Behind the Wall - the story of the Destitute Asylum

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Sunday, 8th May 2016 till Saturday, 12th May 2018

The buildings that now house the Migration Museum were once part of Adelaide’s Destitute Asylum. A new exhibition which tells the stories of those who were born, lived and died at the Destitute Asylum opened in May.

Research for the exhibition has uncovered the names and birthdates of the babies born between 1880 and 1909 at the Lying-in Home, one of the many buildings that made up the Destitute Asylum. A state-funded Destitute Asylum was established in Adelaide to house the poverty-stricken. From the outset the Asylum provided ‘lying-in’ accommodation for pregnant women who were unmarried, widowed or deserted, and in 1878 a purpose-built Lying-in Home was built. On entry to the Home women were required to agree to fulfil the duties allotted by the Matron, declare the paternity of the child they were expecting, and remain at the Home for six months after the birth of the child. During their stay women were expected to breastfeed their babies, thereby increasing their chance of survival.

Between 1 January 1880 and 31 December 1909, 1678 babies were born at the Lying-in Home; 116 of whom were stillborn. While some did not survive the first six months of life, most either left with their mothers or were placed in the care of the State Children’s Council.

The new exhibition is in the former Lying-in Home building. Explore the exhibition and stay for a discussion of the history of the Lying-in Home, the Destitute Asylum and join us in remembering the babies born there.;

After 1918 the Lying In Hospital and Mother's Ward buildings were used by the SA Government Chemistry Department until the late 1970s. The Migration Museum opened in 1986.

Permanent exhibition
Migration Museum
82 Kintore Avenue
Adelaide, SA 5000


My 3rd Great Grandmother Sarah Hailes died here Aug 16 1896 after her family could no longer care for her.

My 3rd Great Grandmother Sarah Hailes died here Aug 16 1896 after her family could no longer care for her.

Corinne Ball's picture

That's very sad, Julia, thankyou for sharing your family story with us.  

I too have a relative that died while at the destitute asylum.  He was buried in a pauper's grave in the west tce cemetery 

My 3rd great grand parents died in the Kintore Avenue Adelaide Asylum

John Boon died 3 February 1894 buried somewhere in the West Terrace Cemetery unable to find locate

Ann Boon nee Hill died 31 December 1897 buried in West Terrace Cemetery with many others on Road 5 - Path No: 27 - A/E/W: W - Site No; 27

Corinne Ball's picture

Do you have details, Kerryn?  You can email me at the museum :-)

Corinne Ball's picture

Thankyou for that interesting info, Kerryn.  Did you know you can request to look at the DA registers at State Records at the State Library?

Corinne Ball's picture

Thanks for that info, Jeanne. Did you know you can request to look at the DA registers at State Records reading room at Cavan?  It reopens 19th January 2016

I'm fairly sure according to articles my 3rd Great Grandfather Neri Tucker he painted the Destitute Asylum for the Architect in Chiefs Department in 1879 and consulted over the paint finishes

Corinne Ball's picture

That's great, Jo, if you have any further information I'd love it if you could email me at the museum :-)

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