South Australia’s 10 Worst Children’s Homes: A Legacy of Shame

magill boys home

South Australia has a long and shameful history of institutional child abuse. This was laid bare in the final report of the Children in State Care Commission of Inquiry in 2008, during which 792 victims reported that they had been the victims of child sexual abuse while in state care in South Australia.

The allegations date from the 1930s right through until the 2000s, and in total, 1592 allegations were made in relation to 1733 alleged perpetrators. Sadly, the true numbers are likely much higher.

In this article, we look at 10 of the worst South Australian children’s homes, as identified by the Commission of Inquiry.

Are you a survivor of child sexual abuse in South Australia? Click here to share your story with us. You may be eligible for compensation.

Magill Training Centre/South Australian Youth Training Centre/McNally Training Centre

Built on the site of the former Boys Reformatory, Magill, this facility underwent several name changes over the years, including McNally (1967-1979), South Australian Youth Training Centre (1979-1993), and back to Magill (1993-2012).

The facility was a residential centre for youths between 15 and 18 who had committed offences or were on remand. Throughout its history, there were concerns about physical violence by officers, and as early as the 1970s, staff were chastised by a judge for failing to fill in a critical incident report or report to police when informed that one of the residents had been forced to perform a sexual act under the threat of violence.

During the Commission of Inquiry, 14 former residents reported being sexually abused in Magill. The offences included allegations against staff and other residents.

A further individual gave evidence that he had witnessed a night staff member waking other boys during the night, taking them to the office, sexually abusing them & then returning them to bed.

Vaughan House

Vaughan House was opened in 1947 as a reformatory centre for girls committed to an institution. It remained open until 1979 when it was renamed as the South Australian Youth Remand and Assessment Centre.

During the Commission of Inquiry, 16 former residents reported being sexually abused at Vaughan House. The abuse included masturbation, digital penetration and rape and was alleged to have been perpetrated by staff members, a doctor, other residents and outsiders.

Seaforth Home

Seaforth was established in the 1920s, and by 1968, there was an average of 79 children in the home at any one time.

During the Children in State Care Commission of Inquiry, 9 women reported being sexually based at Seaforth, with allegations ranging from indecent assault to penetrative rape. Alleged perpetrators included staff members, visiting health professionals and other residents.

Glandore Boys Home

Glandore was a home for boys aged 6-18 years of age. By the 1960s, up to 130 boys were housed at Glandore at any one time. Glandore became notorious for both physical and sexual abuse, with a string of concerns about staff and residents being raised throughout its history. Despite this, little was ever done to address the problem.

During the Commission of Inquiry, 27 people reported being sexually abused at Glandore, with the allegations including indecent assault, digital penetration, oral penetration and anal rape. These offences were committed by both residents and staff members.

Some victims reported complaining to the matron, nursing staff or other workers but were simply ignored.

Brookway Park

Brookway Park operated from 1965 to 1978 for boys between the ages of 9-15. Issues emerged from the very beginning, with the original deputy superintendent resigning at the end of 1965, citing issues with overcrowding, insufficient staffing levels and older boys influencing and sexually abusing younger residents.

During the Commission of Inquiry, 13 former residents reported being sexually abused at Brookway Park. Perpetrators included staff, other residents and outsiders.

Are you a survivor of child sexual abuse in South Australia? Click here to share your story with us. You may be eligible for compensation.

Slade Cottage, Glandore/Somerton Park

Slade Cottage opened on the former site of Glandore Boys Home in 1973 before being moved to Somerton Park in 1975 on the site of the former Seaforth Home. It remained there until it was shut down in 1988. In the 1980s, several reports of abuse/violence by workers were brought to the attention of the Government; however, no action was taken until 1987, when an official inquiry found significant shortcomings in the quality of care being provided, concluding that Slade Cottage was an ‘indictment on every level of management’.

During the Commission of Inquiry, 7 ex-residents of Slade Cottage reported sexual abuse by workers and other residents, with the abuse including indecent assault, acts of indecency and anal rape.

Lochiel Park Boys Training Centre/Community Unit

Lochiel Park opened in 1958. Initially, it catered to children with mild intellectual disabilities and behavioural problems. In 1970, it was expanded to become a training centre, accommodating over 30 residents at any one time.

This led to concerns about young offenders being in close contact with younger, vulnerable residents with disabilities. There were multiple reports in the 1990s relating to sexual misconduct between residents, abuse by staff and vulnerable residents being allowed out in the community where known paedophiles abused them.

During the Commission of Inquiry, 8 people reported being sexually abused in Lochiel Park with the alleged perpetrators including staff members, other residents and members of the community.

Stuart House/North Adelaide Community Unit

Stuart House was a government hostel that housed older schoolboys who had no other suitable accommodation. It opened in 1964 before undergoing a name change to the North Adelaide Community Unit in 1990.

During the Commission of Inquiry, 7 people reported being sexually abused at Stuart House between 1960 and 1989. Perpetrators included workers and other residents, and one victim disclosed that he had reported his abuse to a staff member only to have it dismissed out of hand.

Gilles Plains Community Unit/Gills Plains Assessment Unit

Gilles Plains opened in 1979 and provided long-term accommodation for school-aged boys capable of living in the community. In 1992, a new facility was built at the same address.

During the Commission of Inquiry, 9 people reported being sexually abused while living at Gilles Plains between the 1980s and the early 2000s. The abuse included indecent assault and anal rape, with the perpetrators including staff and sanctioned visitors.

Kumanka Boys Hostel

Kumanka Boys Hostel was opened in 1946 and housed boys in state care who had joined/were ready to join the workforce. From 1962, older schoolboys were also admitted to Kumanka, which remained open until 1980.

During the Commission of Inquiry, 7 individuals reported being sexually abused during their time at Kumanka, with these offences occurring predominantly in the 1960s and 1970s.

If you were abused in a South Australian children’s home, we want to hear from you. We will fight for you. Click here to share your story, or call us on (02) 4907 4200.