Morning Star Youth Training Centre

Morning Star Youth Training Centre

1 Sunnyside Road

Mt Eliza



Provider: Catholic – Franciscan Friars

Year Opened: 1933

Year Closed: 1975


Provided educational, correctional and residential care for male youths aged 14 to 18 years

Previously known as Sunnyside Training Centre.

Francis A Gillett arrived in the colony from London in 1853. After travelling back and forth between Britain and Australia, Gillett purchased Sunnyside in 1865, married in 1866 and had completed the new house there, in 1867, reputedly to his own design. The architect, John M Barry had RP Whitworth reputedly wrote in 1888:

‘…This edifice stands in a commanding position having a splendid view of the bay. The carriage drive appertaining thereto, and the orchard attached, is most magnificent, constituting in fact one of the sights of the neighbourhood…’

A bequest made under the wills of Elizabeth Hannan and Patrick Lawler, late of Camberwell, (dated 13.4.1932) provided the basis for establishing a country training centre at Sunnyside for delinquent boys to expose them to rural life.

Under the Catholic Church ownership, further work was done for the Society of St Vincent de Paul in 1936 when a dormitory wing was added while the Franciscan fathers sought permission to do renovations and extensions for a summer school there in the period 1944-6 . Reputedly the property had an almost identical gate house to that of Moondah but this was destroyed in 1955.

Associated with the complex was the tall concrete pillar supporting a flood-lit statue erected by Bro. Crispin on the Nepean Highway frontage. This has been partially dismantled with the departure of the church.

Leslie Moorhead, author of “History of Mornington” nominated this garden to the National Trust, 1870s it was considered ‘the showpiece of the peninsula’. An aerial view from walled or hedged garden, with geometric beds, in front of the old section of the house.


Cited from Missionary Volunteer Part 1 (Sharing Our Stories) by Francis

Part 1

At the end of the years of seminary training in 1953, I was posted to Morning Star Boys Home for delinquents, assigned to the Franciscans for rehabilitation. Morning Star was in Mount Eliza, Victoria. Whether I really contributed to any boy being rehabilitated, I would never know especially as I was there only one year. Others who worked there a longer time might have been able to make some assessment. The boys to be cared for were all less than 18 years of age and some of them were tough or self-presented as such. I took a gang of them out to garden duties for part of the day and was rostered once a week to supervise the lot in the quadrangle. I became a lieutenant in the Rural Fire Brigade and trained a group of boys to put out grass fires in the Mornington Peninsula. We would go out in the fire engine, a tanker of that era, difficult to drive without power steering and took quite a while to brake being so heavy on roads . Nevertheless we did some practice lighting fires and putting them out. Though it was fun, the boys learned some discipline.

Socially I took a football team to play against one of the local teams and for myself personal visits to neighbours, a nearby Army Reserve, Reg Ansett of airline renown, the original Coles (of supermarket foundation) family and the local convent. Celebrating Mass, in Latin, of course, for the sisters meant having breakfast with two or three sitting with me, without eating, as I ate a massive meal. At other times giving a reflection for them was worthwhile for me preparing the talk but as the sisters sat listening in silence, I had no idea how, if at all, my talk enriched their lives. They could probably have done me some good if the positions were changed.
The boys welcomed the friars’ efforts to improve their each self-image as well training them to act as being a team. I enjoyed the outings as much as they, outings into the Dandenong Mountains and along the Mornington Peninsula. It was Friar Alphonse who taught me to drive and he trained me well.

Some boys were always making plans to escape. When one or two took off it was a simple matter of driving towards Frankston on the way to Melbourne and sitting behind a rock on the beach until they turned up. They would not try further to run. I wonder if they realized that it was better for me to catch them than the police.

Once in the quadrangle one of the bigger boys who had gained some high status among the others tried to assault me. I did something of which I did not, then or later, remember but he went flying across the floor to the laughter of the others. I gained in status and he lost his.

