Abandoned St John's Orphanage

St John’s Orphanage was opened in 1905 by the Sisters of Mercy and the Catholic Chruch, and operated for 71 years until its closure in 1976. For the first 7 years of operation St John’s housed both boys and girls (which it was one of the first to do so) and in 1912 St Joesph’s House of Prayer was opened and became the girls orphanage, and St John’s became an all boys orphanage. At its peak St John’s housed 200 boys which was far above the suitable capacity of the building.

According to many records the orphanage wasn’t the happiest of places and the boys were often subjected to slave like conditions and barbaric punishment, the kind of treatment young boys should never face. There’s an account from a boy who stayed at the orphanage where he claimed that when you first entered the orphanage you were stripped of all your clothes and then given just one set of clothes (not even any underwear) and this one outfit that you lived in day and night was only allowed to be washed once a week. Having a pair shoes that fit or that even had laces only happened when you left the orphanage, they normally were given shoes too small or far too big. Beatings and other punishments were a common practice in the orphanage. Such punishments as being locked in rooms, canings, beatings and floggings were given out freely and regularly. Cold showers (and if you know Goulburn that place is freezing in winter) and neglect of proper medical care even when injured or sick were just a couple of the health risks these boys faced in their time there. Meals were sparse and not often appealing. Education was limited and based on religion and Latin. Only the more academically gifted boys were provided education past the 5th grade and these were done off premise. So as you can see, St John’s wasn’t the happiest of places and it’s no surprised that its apparently now haunted, with all those tourted souls of the little boys its no wonder it has that stigma around it. Scribbled over many of the walls are phrases, quotes or sometimes just plain creepy things written on the wall referring to the grim past of the orphanage, some even sound like they are written from someone who spent time or had a loved one spend time here. There was a local company running ghost tours here but I am not sure if these are still running or not, maybe knowing that this place is apparently haunted adds to its overall creepy factor.
After the orphanage shut its doors in 1976, it got a second life until the late 1990’s as Youth With A Mission Base Goulburn where people young and old came from all over the world to do discipleship training courses and to serve on staff in this Christian Interdenominational Organisation. Once this was over it started to fall into disrepair and was never used again and started down the slide of decay.

When you first lay eyes on the orphanage sitting perched on its little hill, you’re overcome with a sense of creepiness, why I’m not sure. Whether it’s the stories that have been told, or just its appearance and fact that it is all smashed up and run down. It’s just a creepy looking place.

Getting into the place couldn’t be any easier, the front gate was open and the doors into the orphanage are either open or missing, if for some reason they have all been fixed then there are a thousand windows that are broken and you could climb in. The orphanage is a decent size and even though its trashed, its still a good explore over the few levels and amongst the trashed and bashed rooms, there are a few which are relatively untouched and make for some pretty nice photos.

Give the place a proper explorer, there are a fair few rooms and its easy to miss some of them as you think you might off seen everything. One of the guys with us stumbled across a cool room and underground area that none of the others saw. The laundry with the washing machines, the pigeon poo covered desk (that I think is a hall), the bathrooms and a random room with a single chair sitting in the middle are all definite rooms to check out. Also take a look at the big hall kind of room that’s separate to the building and see what crap you can find in there, there’s some super old tech and plenty of 70-80s papers and magazines.

What does the future hold for St John’s Orphanage? Not much, maybe another decade or two of being abused by vandals and the elements. There has been talks of it being torn down and turned into residential apartments and reports of it being restored, but to be honest I don’t think much will happen in the near future and I think it will end up as a pile of rubble after taking one too many blows from mother natures elements.

WHAT: An abandoned boys orphanage that  operated from 1912 to 1975

ACCESS - EASY: The gate was literally open and from memory there isn't even a fence, its just sitting on its hill rotting away

SECURITY - LOW-MEDIUM: There are some neighbours which may snitch on you while wandering around, especially since there was a fire at the end of last year so I'm guessing they will be trying to stop people getting in there to avoid any further damage to the place.

INTEREST - 7/10: It's not bad at all, 80% of the place is trashed and pretty shit, but there are a few rooms which strangely are relatively untouched/damaged and are really nice to shoot in. Some cool old industrial washing machines, creepy things in the bathrooms and some haunting notes left on the walls make it interesting.

ALONE OR WITH A FRIEND: You could go alone, the place isn't massive and not real dangers (although that could be different since the fire) Although I'd take a friend as the place is a little creepy and some of the notes and stuff written on the walls is a bit disturbing and there's a bit of an apparent dark history here so take a mate and sacrifice them to the ghosts.

DANGERS: The place when I went was pretty safe, the main danger was the copious amounts of pigeon shit in a few of the rooms. Since the fire though it could be a bit structurally sketchy so I would take proper care just in case. Also there were signs of squatters or people who like going up the top and smashing a few Woodstock cans and Peter Jackson durries (which could of been the ones responsible for the fire) so maybe take a tinnie with you as a peace offering incase you run into some of these characters.


