The infamous convict-era Parramatta Female Factory – that was also once a psychiatric facility – has finally been added to the National Heritage List as Australia’s 113th national heritage place. It is one of just a handful on the heritage register that are west of Sydney’s CBD.
After handing down his decision, Federal Environment and Energy minister Josh Frydenberg said, “The precinct is highly valued for its heritage importance by the local, state and national community and this National Heritage listing will allow the Australian community to stand witness to the lives and experiences of women and children who lived there.”
The Parramatta Female Factory certainly has had a colourful past, opening in 1818 and by 1842, it housed 1203 women and their children.
By 1848, the factory closed and became the local lunatic asylum. In 1912, it gets turned into the Parramatta Girls Training Home and in 1962 is renamed the ‘Parramatta Psychiatric Centre.’
By 1980 it was a women’s prison once again, known as the Norma Parker Detention Centre for women, but just three years later in 1983 it was renamed once again as ‘Cumberland Hospital.’
For almost 200 years, the site was where women were sent to from Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales for crimes. Their children were allowed to stay with them until the age of four and were then sent to an orphan school, or were fostered out.
According to colonial records, an estimated 5000 inmates went through the Parramatta Female Factory, with some historians claiming that up to one in 10 people in Australia descended from these women.
The North Parramatta Resident Action Group has even grander plans for the site and has said that it wants to eventually get the Parramatta Female Factory on the UNESCO World Heritage List.