For 74 years Mt Penang Parklands was home to the Gosford Farm Home for Boys. It opened in 1912 for teenage boys who were dependent, neglected, delinquent or serious offenders. Initially, the boys lived in tents while they built temporary accommodation for the 681 acre ‘industrial farm’.
By 1914, the Department of Public Instruction considered the farm one of the best constructed and most up-to-date institutions for juvenile offenders in the Southern Hemisphere. 90 to 100 boys worked on site daily, gaining skills in building, carpentry and agriculture.
Detainees lived in dormitories and attended school and vocational technical training during the week. The centre’s doctrine was rehabilitation through education and physical labour.
Indeed, the construction of the Centre's major buildings between 1912 and 1922 relied on the inmates’ labour. With the assistance of local builders and carpenters, the boys constructed some twenty buildings, many of which are still in use today.
Change took place in the 1940s and the institution was renamed the Mt Penang Training School for Boys. With a focus on re-educating and rehabilitating delinquent boys, inmates alternated their days between the schoolroom with the workroom.
Under Landcom management from 1981 to 1986, significant boundary modifications took place and by 1986 the property consisted of 182 hectares.
In 1984, Brad Russell, the secretary of the Gosford Historical Association, mounted a successful campaign to save the historically significant buildings. These buildings are now home to more than thirty businesses, education facilities and non-profit organisations.
In 2000, the Festival Development Corporation, a statutory government authority, took over the management of the 156 hectare site. This area excluded the land retained by the Department of Juvenile Justice.
2010 to present day
The Central Coast Regional Development Corporation managed Mt Penang Parklands from 2010 to October 2018. The corporation ensured that over one hundred years of Central Coast history is preserved and enjoyed by the community.
As at 1 November the Hunter and Central Coast development corporation will oversee the Carinya, which was built by the boys in 1912 and used as a dormitory in the 1980s, is today leased by one of the Parklands’ tenants. Its construction has stood the test of time thanks to building materials gathered from the local region. The building boasts sandstone from Gosford Quarry, transported up the hill by bullock and cart, as well as hardwood timber, supplied from the local timber mill in Erina, and floated down to the site via the Narara Creek.
Read Sent to the Mountain by local historian, Valerie Rubie. It tells the story of the site when it was operating as a juvenile detention centre from 1911 to 1999. Ms Rubie gives readers a broad perspective on the history of this prominent institution.
Copies can be accessed via your local library (NSW only).