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Aboriginal Family History: Children in institutional care

The State Library of South Australia holds a wide cross section of information about South Australia and its people, some of which relates to Aboriginal people, but specific information regarding families can sometimes require broad research.

Background and resources

Getting started

This is a guide to the topic of children and institutional care in South Australia, covering children's hospitals, orphanages and reformatories. References to private and public schools, Aboriginal missions and the 'stolen generation' have not been included. 

This material and more can be found on the library catalogue. Not all material listed here is on open access, and some material will need to be retrieved from storage. Check with staff at the Information Desk.

Note: State Records is the official repository for State Government records. The admission registers of State Government institutions are not held by the State Library of South Australia. Of the orphanages directed by the churches, only one admission register is held, that of the Anglican Church's Orphan Home. For access restrictions and further detail see Archival number SRG 94/136.

Find and connect and Finding your own way both provide guidance for people looking for information about children's homes in South Australia, including the location of their records.

Books and pamphlets

Barbalet, Margaret. The Adelaide Children's Hospital: 1876-1976: a history, 1975.

Barbalet, Margaret. Far from a low gutter girl: the forgotten world of State wards, South Australia, 1887-1940, 1983. Case studies of State wards and domestic service Chapter 8. 'Reformers and reformed 1860-1940.'

Bleby, Elizabeth. Kennion House, a hundred years of children, 1986. Church of England Boys' Home, Walkerville.

Boarding-out Society Adelaide, S. Aust. Report of the Society for the supervision of children placed out from the Magill Institution by the Destitute Board, 1873-1886.

Central Methodist Mission Adelaide, S. Aust. Child Care Services Section. Child care at the Central Mission, 1977.

The cyclopedia of South Australia in two volumes... etc, 1907-1909. 2 vol. vol.1, pp.324-325. 'The children of the State.'

Dickey, Brian. Rations, residence, resources: a history of social welfare in South Australia since 1836, 1986.

George, Karen. Finding your own way, 2005. Also online.

Hardy, Mabel. The first hundred years of the Orphan Home, Adelaide, Inc, 1960. Julia Warren Farr; Orphan Home.

The history & development of the Seaforth Brighton Community Centre, 1978? Seaforth Children's Home.

Legacy Club of Adelaide. Legacy: an outline of the facilities offered to the widows and children under the care of Legacy, 1958. Orphanages.

McNally Training Centre..., 1967?. Reformatories - Magill.

Morley, Charles The Glandore story from hulk to haven: a story built around the history of the site of the Glandore Community Centre, 1995.

O'Reily, John. The Catholic charities of South Australia: what they aim at doing and how they try to realise their aims, 1911. Includes brief history and photographs of Goodwood Orphanage, Largs Bay Orphanage, and Boys' Reformatory.

O'Reily, John. The Fullarton Refuge and the Girls' Reformatory at Kapunda..., 1909.

O'Reily, John, Archbishop of Adelaide. Some Catholic charities and the Secretary of the State Children's Department..., 1910.

Picton, Cliff and Boss, Peter. Child welfare in Australia: an introduction, 1981. pp. 33-34 'Community Welfare Act, 1972.'

Scottney-Turbill, Peter. Morialta: fire in the mist, 1994. Morialta Children's Home, Norton Summit.

South Australia. Dept. of Intelligence. Special intelligence bulletin, 1910. Information pamphlet for intending immigrants to South Australia. pp. 28-30 Education; pp. 31-34 State Children's Council.

South Australia. Public Buildings Dept. Specification for erection of new dormitory block at Vaughan House for the Honourable the Minister of Works, 1961.

South Australia. State Records. Ancestors in archives: a guide to family history sources in the official records of South Australia. 2nd ed., 1994. Lists relevant records of South Australian State government agencies such as State Children's Department, Destitute Person's Department, and Social Welfare Department.

Spence, Catherine Helen State children in Australia, 1907.

State Children's Council administration: also description of institutions controlled by the Council / comp. by Jas. Gray, 1911.

Tregenza, Annie. Recollections Reynella, A.E. Weinert, 1991. Guardian and ward, born 1904.


AIATSIS. South Australian legislation brings together child welfare/adoption laws in South Australia, including those applied specifically to Aboriginal children.

Find and connect and Finding your own way both provide guidance for people looking for information about children's homes in South Australia.

Oral Histories

Goodwood Orphanage oral history, 1992-1994. A series of 17 interviews commissioned by the Libraries Board of South Australia concerning the experiences of children, nuns and priests living and working at the St. Vincent de Paul's Orphanage, Goodwood from 1922 until its closure in December 1975.
To see if there are oral histories on a particular subject, conduct a keyword or subject search and then 'refine' your search to 'spoken sound' on the left of the screen.
Read more about the State Library's oral history collection here.