Next chapter in the restoration of the Female Orphan School begins

Date: 23/10/2009

The next stage to restore the historic Female Orphan School at the University of Western Sydney's Parramatta campus will soon be underway thanks to a generous grant from the Federal Government.

UWS has received close to $1 million from the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts to carry out the next phase of restoration works, which involves conserving and adaptively re-using the interiors of the building's West Wing.

Once completed, UWS will use the ground floor and first floor of the West Wing for exhibitions, public meetings, functions, seminars and other events, providing opportunities for the community to enjoy and participate in activities on the campus.

The Female Orphan School is one of nation's most significant public buildings, standing as the first purpose-built orphanage in the colony of New South Wales.

It is the oldest three-storey brick building in Australia, predating Hyde Park Barracks in Sydney and the Female Factory in Parramatta.

"The University of Western Sydney is very pleased to receive this much-needed funding to carry out further restoration of the Female Orphan School," says UWS Vice-Chancellor, Professor Janice Reid.

"We are very proud to be custodians of this culturally and historically-significant building, which forms the centrepiece of our Parramatta campus on the banks of the Parramatta river.

"UWS looks forward to beginning the next stage of this important conservation work for the Female Orphan School so we can return this important part of our nation's history back to the community, and so it can live on for future generations to acknowledge, learn from and enjoy."

The Foundation stone of the Female Orphan School was laid in 1813. The building was constructed under the direction of Governor and Mrs Macquarie, to provide for the support and education of destitute girls of the colony.

The School expanded in 1850 to include orphaned boys, but was closed in 1887 when a change in government policy favoured placing orphans with foster families.

In 1888, the building became the Rydalmere Hospital for the Insane. The psychiatric hospital operated for some 90 years, until the hospital was gradually closed down during the 1980s.

The building was derelict and had been vacant for over 20 years until the University took over the site in 1997.

As custodians of the Female Orphan School, UWS has committed over $5 million over the past ten years to the conservation of the external fabric of the whole complex, and the conservation and adaptive re-use of the interiors of the original three-storey central building.

The central building was re-opened in 2003, with the conservation and adaptation work receiving a UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Award Honourable mention in 2004.

Some facts about the Female Orphan School

* It survives as the first purpose-built orphanage in the colony of New South Wales, illustrating a milestone in the establishment of national social welfare and education policies.

* It is the earliest three storey brick building erected in Australia, predating Hyde Park Barracks, Sydney (1817-1819, also brick and still standing) and the Female Factory, Parramatta (1818-1821, constructed of stone, since demolished).

* For some 190 years, between 1813 and 1986, it has operated as a public welfare institution for the care and management of the disadvantaged.

* It stands as a legacy of the development policies of Governor Macquarie, as well as the architectural influences of Mrs Macquarie.

* The main building, with its linked wings, is the earliest example of Palladian composition and of the Colonial Georgian style in Australia.



Media Services Manager

Amanda Whibley
02 9678 7084, 0418 438 399