Randwick & DIstrict Historical Society: FLASHBACK

BUNNERONG LABOUR DEPOT AND REFUGE

MAROUBRA: Waterways, as diverse as they were numerous, were vital to our regional settlement and development. One such was Long Swamp whose original parameters (by which to differ it from other swamps) are not entirely certain, but following its reclamation is generally identified as what is now Heffron Park.

Its uses had been manifold over time, not least as the site for the Bunnerong Labour Depot and Refuge which was established in 1901 in the debris of the 1890s Depression, as an initiative of the Public Works Department. A well-appointed labour farm, it and others like it were attempts to provide meaningful activity for unemployed and homeless men without families by which both they and the community might benefit. Agricultural production was undertaken to provide a basic sustenance and to function as a refuge at a lower cost to the government than other forms of assistance.

A 1905 report details the Refuge’s activities at the “New Swamp” over its ten paddocks including piggeries, poultry yards and substantial acreage devoted to various vegetables. 30-50 destitute men were thus occupied at that time. The Coast Hospital was but one beneficiary of their industry.

The original concept began to falter, however, as the nature of the complex gradually changed into a haven for elderly, destitute generally and discharged prisoners. By the 1920s it had ceased to function and its lands became earmarked for residential subdivision.

Robert Booth


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