  1. I've read that there a lot of guided "ghost tours" in that house, is that true? Because it would not be too cool to enter the building and meet a group of tourists with a guide haha
    Awesome pictures btw!

    1. i am not sure if they still do ghost tours here. i don't reckon they would as its a bit dangerous now...but there might be some 'unofficial' ones that do them but i have been twice and never seen them...they probably do them at night anyways

  2. so is it still good to check out? last i heard it was on fire, still standing and accessable?

    1. yes I was there last week and it still accessable but you would need to be care on the fire lvl especially in the middle where the fire was

  3. Looks stunning and really need to visit the place. It's 200km from Sydney though, isn't it? (or "am I looking at the right place" ;))

    A general comment, and index or search would be great on your blog. I'm actually after abandoned places around Sydney, photographic reasons. Given your tag cloud, is this the only abandoned place in/around Sydney you documented on this blog? --anna

  4. Hey! I froth this blog :) You should check out the old helensburgh station/tunnels and the old coke factory along the south coast train line

  5. I live 12 kms away from Goulburn so if anyone's going next week I'll be there

    1. seriously? you think people will just give you the address...not how it works champ...if you spent 5 minutes on google you could find it easily!

  6. And as of this afternoon/late evening, it is destroyed completely. The local firebrigade is still trying to extinguish the blaze which has completely engulfed the property.
    Exactly a year to the date from the last fire, and all its history is gone forever :( So glad these photos are here to remember it by, i lived in this town while growing up all my life, and my relatives worked in this building. Our next door neighbor had a boarder live with her who lived in this orphanage until he turned 18 and gained employment.

  7. Seems strange the final demise of this old place was a fire on the same day. I wonder if it was of significance. Maybe the last orphan to leave or someone who hated the place & this was the date they left. My mums family all came from Goulburn & a lot still live there but I never knew it existed till I heard on the news about the fire that destroyed it.

    1. My husband was in there...remembers he had chewing gum...still with flavour & a nun made him spit it in the garden ...He searched all the years he was in there for it..The first picture above..the big arched window wad one thing he remembered ...big pile clothes in the middle of the floor ..told GO got what you could to wear for the next week..He wa only 4 when put in there..Bit hard on a little one ..He has done very well for himself during his life all from hard work & believing in himself,,nothing he says from anything he learnt there ...A beautiful man


  8. I lived in this lace from 1 year old until 13 and the cold showers 2am in morning in winter, the beatings and floggings, being locked in a dark room for hours on end, my brother counted over 30 bruises from my neck to back of my legs from straps made of leather wielded by a Nun Good riddance

    1. if you write your experience in blog, I'd love to read it..

  9. Where exactly in Australia is this place? and is it safe and are we allowed to visit it?

    1. This place has unfortunately burnt down... Three fires in a week... I believe it's due to be demolished soon ��

    2. It hasn't actually burnt down despite the numerous fires. It is still there and accessible, just in a more wrecked state I believe.

  10. Unfortunately this site is no longer accessible due to the fires. It's been fenced up and locals are now on the look out for people entering and are ready to call the police. Went there last week and almost got busted. There's not much left to look at other than the outside.
    Not worth the trip.

  11. Very sad. Maybe developers or owners of the land set the fire to avoid fixing the place up or being held liable if anyone got hurt there. Maybe the land is worth more vacant.

  12. saw it on sunday... eerie and just awful story. orphans are already sad then to be treated as garbage like this ! where are those sisters of mercy now !

  13. Went there last night, got through the fence and explored the ruined building. Although a lot of it is burnt down, there's still enough rooms and hallways to explore and a lot still in tact, including old laundry, desks, chairs, beds etc. Was very eerie...



    1. There is an owner...I know that sounds stupid of me to say but if there's an owner why does he keep the building in this shape?

    2. Heritage buildings are notoriously expensive to maintain and time-consuming when dealing with Council for building permission. Owners aren't likely to keep a building in it's glory if they aren't going to have an income created from it.

      (On a sidenote, there has been a sign at the corner of the property laying claim to this site for a retirement (?) village since I first visited in 2014.)

  15. http://www.activistrights.org.au/handbook/ch02s08s02.php

    For tresspassing you can get a $2000 fine and spend six months in jail. If you decide to not obey the law you can look forward to spending the next six months in jail.

    1. You're an idiot. I bet you have nothing better to do with your miserable life.

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  18. Darn.. i was hoping to pay it a visit for my yt and vm video... anyone know any good accessible abandoned places in nsw that are still around?

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  20. Can anyone give me directions, if the building is still standing? the place looks like a good explore.

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