Article type: Original Research

PUBLISHED 1 March 1977

Volume 2 Issue 1

Some Children at Risk in Victoria in the 19th Century

Cliff Judge, Roma Emmerson


1 Children’s Cottages, Kew, Victoria

2 Mental Health Department, Victoria

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The Gold Rush in 1851 meant sorrow and suffering for many adults. The story of children of this period is not as well known. The roving life of parents in search of gold, their fluctuating fortunes and frequent fatal accidents in the mines contributed to the plight of their offspring. In 1852 Canvas Town on the west side of St Kilda Road, in Melbourne, held over 7,000 people. There were, of course, many waifs and strays who suffered the hardships of a canvas town and the general social misfortune of the times. The ground was swampy and children’s diseases often swept the encampment. Death was commonplace. There was also a large number of children in gaols in 1858, not because they had committed any crime but because there was simply nowhere else to go. Finally a number of children during this era were confined to workhouses by magistrates.

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