The Parramatta Girls’ Home was infamous for its horrors

It was built in 1821 as a place to house and employ the growing number of convict women in the colony of New South Wales. But it also became the scene of many horrors, some of which happened much more recently.

Recently, the Australian government announced that it would nominate Parramatta Female Factory to be listed as World Heritage. The site is of great significance to the many former wards who have survived the institutionalism here in Australia or elsewhere.

This is not a mere relic from the convict age. Just 15 years ago, a part of this site was used as a women’s jail. From 1887 to 1973, the Parramatta Girls’ Home was located there.

The Parramatta Girls’ Home

The Girls’ Home has also been known as Parramatta Girls’ Industrial School and Girls’ Training School. Each name was a very clever euphemism. It was a high-security institution, no matter what you called it. This is a prison.

The facility was designed to house adolescent girl who were removed from their abusive or unfit parent, orphaned, or found homeless.

The practice of locking children and teenagers up for being poor, unloved, or homeless is what today’s criminologists call “penal Welfare.”

Official policy was to treat welfare inmates who were already vulnerable and had committed no crimes at all like hardened criminals.

They were subjected to a brutal and humiliating regime of physical, mental, and sexual violence.

Punishments included forced silence, floor scrubbing (with a toothbrush), beatings, and solitary confinement underground in dark cells.

In addition to the trauma of being confined in a pitch-black dungeon for hours, male staff members would sexually assault girls who were in solitary.

The abuses were so horrendous that the Royal Commission on Institutional Responses against Child Sexual Abuse classified it as a special case study.

Many have since died, but others have been charged and received heavy prison sentences. Many of them have since died. Others were accused and sentenced to long prison terms.

It is important to remember that the Royal Commission was only tasked with addressing sexual abuse. The countless incidents of horrific, non-sexual, physical, and emotional abuse were not prosecuted.

Surviving Girls’ Home residents were among the stakeholders who passionately advocated the preservation and commemoration of the Parramatta Female Factory Precinct.

In 2006, they created a lobby group named ” Parragirls” and began a campaign for official recognition of their experiences.

They demanded that the entire site, not just the convict-era building, be recognized as being historically significant and deserving of preservation.

The Parramatta Girls’ Home from the side. Jacqueline Z Wilson is the author (no reuse).

The only institution that was involved in the scandal was the University of California.

There are only a handful of Parragirls. The Parragirls are a tiny subset of the approximately half a million survivors of “out-of-home care” during the second half of the 20th Century, who were dubbed by a Senate inquiry in 2003 as “Forgotten Australians“.

As a teenager, I was a state ward and, as a young child, spent time in different institutions. I never feared being locked up in Parramatta as a Victorian. But its horrors are legendary among all state wards.

We were faced with our institutions – many of which were as brutal as Parramatta – and tried to avoid them.

Australia still hasn’t come to terms with the fate of wards in the 20th Century.

Many people are still alive, but their lives have been destroyed.

The public is relatively unaware of institutions like Parramatta Girls and other institutions investigated by different inquiries and the Royal Commission.

For Forgotten Australians, whose lives weren’t directly touched by Parramatta but who still stands as an icon of the horrific “penal-welfare” system in Australia.

We support the campaign for the site to be preserved, and not just the convict-era Female Factory.


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