Helping Children and the Burwood Boys’ Home

Helping Children and the Burwood Boys’ Home

The plight of unfortunate children was always something Robert took a great concern in.

In his younger years, Robert contributed to Dr Barnardo’s Homes for the underprivileged boys of England.

Later, he took a particular interest in India, where he supported needy children and paid for the upkeep of their homes. He was a great benefactor of Daund Hospital (in the Pune district of the state of Maharashtra), financing the building of hospital units and a chapel in the hospital compound.

In 1895, Robert, having become concerned about the number of homeless boys around Melbourne’s streets, established the Burwood Boys’ Home for destitute boys.  He founded and built the first home in Warrigal Road, Burwood, a substantial wooden house constructed for £500. The home was founded by Robert with the principle that: ‘No truly destitute boy is to be refused admission or turned away.’

A flourishing market garden was cultivated, surplus goods sold and dairy cows milked to enable the home to cover expenses. From the age of 14, the boys participated in working the land and gained experience that led to many securing paid positions as farmers or dairymen whilst others were encouraged and supported to learn a trade, see Burwood Boys Home History.

When the superintendent of the home objected to the policy of taking in completely desperate cases, Robert replied that this is exactly the sort of boy for which the Burwood Boys Home had been established:

Why should a boy with a pedigree and a reference be encouraged to eat bread that was designed for someone having neither a “good” name nor shelter?

Robert bore the entire financial burden of running the Boys Home, including public fundraising activities. In 1972, girls were admitted for the first time. It was not until well after Robert’s death that, in 1986, after operating for more than 90 years, the Home closed its doors and the Burwood property was sold.

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