Invisibilising the Orphans

Jo Henwood tells of the noble public intentions and the less noble realities of orphanages of colonial NSW.

History stands on three legs: material, documentary, and intangible – the stories and ways of behaving that make up who we, the people, really are. But what if those voices have been silenced, the records lost, and the buildings turned into something more profitable?

Once we were proud of our British middle class ability to solve social problems by recycling them through an institution - take in an orphan or abandoned child and turn them into a docile Christian servant, not overly educated. Large buildings - the Orphan Schools of Parramatta, Randwick Home for Destitute Children, Biloela Industrial School on Cockatoo Island - dominated the landscape. But when these orphanages became a source of shame for how we had treated the most vulnerable they disappeared from view, repurposed or razed. When the objects disappeared then the stories were silenced and the children also became invisible.

Jo Henwood shares the stories of the noble public intentions, the less noble realities, and the struggles and resilience of the survivors.

Presented by History Illuminated

Books available for purchase and signing

Bookings essential

Gold coin on entry

All events are run with COVID safe precautions, social distancing and additional hygiene measures are in place. Masks are recommended.

View the full History Illuminated program here


  • Sunday, 06 September 2020 | 04:00 PM - Sunday, 06 September 2020 | 05:00 PM


Rathmines Theatre, Stilling Street, Rathmines 2283  View in Google Maps

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