Find your ancestors in Queensland, Reformatory School for Boys admission registers 1871-1906

Discover more about these records

These records are from the Westbrook Reformatory for Boys (formerly known as the Diamantina Reformatory School for Boys), the government-run industrial and reformatory school situated in Westbrook. The school admitted boys under the age of 18 who were deemed neglected or who were convicted of a crime and were sentenced to the reformatory school. The duration of a sentence would vary from individual to individual but generally lasted a handful of years. Some boys, however, were released to orphanages before the expiration of their sentence.

The practice of sending neglected or convicted boys to reformatory schools came about following the passing of the Industrial and Reformatory Schools Act of 1865. The term 'neglected' was broadly defined in the act and applied to seven different situations. For example, a neglected child could refer to both a child who was living on the streets and one who had committed a crime punishable by imprisonment. It is important to note, however, that the seventh and final definition for 'neglected child' reads, 'Any child born of an aboriginal of half-caste mother'. As a result, many Aboriginal children were deemed “neglected” and subsequently sent to reformatory and industrial schools. The act was repealed in 1911 with the passing of the State Children Act 1911. You can read the Industrial and Reformatory Schools Act of 1865 in its entirety by following the link in the Useful Links & Resources section.

The most common offense for boys sent to Westbrook was larceny. Parents of boys sent to Westbrook were expected to provide monetary assistance for the duration of their sons’ stay at the reformatory school.

In 1919, the Westbrook Reformatory for Boys became known as the Farm Home for Boys, Westbrook. This followed the appointment of Thomas Jones as the superintendent of the reformatory in 1916. Jones turned Westbrook into an almost fully self-sustained operation. The boys would work the farm, gardens, dairy, and orchard; each boy had their own garden plot where they could grow produce and flowers to sell, the proceeds of which would be put in a bank account under the boy’s name.

After the passing of the State Children Act of 1911, the reformatory was placed under the management of the State Children Department.

How to access images of these records

Images can be viewed online at the Queensland State Archives by searching by the image ID found on your ancestor’s transcript. A link to the Queensland State Archives can be found in the Useful Links & Resources section. Images provide an abundance of useful information regarding you ancestor:

  • Height and weight
  • Chest measurements
  • Complexion
  • Hair and eye color
  • Birth place
  • Previous trade or occupation
  • Place tried, by whom convicted, and offence
  • Date and particulars of conviction
  • Dates and particulars of previous convictions
  • Parents’ names, occupations, and address
  • Religious denomination
  • Expiration date of sentence
  • Discharge date
  • Additional remarks