Tuesday, 25 March 2014

St Johns History:The Reformatory in Newspapers

St Johns History
The Reformatory in Newspapers
Photo (c) Eidolon Paranormal: No use without prior written permission 

This page is intended to be a supplement to our "St. Johns Timeline" on another page on this website found Here:

Links and references will be given when available.

It is our aim to provide as much information as possible to the general public about this site and deliver an accurate representation of life and death at the reformatory. It is also our desire to expel many of the myths, rumours, inaccuracies and lies that have spread throughout Australia, and the world, on various forums and paranormal websites.

Our research has been extensive, with the purchasing of official government documents, such as birth and death certificates, and books written by members of the clergy who served at St Johns and Kapunda. 
Newspaper article dated 2002 - Photo (c) Eidolon Paranormal: No use without prior written permission

 Below we present a selection of newspaper articles detailing goings on at the Reformatory.


South Australian Register

  Thursday 21 January 1897

The Reformatory Schools - The Government is considering some proposed new arrangements in reference to the Reformatory School children. It is stated that the Magill institution for boys is becoming crowded, and that extra accommodation will soon be required, while the feeling exists that the Reformatory for Girls at Edwardstown is not answering its purpose to the extent desired!
The idea now receiving attention is that the girls should be removed from Edwardstown to some available public building in the country —possibly at Redruth— and that the structure at present occupied by them should be utilised for boys. An important offer made by Archbishop O'Reilly is also under consideration. The Archbishop asks that the Catholic girls in the Reformatory should be handed over to him, to be placed in an institution under the charge of three Sisters of St. Joseph.
Dr. O'Reily is ready to convert the St. John's Church and manse, situated near Kapunda, now disused. into an establishment for the purpose, and to comply with all the State requirements for the care of the girls. Of course he would expect to receive a proper allowance from the State for the maintenance of the girls.

 Miss Mary O'Brien (Sister. Helena) as matron of-the Reformatory School for Girls of the Catholic Religion at St. John's,- near Kapunda.

From the New Zealand House of representatives 1897


The Advertiser

  Tuesday 25 January 1898

The new arrangements for the housing of the children in the care of the State which were planned some time ago have now been carried into effect. The Protestant girls from the Edwardstown Girls' Reformatory have been transferred to the disused gaol at Redruth, which bas been specially fitted up for their use. The last contingent went up last week and are now settled there. The Catholic inmates of the institution were sent to St. John's Reformatory, near Kapunda, some months ago. The Edwardstown buildings are now used for the children from the Industrial School at Magill, which was be coming crowded, and will now be used solely for a reformatory school for boys

The Advertiser
Wednesday 29 June 1898
Gawler June 1898
Two girls who absconded from the St. John's Reformatory at Kapunda were arrested here on Sunday and taken back to Kapunda yesterday

  Wednesday 13 July 1898
The monthly meeting of the State Children`s Council was held on Monday, July 11  Mr. Thomas Rhodes, president;
Lady Bonython, Mrs. Brown, Miss Baker, Miss Clark Miss Spence,Dr. Robertson , Mr. E. W. Hawker, and the secretary, Mr. J. B. Whiting. The Secretary reported the admission of 12 children,
9 having been received at the Industrial School, Edwardstown,
1 at the Boys' Reformatory, Magill,
and 2 at St. John's Reformatory, Kapunda

The South Australian Register
  Saturday 21 October 1899

KAPUNDA, October 20.— At the last committee meeting of the Kapunda Institute it was decided to become affiliated with the Library Association of Australasia.— A bazaar in aid of St. Rose's' Church was opened in the Institute hall on Tuesday by Mr. Evan James the Mayor, and was continued during Wednesday and Thursday. The takings were in aid of liquidating a debt on the mission, and a substantial sum was realised. The display of fancy work was excellent, some by the Dominican nuns being very much admired, as also was that done by the girls from St. John's Reformatory. The flower and produce stalls were well patronised

