HISTORY & LEGACY OF ST FRANCIS HOUSE
A Home for Inland Children
Glanville Hall, Park Street, Semaphore South
This website acknowledges the First Australians and recognises their continuous connection to country, community
and culture. We pay our respect to their elders, Ancestors and spirits as custodians of the country on which we
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are advised that this website contains images and voices of people who
"The Smiths - Percy and Isabel"
"Probably as much love was bestowed upon the boys by the Smiths as on any children in the long history of
So writes Peter Read, Charlie Perkins’ biographer and the first person to write about “The Stolen Generations” in
Probably no couple in the history of the Australian missions to Aboriginal people had as much influence on the
lives of Aboriginal children as Father Percy Smith and his wife Isabel.
This website is dedicated to telling the story of Father and Mrs Smith and their contribution to Aboriginal
children for a period of time that extended from Father Smith’s arrival in Alice Springs in the early 1930’s up to
Mrs Smith’s death in 2002.
For over seventy years, Father and Mrs Smith were to have an enduring relationship with the many children from
Central and remote Australia, as they grew into adults. So many of these children took up positions of leadership
in a range of aspects of Australian social and political history in the latter part of the second half of the
Twentieth Century and into the next century.
The website draws primarily from the papers and archives of the Father P McD Smith private collection and is made
available publicly not only to tell the story of St Francis’ House, but to make this material easily accessible to
the Aboriginal people and families who are so connected and central to this narrative. Indeed it is hoped that over
time that the words and voice of these individuals and families, and their connection with Father and Mrs Smith,
can also be collected and displayed here.
Father Smith arrived in Alice Springs in 1933 following his appointment as the first Anglican priest in the small
township of Alice Springs. Father Smith immediately began a ministry to the Aboriginal children that were residing
in the Bungalow that was then located at the Old Telegraph station on the banks of the Todd River.
In January 1945, the Smith’s brought six boys from Alice Springs with the permission of their mothers, to Adelaide
and soon after established St Francis House at the beach side suburb of Semaphore. Soon the original six boys were
joined by other boys, some at the request of their mothers and others who had been removed from their families were
placed there at the request of the government.
In February 2008 the Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, apologised to the Aboriginal children who had been
removed from their families. Then in October 2018 Prime Minister Scott Morrison apologised to the survivors and
victims of abuse in institutional care.
Without doubt, much pain and trauma is still experienced by the individuals who were removed and placed in
institutions far away from their families and their culture. Many experienced abuse in these institutions. The
ongoing intergenerational impact of the removal and abuse cannot ever be understated.
In our desire to tell the story of the Smiths, we recognise that motivations can extend beyond the "best
intentions", beyond even “kindness" and "love". Whilst St Francis House, for example, may have provided unique
opportunities for the more than fifty boys who lived there - it was also at times a harsh and lonely experience for
many of the boys living so far from their families and growing up in a foreign culture.
In the spirit of Father and Mrs Smith, this website is dedicated to tell the “true stories” and lived experiences
of their lives with Aboriginal children and families over so many years. We want to tell not only the "good news”
stories, but we also acknowledge the part that they may have played in assisting to implement government policies
that were so detrimental to keeping Aboriginal families together. To this end, in our desire to promote and tell
the Father and Mrs Smith story, we are committed to telling all sides of the same story.
In doing so it is hoped not only will their story be better known, but also the stories of the many Aboriginal
people who were so much a part of their lives.