At the beginning of the next year the Provincial Minister of the Franciscans asked me if I would volunteer for the mission the friars had undertaken in New Guinea. Six friars had, a few years earlier, set out to take over an area formerly under SVD care. The Society of Divine Word had lost many missionaries during the war with Japan and the Area west of Wewak as far as the Dutch New Guinea border was consigned to the Australian and New Zealand Franciscans. The previous SVD centre was on Tumleo Island but the friars moved to St Anna, Aitape. Friar Doggett became the Bishop and the others manned the stations previously occupied by SVD missionaries. The whole interior, some of which had not even been opened up by the government needed attention and more friars were wanted. By government I mean the Australian Government to which the formerly German colony was entrusted after the war.

I had no hesitation in volunteering though I had no idea into what I was letting myself. I was that sort of guy, agreeing to take on any challenge and learning as I went along. I was given 3 months to spend with my parents and to prepare myself for the unknown. As radio was the only quick means of communication I was asked to learn something about wireless. I had an uncle who was a wireless technician. He taught me something and supplied me with some valves and stuff. I never got to be helpful in that area of expertise. It wasn’t long before transistors came into use and valves were useless.

Otherwise, the following might have been my only training for a future life as a missionary.

• My childhood training in the building trade and general creativity and usefulness with my father,

• The experience of having been, as a boy, a nurses-in-training practice model. Brisbane Mater Hospital, which was near the school (St Lawrence’s, Christian Brothers) where I had the latter half of primary education, had me frequently bandaged on many parts of my body, involved as a pseudo patient in bed making and other similar nurse duties. I was too young, I suppose, to flirt with the pretty girls. They were just girls to me and they had to train and I was their model. That’s the sort of bloke I was.

• My having become, supposedly, Christlike from living the Way of Jesus in Franciscan community. While in Brisbane I visited the friars there at Kedron and the Franciscan Missionaries of the Immaculate Conception who were preparing some sisters to join their communities already with the Franciscan Mission at Aitape. None of us knew what to expect there.

I did medical tests, dental check-up and got glasses. I started early taking anti-malaria and seasickness tablets. I was told long white trousers and shirts along with a pith helmet were the usual clothing. I bought these and also some shorts including a pair of trunks hoping I could swim there. I had replaced my woollen Franciscan habit for a thin cotton one in consideration of the anticipated heat. In the mission I never used the outfit I went with.

Tickets were to be with the two others who would come from Sydney to have me join them on the Steamship Bulolo, a small coastal steamer which would take us to Port Moresby, Milne Bay and Lae. Air travel would be arranged for the Lae to Madang, Madang to Wewak, and then Wewak to Aitape legs of the journey.

My family were worried about my going to ‘such a wild and mostly unknown country’, though my eldest sister, who carried me around as a baby suggested, jokingly I hoped,though, i thought, she had not given me up as a male, I was going after the dark girls in grass skirts.

My mother reminded me that as a child I collected money to help black babies and now I’m to see them. Now all I had to do was to get aboard the boat. Strangely I did not feel any sadness as parents and eldest sister came to see me off.

SS Bulolo was nothing like the cruise ships of the 21st century. As it lay at berth near the old Customs House, on the Brisbane River, close to the CBD of Brisbane, Queensland, it was the pride of Burns Phillip Trading Company. During WWII it served as a troop carrier and had been restored to cargo/passenger service. My fellow friars led me to our cabin between decks containing bunks and little more for luxury. I went up on deck to see my family and to wave until a bend in the river cut off the sight of them. We were on our way along the lengthy trip down the river and across Moreton Bay, all too familiar to me, a Brisbaneite or banana bender, but new and interesting to my confreres.

The towering sand hills of Moreton Island were on our right and the, now, City of Redcliffe in the distance was on our left as we passed by into the ocean. Redcliffe was the original site of the Queensland settlement before it moved up the Brisbane River of later massive flood history.

With night fall came a storm and though the captain took the ship inside the reef, it rolled about so much it seemed everyone except me were sea sick. Calm came the next day and leaving the Queensland coast behind we crossed the Coral Sea of sea-battle renown to Port Moresby.

