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Punishment cells but no school hall, the hard history of the public industrial school


The small historic building tucked behind the King Edward Memorial Hospital was originally built to house orphans and child delinquents in Western Australia.

Industrial schools were developed in the UK in the 19th century to deal with destitute or delinquent children.

Image from Report of Superintendent of Public Charities and Inspector of Industrial and Recovery Schools, 1900.(

Provided: Find and Connect


“It was basically a way of training orphans, so that they could fend for themselves,” said Richard Offen of Heritage Perth.

Girls were trained in domestic work and boys received general practical training.

In the 1890s, the Gold Rush sparked a population boom in Western Australia, with thousands flocking to the state. This has led to a sharp increase in the number of destitute children.

“In 1896, the Inspector of Charitable Institutions in Perth proposed that the government open an industrial school in Subiaco,” Mr Offen said.

“The building consisted of a large entrance hall and a recreation room, two dormitories with 16 beds, two large dining rooms, as well as kitchens, bathrooms, back kitchens. , stores and pantries. “

Detached from the main building were also punishment cells, but strangely enough, the architect neglected to include a classroom in the plans, and one of the kitchens had to be turned into a classroom before the opening of school.

On October 6, 1897, 27 inmates of the government reception depot were transferred from the leased premises at Claisebrook to the new school.

Workshops at the Public Industrial School in 1906.
Workshops at the Public Industrial School in 1906.(

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The school was originally intended for girls, but from the start it was a mixed institution, and workshops at the rear of the building were added for boys.

“In 1898, additions to the rear of the building included a carpentry, tailor’s shop, shoemaker’s shop and quarters for instructions, all of which have since been demolished.”

Within a year of opening the school was already causing concern, as a letter to the editor published in The West Australian on October 10, 1898 suggested, the boys were fleeing the house and trying to get sent home. Rottnest Island Correctional Facility. instead of.

Sir, The frequency of unauthorized departures from the Subiaco Industrial School by some of the juvenile inmates indicates a lack of security in the facility or an enduring ‘British love of freedom’. Other causes which have been suggested are a fairly severe system of discipline and by the boys themselves the desire to be sent to Rottnest, for in this house of correction there are glimpses of the sea, the smell brackish ocean, the opportunities for swimming and fishing, and last but not least, the rise to a pedestal of admiration among their comrades for being sent to Rottnest. ….. The ease with which the young people escape, and the expense to the country of their capture and ensuing legal processes, seem to suggest that the functioning of the institution requires some investigation … .

Former government industrial <a class=school building behind King Edward Memorial Hospital.” class=”_2clwR YdWce” data-component=”Image” data-nojs=”true” src=”″ data-sizes=”100vw”/>
Former government industrial school building behind King Edward Memorial Hospital.(

720 ABC Perth: Emma Wynne


“This school did not last long, as in 1916 it was moved to West Perth and in 1916 the building was converted into the King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women,” Mr Offen said.

Now known as Harvey House, the building now houses the Western Australian Medical Museum and is listed, along with the rest of the hospital, on the State Heritage Register.

The heritage documentation describes the “without federation” design as “an extravagant architectural gesture for such types of buildings at a time when the need for economy was stressed, despite the wealth brought by the gold boom”.

On “What is it?” Lorraine Horsley explores a hidden part of Perth’s past, every Monday at 7.15am on 720 ABC Perth Breakfast.


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