St John's Orphanage
Australia

St John’s Boys Orphanage has been Condemned

In the very near future, one of the most historical building of Gouldburn, south west of Sydney will be torn down and removed from time.

It’s a sorry state to see what was once such an amazing building which sits on one of the highest points in Goulburn and with 360 views of the area, will soon be torn down as it is now beyond repair.

St. John’s Orphanage, sometimes referred to as the Goulburn Boys Orphanage, is a decommissioned orphanage located on Mundy Street in Goulburn, a town located in New South Wales, Australia, approximately three hours south of Sydney heading south west towards Canberra.

The foundation stone of the orphanage was laid and blessed by Bishop John Gallagher of Goulburn on 17th March 1912. A year later in 1913, the orphanage opened up to the public, accepting boys who had lost family and had no one to go.

Run by the Sisters of Mercy and the Catholic Church until its closure, the orphanage housed males from the ages of 5 to 16 initially. Its capacity was intended to be 100 children, but this peaked to more than 200 during the Second World War. By the 1970s, the orphanage began taking in female orphans from St. Joseph’s because of declining numbers of males.

The orphanage amalgamated with St. Joseph’s Orphanage for girls in 1976, and the remaining orphans were placed into group homes. As a result, the orphanage was closed in 1978 and rented out to the Youth with a Mission Base until they left in 1994. Since then, the orphanage has remained abandoned.

Until its closure, the orphanage took in more than 2,500 individuals for various reasons. Only four per cent of those who stayed there were actually orphans.

The orphanage’s residents were given a religious education, and were trained in agriculture.

Accounts by former residents state that they suffered severe beatings and punishments, and that they were issued a single set of clothing that was rarely washed. Another claims that some residents endured sexual abuse and rape, not only by the staff, but by older boys, and the caretaker. However, others state that the nuns were tough but fair and remained in contact with them.

The orphanage is currently owned by businessman John Ferrara who has proposed a number of redevelopments on the site, including the building’s restoration. The building has been heavily vandalised, and a series of fires have destroyed much its infrastructure.

Ghost tours have been conducted in the building. However, these are no longer allowed due to the state of disrepair on the building, with much of the roof now falling apart due to the extensive damage from the fires.

Although heritage listed, the state of the building after the fires has left the building to be condemned by the government and now commissioned to be torn down.

My partner and I went to the site to document part of Goulburn’s history, before it was gone for good. A reminder that pictures can capture and hold history and time from the past, when in the future there is no evidence left of its presence.

Though many of the stories associated with the orphanage are not happy ones, history reminds us that we should always do better and learn from past mistakes.

Making it important to never just tear something down and remove it from the past, but rather capture what happened there and remember how it is from those horrible mistakes we can become better people.

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