Female Orphan School building

The historic Female Orphan School building on the Parramatta Campus of the Western Sydney University is the home of the Whitlam Institute. Construction of the building began in 1813, making it one of the oldest public buildings in Australia. The building's function as one of the first charitable institutions in the country, and its later use as a psychiatric hospital for almost a century make it a site of immense heritage significance.

The building served as the Female Orphan School from 1818. In 1850, the Female Orphan School merged with the Male Orphan School to create the Protestant Orphan School, which occupied the building until its closure in 1886. 

From 1888, the building was used as a psychiatric hospital, first as a branch of the Parramatta Hospital for the Insane. It later became an independent hospital, known variously over its life as the Rydalmere Hospital for the Insane, the Rydalmere Mental Hospital and the Rydalmere Psychiatric Hospital. The building was disused from 1969, and the hospital itself closed progressively from 1985.

The site became part of the Parramatta campus of the University of Western Sydney in 1995. The University of Western Sydney saw to the building's restoration in a painstaking adaptive reuse project undertaken in three stages. 

The Whitlam Institute moved to the Female Orphan School building in 2012, having previously been located in the nearby Medical Superintendent's House. The following year, the Whitlam Prime Ministerial Collection were relocated to the restored east wing of the building, and the Whitlam Institute opened its permanent exhibition there. 



The Female Orphan School building




To learn more about the building's history or find out about upcoming events and exhibitions in the building, visit the Female Orphan School website.

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