The Advertiser
Friday 13 July 1900

Kapunda, July 12.
A few months ago extensive improvements were effected at St. John's Reformatory for Catholic girls, Kapunda. These have enabled the girls to be divided into first and second classes, according to conduct. This system has been attended with very satisfactory results. Since the school opened in May, 1897. 27 girls have been received; 12 of these have been sent to service, others have been sent home or else where, and there are now-11 inmates at the institution. The old Church of 'St. John, which is a landmark on the eastern side of the River Light, Was been thoroughly renovated, a portion of it now 'being used as a first-class dining-room for the girls, and the remainder has been appropriately furnished as a church.
A handsome stained glass window has been given by a few friends, and the Rev. Father Healy, of New Thebarton, has just sent up a valuable oil-painting of the Virgin of the Sacred Heart for the further decoration of the sanctuary. Mrs. R. 'Barr Smith of Adelaide, Was been amongst "The most generous friends of the institution . ArchBishop O'Riely has spent some 'hundreds of -pounds in the erection' of the reformatory premises. The State pays 10/ per week per child,but does  not contribute towards the cost of the building. With one exception, the whole of the girls sent to the institution have come from Adelaide.
The girls are thoroughly instructed   in all household duties, and the method adopted ensures every girl being made familiar with the complete routine. Some of the girls show special aptitude for artistic work, but,whilst "this is encouraged, the more useful of ordinary house work is not subordinated.
Religious instructions is daily imparted , as is also secular education, but the former is not made unnecessarily prominent. A good moral training is aimed at, and in this  direction the first three years' Work has been successful. Persons who have girls from the school in their service speak well of them.

 The Advertiser
4 September 1901

The number of inmates in the Reformatory for Roman Catholic Girls at Kapunda on July 1, 1900 was 11. During the year there were received - 6 girls newly committed, 4 absconders readmitted, and 3 girls transferred from the industrial school.
One girl was sent to service. The number in the school on June 30th was 19.
The accommodation is strained, rather, to provide for 19 girls.

The number would not be so high were it not for the difficulty of obtaining situations for the girls in Roman Catholic homes, for there are several girls - who could go out to service if places could be found for them. There has been very little sickness among the girls, who, on the whole, have behaved very well indeed. The institution is kept
in splendid order, and the inmates are well cared for, and receive-good, religious, moral, and practical training.



The Advertiser
Wednesday 12 March 1902

 State Children
A Council Meeting
The secretary reported that since the last meeting 20 children had been admitted to the Industrial School, 2 to the Girls' Reformatory, Redruth, 3 to the Boys' Reformatory, Magill, 1 to the, Boys' Reformatory, Brooklyn Park, and 1 to the Mount Barker Probationary School.
The dismissals had been 11 on service, 30 on subsidy, 9 absconded,
1 discharged from Girls' Reformatory, Kapunda, to Supreme Court for trial,
3 released on petition to parents, to hospital from Industrial School 2,
1 sent to Melbourne from Girls' Reformatory, Kapunda,
and 1 released term expired; 14 transfers had been made, 11 to service, 2 on subsidy, and 1 from service to Lying-in-Home.

10th September - "The Register"
Reformatory for Catholic Girls—
On July 1 there were 17 inmates at the reformatory for Catholic girls at Kapunda. During the year there were 6 new admissions, 1 transfer from the Industrial School, 1 transfer from the Girls' Reformatory, Redruth, and 3 readmission's There were 14 discharges -  8 to service, 2 to Abbotsford Convent, 2 released 'term expired,' 1 to the lying-in-home, 1 absconder, who was re arrested and returned; leaving 14 inmates on June 30, 1903. This institution is excellently managed by the sister in charge, and its whole appearance is creditable to all concerned.   



The Advertiser
Wednesday 15 August 1906
KAPUNDA, August 14.A. couple of girls ran away from St. John's Reformatory on Saturday evening. They were recaptured on Sunday at Freeling. They had a cold time of it on Saturday night, and took refuge in a chaff shed near Freeling. The freedom experienced was not what was anticipated, and they said they had intended to give themselves up if they were not overtaken on Monday.

The Advertiser
Wednesday 16 January 1907
Mrs. Crompton reported on a visit of some members of the council to St. John's Reformatory, at Kapunda. Everything had been found in good order, and cleanliness and quiet reigned. The visit was enjoyed, and the opinion was expressed that such visits tended to encourage the workers and the children. '

