Social Welfare

Industrial Schools

During the latter half of the nineteenth century the South Australian government established a number of social welfare agencies.

These cared for:

Lunatics* – Adelaide, then Parkside, then Glenside Lunatic Asylums

The aged – Magill Old folk’s Home

Those left destitute – The Destitute Asylum

Children requiring custodial control – The Industrial School, The Girls Reformatory and the Boys Reformatory

Orphans – through the Boarding-Out System

*The word "Lunatic" reflects the term in use at the time of the record creation.

The State Children's Council was established under An Act to amend ‘The Destitute Persons Act, 1881’ of 1886 (No. 387). It assumed control of the Industrial and Reformatory Schools, and the boarding-out (fostering) of children. In the words of the first Secretary of the State Children's Council the objective of the Council was ‘to take control of the “children of the street” and to train them to become virtuous, honest and useful citizens.’ (South Australian Parliamentary Paper No. 39A of 1887).

The Children's Welfare and Public Relief Department, established in 1927, combined the operations of both the State Children's Department and the Destitute Persons' Department. In 1966 it became the Social Welfare Department.

Most records relating to this subject were created by the Destitute Persons’ Department (GRG28), the Social Welfare Department (GRG29) and the State Children’s Department (GRG27).

At the time of the Council's inception, the Industrial School, located at Magill, was used primarily as a reception house for children awaiting placement with foster parents or in apprenticeships. The Girls Reformatory was housed in the southern wing of the Industrial School, Magill and the Boys Reformatory was located on an out-of-service ship, the Hulk Fitzjames, moored off Largs Bay.

Industrial School – series held

Series IDTitle and date rangeAccessIndexes
GRG 27/9Register of admissions to the Industrial School, Magill and Edwardstown, 1886 - 1929Open after 100 yearsName search in ArchivesSearch for the open period
GRG 27/10Register of admissions to the Industrial School, Magill 1884 - 1893OpenSee Special List (also available in Research Centre) and name search in ArchivesSearch
GRG 27/11Register of admissions - Industrial School, Edwardstown, 1903 - 1908OpenNone available
GRG 27/12Register of admissions to the Roman Catholic Boy's Reformatory, Brooklyn Park, 1895 - 1908OpenNone available
GRG 27/13Register of admissions to the Salvation Army Probationary School for Boys, Mount Barker, 1900 - 1928Open after 100 yearsNone available
GRG 28/9Register of admissions to the Industrial School, Boys Reformatory School and Girls Reformatory School, 1862 - 1882OpenIndexed by GRG 28/10
GRG 28/10Index to admissions to the Inidustrial School - Destitute Board, 1863 - 1885OpenIndexes GRG 28/9
GRG 28/11Daily report book of the Industrial School, Magill, 1867 - 1882OpenNone available
GRG 28/12Register of admissions to the Reformatory Hulk 'Fitzjames', 1879 - 1893OpenNone available
GRG 29/52Index to applications for admission - Magill Home, 1923 - 1951Open after 100 yearsNot applicable
GRG 29/54Register of admissions to the Magill Home, 1924 - 1950Open after 100 yearsNone available

Researchers with an interest in the care of children by non-government institutions may find the publication “Finding Your Own Way” useful.  It describes in detail various private and religious institutions in South Australia who cared for children and also describes records that may, or may not, be available.  “Finding Your Own Way” is available from Link-Up SA.


The above is a limited selection of the most useful series only. Descriptions and access conditions for these and other series held, as well as agency descriptions and agency inventories, are available via our online catalogue, ArchivesSearch.

Need further assistance?

If you require any assistance with your research, please contact a Reference Officer by:

This Fact Sheet can also be downloaded in PDF format - Industrial Schools


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