Industrial School Caversham

The Industrial School opened in January 1869 on a 21 acre site at Lookout Point. Children from Southland were admitted from 1871. Most of the children in the home were 2 years of age or over, although babies and toddlers could be admitted for a short period before being adopted or fostered out. Children often stayed long term. Those over 12 years could take up trades or apprenticeships, while 14 year olds became eligible for farm or domestic work. The school catered for children who were either in need or had committed offences (those committing more serious offences were admitted instead to a reformatory).

The school was managed by the Police Department of the Otago Provincial Government. Following the abolition of the provinces in 1876, the national government took over, with the school eventually becoming the responsibility of the Education Department.

By April 1869 the school housed 47 children, including 15 who had transferred from the Otago Benevolent Institution. By 1876 numbers had reached 166 and the building was seriously overcrowded, but the school continued to grow. In 1886, a change of government policy saw an increasing number of children boarded out. By January 1904 the school was responsible for 539 children, but only 141 lived in. Of the remainder, 183 were boarded out, 27 “licensed to friends”, and 188 in (domestic or farm?) service.

By 1920 the term “industrial school” had been phased out, although the home still seems to have been known as such by the public. It was now one of only two long term residential homes in New Zealand, housing girls, young women, and young boys (older boys went to Weraroa, Levin). It was a central institution “for those who were believed to require special training before being placed out to service or with foster parents (Dalley p77). This included “delinquent” girls, who had been housed at Te Oranga Reformatory in Christchurch until it closed in 1918.

The school finally closed in 1927 (and Te Oranga reopened as the Burwood Home for older delinquent girls). The following year the Dunedin Boys’ Receiving Home opened on the same site.