our librarians will get in touch. With kind regards, Kylie

  7. Hi Lois, my grandmother put her 2 little kids into Cheltenham Children’s home in 1913 for a short time, wondering whether they would be any records for this as part of family history. She subsequently removed them (when conditions better for her).

  8. Hi. Do you have records for the Ballarat Orphanage?
    My Dad and his siblings were placed there at some stage.
    Uncertain of the dates.

    • Dear Denise, thank you for your question. I’ll lodge your enquiry with our Ask a Librarian service and someone will be in touch soon.

  9. Hello two ladies from melb took in children one was Sutherland who opened Sutherland homes other opened kildonan home however I think it was first alambie or known as alambie when government took over in 1962 I think do you have records of those homes please

    • Hi Julie, Thanks for your question. I have lodged it through our online Ask a Librarian service, and one of our librarians will get in touch with you soon.

      Kind regards,

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