Reformatory Hulks/Training Ships
The government set up ‘nautical school ships’ as reformatories for wayward or neglected boys. On board these ships, the boys were given nautical and industrial training and instruction, elementary schooling and ‘moral training’. One of the key aims was to provide sufficient training to give the boys an opportunity to obtain meaningful employment after they left the ship.
The Industrial Schools Act of 1866 authorised the Governor to proclaim "any ship or vessel or any building or place together with any yards, enclosures grounds or lands attached thereto to be a 'Public Industrial School' ". Any vagrant or destitute child under the age of sixteen could be directed by two Justices of the Peace to attend an Industrial School and to remain the responsibility of the Superintendent until the age of eighteen, unless apprenticed out or discharged.
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he Vernon was purchased in January 1867. It was refitted and declared a Public Industrial School in May 1867. The ship was the embodiment of the principles of the Society for the Relief of Destitute Children. In 1853 the Society had stated its aims: to provide relief for children found in a degraded and neglected state, to place them in protection under good influences, and to train them in the habits of honest industry.
On 10 May, 1867 James Seton Veitch Mein was appointed Commander and Naval Instructor of the "Vernon" and on 17 May, 1867 he was made Superintendent of the "Vernon".
The Vernon was initially moored between the Government Domain and Garden Island. Admissions commenced on 20 May 1867 and by July the following year, 113 boys had been admitted, with some as young as three being sent to the ship. On board, the boys were given moral training, nautical and industrial training and instruction, and elementary schooling.
On board the "Vernon", boys received a combination of moral training, nautical and industrial training and instruction, and elementary schooling. The curriculum was well-defined.
In 1871 the Vernon was moved and moored off Cockatoo Island. The island provided a small plot for the boys to have a vegetable patch and for use as a drill ground and recreational area.
"An Act to amend the Industrial Schools Act of 1866" [34 Victoria, Act No. 4, 1870] was assented to on 17 October, 1870. This Industrial Schools Act Amendment made provision for boys who were younger than seven when sent to an Industrial School to be placed in a Female Industrial School until the age of seven. Subsequently, young boys admitted to the "Vernon" were cared for by the Biloela Public Industrial School for Girls on Cockatoo Island. On 28 February, 1878 there were nine boys at Biloela.
The Sobraon succeeded the Vernon in 1892.
The commander of the Vernon and Sobraon ships was Frederick Neitenstein (1850–1921), introduced a system of "discipline, surveillance, physical drill and a system of grading and marks. He aimed at creating a 'moral earthquake' in each new boy. Every new admission was placed in the lowest grade and, through hard work and obedience, gradually won a restricted number of privileges
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Information courtesy to the Dictionary of Sydney
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