The Register
Thursday 24 June 1909

The Sydney Morning Herald
Tuesday 12th October 1909

The Register
12th October 1909
The Archbishop of Adelaide (Most Rev. Dr. O'Reily) has just published in pamphlet form certain official correspondence which has named between himself and the State children's Council relative to the Fullarton Refuge and the Girls' Reformatory.
In a foreword the Archbishop states that the two institutions are managed by Catholic Sisters. 'These Sisters try to do their best for the helpless committed to their care. They are willing to go on doing their best. But if officialdom will insist on hampering them by busybody intermeddling they think it better to cease their striving and let officialdom do the work in its own way.'
The correspondence was opened on January 25, 1908, by the State Childrens Council complaining that twins had died in the Fullarton Refuge 'in consequence of improper feeding, if not of actual starvation,' and that the doctor's instructions and the rules of the department; had been neglected.
In the course of a long reply in denial of the accusation the Archbishop showed that the rules had not been for warded till five days after the deaths, that the doctor's instructions had never been disobeyed, and that everything humanly possible was done for the infants by the trained Sisters.
He notified that while the department had statutory power in relation to the lying-in-home, it had no legal control over the nursery. Subsequently, acting under legal advice, He refused admission to the latter branch to the council's inspectress, and stated that if a certain clause in the State Children's Amending Bill should be passed he would close the nursery altogether The clause was later amended in the Upper House, so as to exclude from its operation benevolent institutions.
During the past 14 years the debt of the Refuge has increased from £773 to £12,080. The other institution dealt with in the correspondence is the Kapunda Girls' Reformatory School, which 'has cost the Catholic body at the very least £2,700.' The State Children's Council alleged 'that a priest was residing at the reformatory, and that his mental condition was, to say the least unstable, while his physical frame is powerful.'
The Archbishop denied that the priest's frame was powerful, but admitted that mentally he was not robust. He still thought him equal to and fit for the light work he had to  perform at the Girls' Reformatory. However, he notified that the institution would be closed so far as he was concerned. As the result negotiations, he agreed to keep it open till the end of November next, and then to transfer the premises to the department for £1,000, which does not quite cover the amount of the debt on it.

 The Register

KAPUNDA. November 29.
Mr. James Gray (Secretary to the State Children's Department), accompanied by three attendants, arrived this morning to supervise the final act in the transfer of the State girls from St. John's Roman Catholic Reformatory' to the institution at Redruth.
They drove out to St. John's, which is three miles from the town, in three cabs, and into these vehicles the 11 inmates and their belongings were packed . From the reformatory they were driven straight to Tarlee, where a special carriage on a goods train was met. They were thus taken to Burra, and from the railway station there will be conveyed in traps to Redruth. Everything was carried out with as much secrecy as possible. To-morrow Sister Berchmans and her two assistants will return to the community house at Kensington, and the work of dismantling the place will begin in order that the arrangements for the auction sale on December 8 may be carried out.


The Register
Friday 18 February 1910

Abolishing A Reformatory
There follows from Dr. H.H.E. Russell, of Unley, a report on the health of the inmates of the Fullarton Refuge during 1909. It states that illness has been very slight, and pays a tribute to the work and oversight of the Sisters in charge. Following documents deal with the question of the official closing of the Kapunda Reformatory. His Grace comments:— 'I objected to the word 'abolish' in connection with that closing. In my solicitors opinion, however, my objection did not hold. The word 'abolish' is clumsy and crude, and to my view rude; but the statute prescribes its use. and in that use I had, whether I willed or no, to at acquiesce. My objections to the reasons proposed to be alleged for the abolishing are stronger, and in my objections my solicitors concur. Even The Government Gazette, despite all its dignity, is not above the moral law. and ought, as a rule, to try and be truthful.' The first document in the series is from Mr. Gray to the Chief Secretary (of which the Archbishop was forwarded a .copy). Mr. Gray writes:— 'Owing to circumstances over which the State Children's Council has no control, and which are known to the Chief Secretary, the Girls' Reformatory at St. John's, near Kapunda, has been closed, and the inmates have been transferred to the Reformatory at Redruth. In view of these facts the council is dissatisfied with the present condition of the school, it being empty and in process of dismantling. I am, therefore, to ask that the proclamation of His Excellency the Governor may issue abolishing the Reformatory School at .St. Johns' To this the Archbishop replies, objecting to the terms set forth. Mr. Gray's answer to this is that the terms were merely those required by the law. Correspondence here follows between His Grace and his solicitors, who uphold the setting. forth of the terms, but dimmed with the Secretary of the State Children's Council in his reading of the law involved. The suggestion of the Archbishop's lawyers is that:— 'The proper course is for the true facts to be stated in the proclamation—namely, that for reasons sufficient to His Grace the institution has been closed against the reception of State children. and therefore the necessity for the control and supervision of The State Children's Council no longer exists. His Excellency may, then, issue a proclamation abolishing the Reformatory as a reformatory for the reception, detention, education, employment, training, and reformation of State children.' Mr. Gray's further response is that he would be pleased to have the proclamation so issued upon the Chief Secretary's consent. From a member of the State Children's Council there is included a letter, in which it is regretted that the law demands the use of the word 'dissatisfied.' On the contrary. Mr. Gray had already written in September, 1909. that 'the council has a profound appreciation of the work done at St. John's Reformatory.'

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