Historian records tales of 30,000 children who called Renwick home (Australia)

Historians in the News

IT is the site earmarked for a major Landcom residential development, but Renwick was once the home base for displaced and orphaned children and wards of the state.

In fact, more than 30,000 both boys and girls were accommodated in farm homes across the 234-hectare property as well as Cottage Homes around Mittagong from 1881-1994.

The homes, over the years accommodated children from various walks of life, including orphans, state wards, mentally challenged and ill youngsters.

The centrepiece of the Mittagong operation has been known as Mittagong Farm Homes, Industrial Estate and Toombong School, but is best known these days as Renwick.

The 115-year history of the various Mittagong Cottage Homes, the farm homes on the Renwick property and their role has become a tale close to the heart of Mittagong historian, Leonie Knapman.

Mrs Knapman said her connection with the homes began in the 1950s when her mother worked in the hospital on the Renwick property.

She said her interest grew when she was a young mother with two sons.

Mrs Knapman said she was involved in coaching her sons’ soccer team in Mittagong when she met some boys from the homes who were also a part of the soccer team.

“I began to learn about their life on the farm and how some went to school on the farm while other children in the homes attended the public school at Mittagong and Bowral High School,” she said.

“I began teaching craft at some of the homes at night and found each one catered for boys with different needs.

“I also found the boys worked on the farms learning trades and producing food for all associated with the homes.”

Mrs Knapman has spent much of the past 20 years piecing together the stories of many former residents, the history of the homes and the Renwick property.

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