Westbrook Farm Home for Boys in Queensland, Australia, existed in various forms for over 100 years. As such, it offers a valuable window into Australian approaches to managing and reforming boys through the twentieth century. The purpose of this paper is to examine its approach to reforming teenage boys during a period marked by a mass escape in 1961. It argues that the reformatory education initially intended was no longer tenable during this moment in history, and that this period represents a breakdown of that approach.
This paper draws on material including newspaper reports, memoirs, and the report of an inquiry into an escape by inmates in 1961. These are analysed in order to construct a picture of the type of reformatory education during this period and the public and official responses to this.
Westbrook Farm Home for Boys was, during this period, an institution attempting to provide a reformatory education at a historical moment when such an education was no longer viewed as appropriate means of addressing the criminal behaviour of youths. This, combined with the leadership of a domineering figure in Superintendent Roy Golledge, led to a culture of abuse, rather than education. The uncovering of this culture was a pivotal moment in the transition of Westbrook into an institution explicitly dealing with criminal youths.
No academic work relating to this moment in Westbrook’s history has been previously published.
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