An Autobiography HTML version

Wards Of The State
In a little book which the State Children's Council requested me to write as a memorial of
the great work of Miss C. E. Clark on her retirement at the age of 80, I have given an
account of the movement from the beginning down to 1907, which had its origin in South
Australia under the leadership of Miss Clark. When I was on my way cut from England,
Miss Clark wrote a letter to The Register, suggesting that the destitute, neglected, or
orphaned children should be removed from the Destitute Asylum and placed in natural
homes with respectable people; but the great wave which came over England about that
time for building industrial schools and reformatories affected South Australia also, and
the idea was that, though the children should be removed from the older inmates, it
should be to an institution. Land was bought and plans were drawn up for an industrial
school at Magill, five miles from Adelaide, when Miss Clark came to me and asked me to
help her to take a different course. She enlisted Mrs. (afterwards Lady) Colton and Mrs.
(afterwards Lady) Davenport in the cause, and we arranged for a deputation to the
Minister; Howard Clark, Neville Blyth, and Mr. C. B. Young joined us. We offered to
find country homes and provide lady visitors, but our request was simply scouted. As we
did not offer to bear any of the cost it would be absurd to give us any share in the
administration. Children would only be given homes for the sake of the money paid, and
Oliver Twist's was held up as the sort of apprenticeship likely to be secured for pauper
children. So we had to play the waiting game. The school built to accommodate 230
children was on four floors, though there was 40 acres of good land. It was so popular
that, though only 130 went in at first, in two years it was so full that there was talk of
adding a wing. This was our opportunity, and the same men and women went on another
deputation, and this time we prevailed, and were allowed to place out the overflow as an
experiment; and not only the Boarding-out Committee, but the official heads of the
Destitute Department, were surprised and delighted with the good homes we secured for
5/ a week, and with the improvement in health, in intelligence, and in happiness that
resulted from putting children into natural homes. What distinguishes work for children
in Australia from what is done elsewhere is that it is national, and not philanthropic. The
State is in loco-parentis, and sees that what the child needs are a home and a mother--that,
if the home and the mother are good, the child shall he kept there; but that vigilant
inspection is needed, voluntary or official--better to have both. Gradually the Magill
School was emptied, and the children were scattered. Up to the age of 13 the home was
subsidized, but when by the education law the child was free from school attendance, and
went to service, the supervision continued until the age of 18 was reached. For nearly 14
years, from 1872 to 1886, the Boarding-out Society pursued its modest labours as
auxiliary to the Destitute Board. Our volunteer visitors reported in duplicate--one copy
for the official board, and one for the unofficial committee. When the method was
inaugurated, Mr. T. S. Reed. Chairman of the Board, was completely won over. We had
nothing to do with the reformatories. except that our visitors went to see those placed out
at service in their neighbourhood.
Our success attracted attention elsewhere. The late Dr. Andrew Garran, who was on The
Register when I went to England, had moved to Sydney in my absence, and was on the