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Bicentenary of arrivals to Parramatta’s Female Orphan School

  • The Whitlam Institute Female Orphan School, Western Sydney University Parramatta South Campus, NSW Australia (map)
View of the Female Orphan School, near Parramatta, New South Wales , Joseph Lycett, 1825 Western Sydney University Art Collection

Saturday 30 June marks two hundred years since the arrival of the first girls to the historic Female Orphan School in Parramatta. Once dilapidated and at risk of demolition by neglect, the oldest three-storey building in Australia is now a stunning heritage building, and home to the Whitlam Institute within Western Sydney University.

Back in 1818, the young, underprivileged girls travelled by boat up the Parramatta River from bustling Sydney Town, with all its danger and poverty, to the Female Orphan School for a new, wholesome rural life.  They gained the rare benefit of schooling and residence in the comparatively grand building and its spacious grounds, yet it came with the trials of an institutionalised childhood.

Director of the Whitlam Institute, Leanne Smith, said “The Female Orphan School has profound significance for Australia’s colonial history, and our many visitors appreciate the beauty of the building as well as the social significance of this place. We’re grateful for the help of our dedicated volunteers, who assist in hosting tours, exhibitions and events.”

“The Whitlam Institute strives to be a nationally significant institution delivering bold and inspiring policy research and programs that promote common ground, inclusive national identity and civic engagement for all Australians, and we’re very proud to be custodians of the important heritage property that is the Female Orphan School.”

The girls impending arrival was announced on page one of The Sydney Gazette on 27 June 1818, in a letter written by Governor Lachlan Macquarie’s Secretary.

HIS EXCELLENCY the GOVERNOR is pleased to order and direct, that the Children be removed thither, under Charge of the Master and Matron of the Institution, on. Tuesday next, the 30th Instant. In Order to render this Removal as easy and convenient as possible, the Government Boats are to be in Attendance on Tuesday Morning, to receive the Master, Matron, and Children, with their necessary Luggage, and to convey them to the New Orphan House at Parramatta. His Excellency having framed certain new Rules and Regulations for the future Conduct and Management of the Female Orphan School, and its general Establishment, with which the Master and Matron will be furnished, as well as all other Persons concerned ; they are to be hereafter strictly adhered to in all the Departments of the Institution.

We invite you to find out more on Saturday 14 July 2018 at the Whitlam Institute Open Day.

Image: View of the Female Orphan School, near Parramatta, New South Wales , Joseph Lycett, 1825. Western Sydney University Art Collection