How did abuse happen in institutions without anyone knowing at the time? In 1944, a Mrs Grundy in Perth knew. Her letters of complaint against child slave labour at the Convent of the Good Shepherd were published by the Catholic newspaper The Record, on Wednesday, 20 September 1944. In the reply, the editor published the response of Welfare. Oliver Cosgrove kindly made available to the National Museum this excerpt from The Record, headlined Child Welfare Department Refute Malicious Slander Against Home of the Good Shepherd:
Mrs Grundy, Perth:
The next letter is from Mrs Grundy, Perth. She writes: Dear Sir – Will you please answer the following question?
Q: Why are such corrupt and diabolical institutions as the (so called) Convent of the Good Shepherd, where the inmates are mainly slaves, and where the industrial laws of the country are flouted, exempt from Government inspection?
A: In view of the startling and damaging nature of your revelations, your letter was shown to an official of the Child Welfare Department, so that the matter could be investigated and the abuse corrected if necessary. The following reply was received:
“All industrial homes, including the Home of the Good Shepherd Convent must be approved by the Governor through his representative, before they are allowed to function and all are subject to inspection by Government officials at any time. So far as the Home of the Good Shepherd is concerned, a full inspection covering buildings, living and working conditions, food and books of admission and discharges is made every three months by officers of the Child Welfare Department, who also interview the children and make individual reports upon them to the Secretary of the Department.
“The Child Welfare Department regulations require the institution to provide industrial training, such as needlework, washing, ironing, housework, cooking, gardening, and where cows are kept, dairying. This is necessary for the rehabilitation of the children. The same regulations control the hours of work.”
The next question from Mrs Grundy is this:
Q: The prisoners in our common gaols get a little remuneration for their labour, but in your Good Shepherd reformatory all they receive is plenty of hard work, hard living and blows. No wonder the poor unfortunate girl delinquents prefer the State prison to the sheltering care of your Convents.
A: Once again I quote the letter of the Child Welfare Department official;
“The committal of children to the Home of the Good Shepherd is not made as a punitive measure, but as a constructive one, and every effort is made to train their minds as well as their hands.
“Regular remuneration is not given because the Home is run for the comfort and care, not only of those who work under supervision, but also for those who for various reasons cannot work, some having to be nursed.
“State prisons are a Government responsibility, the overhead cost of running them being met by the taxpayers.
“As for girls preferring State prisons to the Home of the Good Shepherd, this may be said by an incorrigible girl out of bravado, but is far from the truth.
“The conditions of living at the Home of the Good Shepherd are such that many children, both ex-wards of the State and private girls, return there of their own free will, rather than remain in homes or in positions. Government regulations allow that corporal punishment may be administered for offences against morality, gross impertinence, or for persistent disobedience, but not for trivial breaches of discipline or dullness in learning. However, corporal punishment is not resorted to in the Home of the Good Shepherd.”