The Parramatta Female Factory Precinct Project is on the location of Australia’s first purpose built Female Orphanage for Catholic children. Dating back to 1821, the “Female Factory” served as a depot for unassigned female convicts, pregnant women, and nursing mothers, as well as a workhouse and penitentiary. When convict transportation ended, the location was re-purposed as an Invalid and Lunatic Asylum in 1847, a legacy which continues today as Cumberland Hospital. Its neighboring institution, the Roman Catholic Orphan School, opened in 1844. In 1887, the orphanage was re-purposed as the Industrial School for Girls, later known as the Parramatta Girls Home. This institution was the principal child welfare institution for girls in New South Wales. In 1975, it was renamed Kamballa & Taldree Children’s Shelter and in 1983 ceased operations.
In 2004, the Forgotten Australians Report was handed down by the Australian Senate Community Affairs Reference Committee. This Report tabled hundreds of graphic accounts of abuse experienced by Australians who as children were in institutional or out of home care. The Australian Government instigated the Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse in 2013. The Commission has heard thousands of testimonies given by people who experienced sexual abuse as children including hundreds of accounts by former occupants of the Parramatta Girls Home.
The Parramatta Female Factory Precinct is the cradle of Australia’s welfare system concerning women and children. It is here that the first forced removals of children from their convict mothers was directed by government policy in 1823, a policy which underpinned the subsequent Child Welfare Acts, Industrial Schools Act, Reformatory Schools Act, and the Aborigines Protection Act. Through these decrees children were separated from their families and placed in institutional or out of home care.
Today, Australians are speaking up about the abuse and humiliations they experienced as children in institutional or out of home care. The Parragirls (former occupants of the Parramatta Girls Home) launched the Living Memorial campaign in 2005, calling for the designation of the Parramatta Female Factory Precinct as a Site of Conscience.
Since then Parragirls have initiated the Parramatta Female Factory Precinct Memory Project to document, record, and interpret the environment, experience, and legacy of its historical institutions and to empower former occupants to determine how they will be remembered and how these institutional sites will be utilized in the future.