Alice Springs boys remembered



Former St Francis’ House Aboriginal boy Mr Brian Butler OAM who came from Alice Springs attended a ceremony at St Bede’s Anglican Church, Semaphore on October 3. 

At this ceremony the original brass candlesticks and cross from St Francis’ House were received.  Brian Butler and John P McD Smith both light candles that were placed in the candlesticks as part of the ceremony.  A number of friends and relatives were also present.

The Rector, Rev Dr Ruth Mathieson, said during the ceremony: “Father Percy Smith, the founder of St Francis’ House, chose to care about the welfare of [Aboriginal] children whom others may not have bothered about, by inviting boys from Alice Springs to come with him and his wife to Adelaide to have an education.

“Some boys in Alice Springs had been stolen from their families from elsewhere, others were encouraged to come by their parents.  Most found it more difficult to be away from their country and their people.  Some did not see their mothers for many years. 

“All experienced racism. There were many challenges to be overcome, with suffering for some due to supervisors after the founder, Father Percy Smith left.

“The boys of St Francis’ House have gone on to make a great impact on Australian society, individually and collectively, and especially as advocates for Aboriginal people and thereby making our whole country a better place. 

“Thank you, Mr Brian Butler, for being with us today, from what I understand you have helped families to reconnect with each other. 

“From Terry Hemmings, our Lay Assistant today, I hear that you worked together when [he] was Minister of Housing and you had responsibility for Aboriginal housing.”

In addition to this in 2014 a memorial stone was unveiled at the site of the former St Francis’ House (now Glanville Hall) by the Mayor of the City of Port Adelaide / Enfield and former St Francis’ House boy, Mr David Woodford from Alice Springs.  The name of every boy who attended St Francis’ House during its life from 1946 to 1959 is engraved on the stone. 

Another former St Francis’ House boy, Mr Vincent Copley AM, spoke graphically of the history of the home and of the many achievements of its boys. 

The site is now part of a trail that visits various Indigenous locations in the Port Adelaide region.  This trail now attracts many visitors including busloads of tourists from cruise ships berthed at Outer Harbour.

The memorial was sponsored by The Australian Government, the City of Port Adelaide / Enfield and Anglicare.

John P McD Smith is Chair of the St Francis’ House Project.


  1. Brian’s book is a must read, Sorry and Beyond. We need to acknowledge the past and learn from it – ie. Beyond. He had lived an active life, serving others and his people. Well done.

  2. It has been my privilege to know a significant number of St Francis House “graduates”.
    If high achievement of its residents is a measure of the worth on an institution, then the people who designed the program and ran St Francis House were very special.

  3. Rachel: I worked with Charles Perkins AO, John Moriarty AM, Dr Gordon Briscoe AO, Vince Copley, Jerry Hill and Les Nayda.


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