The provision of aid for women and children on the goldfields in the 1850s was poor. Rule number 11 at Ballarat Hospital in 1862 stated that ‘no pregnant women, for the purpose of confinement’ or ‘no child under five years’ were to be admitted ‘under any circumstances.’ Many in this category found themselves at the Ballarat Benevolent Asylum, the Ballarat Gaol, or, worse still, in the Ballaarat Cemetery. There was no specific institution for either women or children until the Ballarat Orphan Asylum was established in 1865 and the Ballarat Female Refuge was established in 1867.
Even after this time there were many who could not be accommodated at these two institutions. It was not until 29 June 1897 that the Canadian Rescue and Children’s Home opened at Butt’s Hill, at the east end of Clayton Street and 1916 when the George Street Children’s Home opened.
The Canadian Rescue and Children’s Home was ‘very pleasantly situated on rising ground, from which an excellent view of Ballarat City and Town [was] obtained, and just a mile and three-quarters from the post office’. It was called the Canadian Home because of its location on the Canadian Lead.
In the first year the Home had received 29 adults and 24 children. Mr West Lau, the Missioner, commented in April 1898 that the chief aim of the Home was to help these women and children ‘in the way to a better life’.
Many people such as Dr Salmon, Mr Skewes, the chemist, and Mr Morris, helped the Home in an honorary capacity. The person in charge of the Canadian Home was Mrs Berry, who ‘gratefully received all donations in aid of the institution’.
The Canadian Home continued for many years providing a home for single mothers and their babies before it was amalgamated with the Ballarat Female Refuge in 1921.