Located about 3 klm north of Parramatta CBD on the upper reaches of the Parramatta River, the Parramatta Female Factory Precinct represents two adjacent historic sites. The earliest, the Parramatta Female Factory (1821-1847), was an assignment depot, prison and 'workhouse' for convict women. In 1844 a new Roman Catholic Orphan School was built on land adjacent to the Factory. This government owned orphanage is among the earliest institutions associated with Australians who experienced institutional or out-of-home care as children, who are known today as the Forgotten Australians.

Built on the traditional lands of the Burramattagal- Darug people, this historic precinct is foundational in interventionist welfare practice in Australia, with the first forced removals of children from their parents introduced at the Female Factory in 1826. The colony's first water driven mill was built here in 1798 beside a 30 acre allotment granted to Charles Smith in 1792. By 1806 the mill had been destroyed by floodwaters and the surrounding land granted to Governor William Bligh. In 1816 Governor Lachlan Macquarie designated 4 acres of Bligh's grant as the site for a new Female Factory and barracks to replace the earlier Factory above the Gaol. 


Now included on the National Heritage List, the Parramatta Female Factory Precinct was conceived as a place of safety, refuge and industry for women and children. Today it is subject to determinations by the NSW Government.

Around 40,000 Australians have passed through these institutions and our aim is to capture and preserve the memories of these sites and to explore ways in which they can be transformed and protected for future generations as Australia's first Site of Conscience.


FF_ Augustus Earle c1826
FemFac Main barrack
FemFac_Gipps entrance
FemFac_gipps yard
FemFac 3rdclass_quarters
FemFac_penitentiary 1826
Parramatta Female Factory

Parramatta Female Factory is Australia's first purpose built establishment for convict women sent to the colony of New South Wales. Commissioned by Governor Macquarie in 1816 and designed by emancipated convict Francis Greenway the foundation stone was laid on 4 May 1818 in the presence of builders, Mssrs. Watkins and Payten, Chief Engineer Major George Druitt and convict work gangs.

A large institutional complex the Female Factory was modelled on the Workhouses of England with a 3 storey sandstone central barrack flanked by smaller buildings, enclosed within 15ft high walls.

Occupied on 31 January 1821, it operated as an assignment depot, prison, place of industry, and lying in hospital for unassigned convict women sent to the colony of NSW. Designed to accommodate 300 women, it was frequently overcrowded with numbers peaking  in 1842 to 1203 women and 263 children in residence.



asylum admissions
asylum ward 1 full
asylum ward 1
asylum fountain
asylum inner yard
asylum gate
asylum Criminal-Insane-building
asylum view
asylum ward 2

In 1847 the Female Factory was re-purposed as an Asylum for Lunatic and Invalid Convicts and in December 1848 was gazetted as the Parramatta Lunatic Asylum administered by the Tarban Creek Asylum, Gladesville. Until 1852 it was a largely female institution and by 1855, 187 male and 92 female patients were in residence. Numbers increased to 675 male and 384 female patients by 1885. 

From the 1860s to 1890s it went through a period of expansion with adjoining properties acquired, new buildings constructed and old buildings demolished. These include Wards 1, 2, 3, 4, 8 & 9 ablutions facilities and the Main Kitchen. In 1983 it was renamed Cumberland Hospital and continues to operate as a mental health facility. 

Roman Catholic Orphan School
RCOS -West Range


The Roman Catholic Orphan School is Australia's first purpose built orphanage for Catholic children. Located next to the Parramatta Female Factory, it operated from 1843 until 1886 as a government owned institution managed by the Sisters of the Good Samaritan (Good Shepherd) from 1859 until its closure.. 

Designed by colonial engineer Henry Ginn the main building is 3 storeys with basement, and abutting rear annex.. Kitchen/servants room and lavatories were located in buildings at the rear of the site. 

Subject to reports of overcrowding, poor hygiene conditions, inadequate facilities, food and clothing for the children, new buildings were built at rear of the site between 1850 and 1862 (South West Range, Laundry, Hospital, lavatories and cells) and extensions added to the main between 1870 and 1880. In 1886 the Sisters were given notice to vacate the site and in 1887 the former orphanage was proclaimed an Industrial School for Females.



PGH Main 2015
PGH main south view 2014
PGH Laundry Kitchen block
PGH coverway 2008
PGH CoveredWayto Main 2014
PGH Kamballa mural
PGH Bethel 2013
PGH Kellerhouse 2014

Also known as the Parramatta Girls Industrial School (1887-1974) this government owned institution was the principal destination for girls under 18 years who had come to the attention of the welfare authorities.  

Girls charged by a Children's Court as neglected, uncontrollable, exposed to moral danger or a  criminal offence were committed to this institution usually for a period of 6 to 9 months; however many remained here or returned again, and again, until the age of 18.  An estimated 20,000 children passed through this institution.

Renamed as Kamballa & Taldree Children's Shelter (1974 -1983), in 1980 the original orphan school section was established as the Norma Parker Detention Centre for Women by NSW Corrections. Operating until 2012, the premises were released to the NSW government under the management of Urban Growth NSW in 2014. Since then work on the site has stabilised and restored many of the buildings.