This clip chosen to be G
The boys at Westbrook Farm Home for Boys in Queensland’s southeast sleep in open wards. The dormitories are connected to a main dining room where they gather for meals. The superintendent and his wife keep watch over the Home’s inhabitants. The boys are encouraged to participate in outside sports to maintain contact with the community and are responsible for their own garden plot, from which they sell vegetables and flowers. The boys are also taught agricultural skills and dairy farming in this self-sufficient farm home.
In the 1960s, the Westbrook Farm Home for Boys changed its name to the Westbrook Training Centre. In 1986, another shift in emphasis saw it renamed again as the Westbrook Youth Detention Centre. It eventually closed in 1994.
This black-and-white clip from 1950 is part of a promotional film made for the Westbrook Farm Home, a juvenile detention home for boys in Queensland. It opens with a long panning shot of the exterior of the sleeping quarters and cuts to shots of the superintendent and his wife, boys working on their vegetable plots, farm cattle and a boy holding the harness he wore when he came to the home. Music accompanies the clip and there is a voice-over narration that is sometimes out of time with the visuals, indicating an amateur film production.
Educational value points
- The purpose of this promotional film was to provide a positive picture of an institution run by a church on behalf of the Queensland Government. Much is made of the home’s ability to teach the young men under its care the value of hard work and physical labour, showing young men reaping the benefits of learning skills and trades such as gardening and farming cattle. The film was probably used to raise funds for the upkeep and daily operations of the reformatory.
- Institutions such as Westbrook Farm Home were known as ‘reformatories’ because they were designed to reform or rehabilitate errant or neglected children through the administration of stern discipline, daily occupational training and supervision within a clear moral framework. Children under the age of 18 found guilty of an offence were sent to reformatories, as were wards of state and orphaned children, who were placed there for their own protection.
- The clip depicts the features of Westbrook that in 1950 were considered beneficial in the rehabilitation of young men. The open wards were seen as promoting health and hardiness with no regard for the privacy and security of residents. The degree of control exerted and the paternalistic attitude towards the boys would not be tolerated today. The boys’ unpaid labour clearly contributes to the upkeep of the institution.
- The clip creates a picture of benign care and positive relationships between the boys and their supervisors that was in contrast to Westbrook’s fearsome reputation and the harsh reality of the boys’ lives. Inquiries into the institution received information from former and current residents about the sometimes brutal and repressive practices of the home, including harsh punishments, poor food, overcrowding and excessive drills.
- The language used in the commentary addresses fears of the threat to society from 'juvenile delinquents’, as aberrant youth were labelled in the 1950s. The narrator draws attention to the watchful eye of those in charge, who ensure that ‘idleness’ does not lead the boys into ‘mischief’’. The idea of delinquents – youths deemed incorrigible or exhibiting criminal tendencies – originated in the 19th century and persists today in publicity about ‘hoons’ and street gangs.
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