Parramatta Girls Home


Writing graffiti can be a way of claiming or re-claiming territory. That is what has happened at the former Parramatta Girls Home, as I found when I visited the site this week. I did not go with the intention of photographing pavement graffiti, but I unexpectedly came across the letters ILWA and the silhouettes of children sprayed on footpaths and concrete verandahs there.

The former girls’ home is part of the Parramatta Female Factory Precinct whose history of incarceration and ‘care’ of women and children extends from 1821 to 2008. Numbers of inmates at the Parramatta Girls Home peaked in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, as courts committed hundreds of girls every year to spend months or years in the facility.

Sent to this institution at the age of 15 for being ‘in moral danger’, Bonney Djuric is now an artist, activist and historian. In 2006 she founded the support group Parragirls and was inundated by responses from women still living with memories of the physical, sexual and psychological abuse they suffered there. Now the Director of the Parramatta Female Factory Memory Project, Bonney has been instrumental in the campaign to preserve and dedicate the Parramatta Girls Home and the adjacent Female Factory as a Living Memorial to the Forgotten Australians and others who have been marginalised by society.


One of the buildings, renamed Kamballa in the 1970s, is now the centre of the Parramatta Female Factory Precinct Memory Project, and it was Bonney who sprayed the ghostly silhouettes on the concrete in 2013 as a way of reasserting the presence of those forgotten children who passed through the institutions on this site.


More puzzling is the symbol ILWA, also sprayed by Bonney at the same time. It mimics graffiti scratched into the woodwork at the Parramatta Girls Home, she tells me, and stands for ‘I Love Worship and Adore’. Bonney showed me examples of the original graffiti, some of it dating to the 1940s, on doors that have been preserved. Not only a message of affection, it also represented solidarity and resilience amongst the girls. It was a way of asserting ‘I am here’.


In a blog post several years ago I wrote that all inscription is about the politics of turf. Back in the days of the Parramatta Girls Home, the girls who scraped their messages into the woodwork would have understood that theirs were assertive acts of defiance, but they could not possibly have imagined that years later their marks would be regarded as significant documents that offer an interpretation of the site that is as important as official archival material. Nor would they have imagined that their marks would be deliberately copied as a way of reclaiming territory on their behalf.



  1. Bonney Djuric 27 August 2016

    PFFP Parragirls Memory Project Exhibition

    LIVING TRACES, an exhibition of handmade artists books and limited edition prints is the fruit of a year long collaboration between print and bookmaker duo Gwen Harrison and Sue Anderson and 12 Parragirls artist, curated by artist Lily Hibberd. Based at the former Parramatta Girls Home, in this distinctive printmaking project the women retrieve remaining traces and graffiti of their time as teenage residents of the Home, more than 50 years ago.

    Where: Parramatta Girls Home/Kamballa
    1 Fleet St, North Parramatta
    When: opening 2-6pm Saturday 24 September
    then 2-6pm Sunday 25 Sept & Friday 30 Sept to Sunday 2 Oct

  2. Debbie 27 April 2017

    My mother was sent to Parramatta Girl’s Home when she was 14. So bout 1961. She told us her 4 children that her mum had put her in the home cause she could’nt control her. My mum never told us what happened in the girl’s home. I knew it would be horrible to be put into a home & be away from your family ! But never did l even think the girl’s there would be abused !! Last night l was watching a documentary on abuse that happened in a boy’s home in the 60’s in the USA. That’s when l decided l would google “girl’s home’s in NSW” to see if there were report’s of abuse ! I cried when l 1st started to read that the girl’s were stripped searched on arrival & given a number instead of being called by their name ! I have since read & watched on u-tube the horrific thing’s that happened to the girl’s there by the officer’s/worker’s & even by other inmate’s ! I have cried & cried !!!! It all make’s sense now why my mum was sooooo ‘messed up’ !!!! My mum passed away 6 yr’s ago now ! So l can’t even ask her what happened to her in that horrid girl’s home !!! These’s ‘disgusting inhuman monster’s’ did’nt just ‘ruin, screw-up’ my mum & all the other innocent girl’s in Parramatta Girl’s hm !!! They also ‘ruined’ the live’s of probably all the children of the girl’s that were in Parramatta Girl’s home !!! Cause if u mum is ‘messed-up’ from being abused that usually effects the children & their parenting of their children !!!! Well l know l was & still am & l am 52 effected by my childhood !!!! Which then has effected my children !!!!! I suffer depression etc & very low self esteem due to my disfunctional childhood !!! I have been so angry at my mum for yr’s re the way she treated me & had trouble showing me love etc ! Mostly l been so angry at her as she worked as a prostitute as a teen & then again wen l was 25 ! She attempted suicide a few times wen l was a kid & many times before l was born ! My mum was sexually abused by a relative for yrs before she went into Girls hm also ! Like alot of the girl’s there. I met my biological dad wen l was 28. He told me my mum use to hav sex & had a girlfriend/s wen she was in Parramatta Girl’s Home ! I read on 1 website last nite that that was common in there ! As it is in Women’s jail’s ! Happen’s re being sexually abused, even neglected, shown no love, & being in an institute as a result of being so screwed-up ! Doesnt necessary mean they are actually a lesbian ! As wen they get out like my mum (well as far as l know) they don’t b with women in a sexual way ! I am so upset, angry at the abuse my mum & all those girl’s in Parramatta Girl’s home & all the other children’s hm’s as l am sure the abuse goes on in all of them !!! Well in that era as people did’nt speak up or want to get involved !! I want to do something to help if at all possible & l so want these ‘horrible, disgusting offender’s’ to be sent to jail !! Alot of them now as l hav read would of past away so unfairly they got away witb wat they did !!! Those other’s that are still alive need to go to jail asap before its to late & they to die & get away with wat they did !! I want if poss to hav a voice for my mum !!! I have never been in a child institute & suffered as horrific as these women did !! But l was sexually abused by my grandfather who we lived with til l was 9 !! NO CHILD SHOULD EVER BE TOUCHED SEXUALLY !!!! Or abused, or neglected !!!! All of us & there sadly are sooooo many that are sexually abused especially as a child suffer & are effected by it the rest of our live’s !!!! Thank you & to all those brave women for ‘speaking out’ about the ‘horrific abuse’ you all suffered in that ‘horrid pl’ Parramatta Girl’s Home !!! It take’s courage & strength !!! It has even helped me !!! I now understand why my mum was the way she was & l am no longer angry at her !!!! So thank you !!!!!

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