The coast seemed rather dry seemingly disconnected from the deep green of the dense mountains behind it.

Entry into the harbour, though excellent and beautiful, introduced us to a town struggling to be impressive. This was Papua. The northern half of the New Guinea “was ruled as a colony for some decades by Germany, beginning in 1884, as German New Guinea. The southern half was colonised in the same year by the United Kingdom as British New Guinea, but in 1904 with the passage of the Papua Act, 1905 was transferred to the newly formed Commonwealth of Australia who took on its administration. Additionally from 1905 British New Guinea was renamed the Territory of Papua.” (Wikipedia). The western end of the island was administered by Holland.

My confreres walked around with me and we saw some villages near the sea and some actually built over the water in the harbour. Men wore shorts or the ubiquitous laplap (a strip of material cut from the bolt and wrapped around the waist) and the women the laplap and a smock.

We slept the night in our cabin suffering from the high temperature. Soon we sailed on to Milne Bay, a scenic paradise of mainland and numerous islands stretching eastwards into the Pacific Ocean. That was where all the girls in grass skirts or less were.

Moving north then west we rounder the coast line with very high, jungle covered mountains on our left to Lae where I saw crocodiles swimming around the ship. Lae was a large town even then and we had a chance of looking around. We flew on to Madang on a DC3 cargo aircraft sitting along the sides with cargo strapped down in the middle.

Madang seemed to me paradise, a town set among beautiful waterways and flowering shrubs. SVD missionaries took us to Alexishafen out of town and further east. Alexishafen was the headquarters before the war for the rest of New Guinea all the way to the Border with Dutch New Guinea. It was quite a well-equipped supply centre, with harbour and a tramway.

Next move was a flight to Wewak, the capital of the Sepik district a large area covering the long course of the winding Sepik River from the high mountains to the west. Seeing the mighty river as it entered the sea was overawing. It resembled the movement of a snake and left a large plume of discoloured water well out into the ocean. Out to sea was Manam Island with its active volcano with a history of many eruptions. Quite an impressive sight!

And then Wewak appeared. We landed on the airstrip right where the SVD headquarters were and near the town of mainly Chinese store keepers. The SVD missionaries accommodated us. It was arranged that I go on to Aitape while the other two stayed a few days for some reason in Wewak or it might have been in Port Moresby; I’ve forgotten. The flight was one to Vanimo near the Dutch New Guinea border and would drop me off at a wartime airstrip (Tadji) east of Aitape.

I stood on the Marston matted airstrip, as I gazed at the small aircraft take off, leaving me alone. I had anticipated some sort of welcome and, having none, I felt deflated but my sense of exploring got me looking around. All around the pierced steel matting through which the grass grew was sago palm swamp but running off the wide strip were several parking bays loaded with abandoned aircraft. The Japanese had initially built the airstrip but when they were driven out the Americans improved it and it was used by the USAF and RAAF until the end of the war. Aitape Wewak was the last sphere of the war in New Guinea. I spent some time examining the planes, some bombers and others fighters.

Then I heard amongst other sounds of insects and birds a sound like a saw mill working. I followed the sound hoping to meet someone. My search led me to believe it was only a Lyre bird imitating sounds as is its habit. Back at the strip I met a man, naked but for a loin cloth and carrying a bow and arrows and a string bag with some fruit and vegetables. We had no language in common except I used signs to successfully swop a cigarette for a pawpaw and he went on his way.

Sometime later a wartime jeep came with Friar Dennis who greeted me and explained a flooded river had delayed him. We drove for about 30 minutes through coconut plantations established earlier by German missionaries and came to the river which we forded with difficulty and drove on to St Anna the mission headquarters where a few friars met me warmly. Aitape Township was a little way further west.

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VIC 156
Left on a doorstep the day he was born, Jeff Paterson started life with a poor family in Melbourne’s depression weary inner suburbs. But who would have thought that when Jeff took off to Europe to escape creditors he would become one of Europe’s top entertainment agents living the high life from Monaco to Paris to London.