Dunlea Centre

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Dunlea Centre
Boys' Town Engadine
Dunlea Centre Logo.jpg
Engadine, Sydney, New South Wales
Coordinates 34°3′53.65″S 151°0′27.50″E / 34.0649028°S 151.0076389°E / -34.0649028; 151.0076389Coordinates: 34°3′53.65″S 151°0′27.50″E / 34.0649028°S 151.0076389°E / -34.0649028; 151.0076389
School type Non Denominational Special School Selective Single-sex Secondary School
Religious affiliation(s) Roman Catholic
Established 1 August 1939
Principal Paul Mastronardi (Executive Director)

Dunlea Centre, prior to 2010 known as Boys' Town Engadine,[1] is an Australian residential secondary school for adolescent young people and their families; the Centre is focused on working with young people where there are identified behavioural issues. Boys' Town Engadine - Dunlea Centre helps children, young people and their families to overcome the most severe disadvantages - problems such as abuse, homelessness, long term unemployment, mental health issues and the challenges of disability.[2] The school is located in the Sydney suburb of Engadine, New South Wales and is run by the Roman Catholic Salesians, a religious order of priests, in conjunction with specialist teachers and social workers.

Boys' Town Engadine - Dunlea Centre provides a voluntary service for families at risk of family breakdown, who are committed to improving their relationships. Boys' Town Engadine - Dunlea Centre provides intensive life skills, therapeutic and educational services in an out of home care setting.[2]


A parish priest of Sutherland Shire, in 1934 Fr Thomas Dunlea was requested by a dying woman to look after her son. After the woman's death, Dunlea took the boy to the parish presbytery.[3] Over the ensuing years, a number of young boys were entrusted to his care during the Great Depression. The boys were moved to a bigger house, but after Sutherland Shire Council forced them onto the road, they set up tents in nearby Royal National Park.[4] On 1 August 1939, Dunlea officially opened the school with seven boys in his care.[3] The purpose of the school was to help disadvantaged young males.[5] His inspiration was the 1938 movie Boystown, about Fr Edward J. Flanagan, who founded the original Boystown in Nebraska, USA.[4]

Publicity led to a gift of 2.8 ha (7 acres) at Engadine, where Boys' Town started in August 1940. It was to be partly self-supporting and to be run by the boys themselves—with the priest's oversight.[5] In 1942, at Archbishop Cardinal Sir Norman Gilroy's request, the De La Salle Brothers came to Boys' Town. Dunlea resigned his parish, and moved to the United States in 1947,[5] returning to Australia in the late 1940s where he became to accept that he was an alcoholic.[5]

Dunlea described the school as:[3]

"Boys’ Town is for homeless and friendless boys—it is the hometown; the fair-dinkum town; the town of charity, unity and kindness; it is a smooth landing ground."

In 1978 there was a total of 135 students (mostly 'boarders', with a small percentage of 'day' students) at Boys' Town. By 1989 the number of boys at Boys' Town had dropped to 40, with each boy having his own room.

In 2010 the trading name of Boys' Town Engadine was changed to Dunlea Centre to reflect that the agency now runs residential programs for adolescent girls as well as boys

Notable alumni and former staff[edit]


Former staff[edit]

  • Fr Chris Riley, AM - founder of Youth Off the Streets
  • Fr Dennis Halliday - awarded a PhD posthumously by the Australian Catholic University for his thesis The strategic use of the wellness model in adolescent residential centres : implications for partnership between parents and the centres in relation to his work with Boys' Town.


  1. ^ "About Dunlea Centre". Dunlea Centre. Retrieved 2016-11-07. 
  2. ^ a b "Boys' Town". National Education Directory of Australia Pty Limited. 2012. Retrieved 9 January 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c Delaney, Ron, ed. (March 2010). "Good Ol' Town" (PDF). An online newsletter for the Old Boys of Boys’ Town Engadine NSW. Boys’ Town Engadine NSW. Retrieved 9 January 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Coleman, Dorothy (1973). "Priest of the highway : a memoir of Father T.V. Dunlea". Sutherland Shire Libraries Catalogue. Retrieved 7 November 2016. 
  5. ^ a b c d Campion, Edmund. "Dunlea, Thomas Vincent (1894–1970)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. Retrieved 10 January 2012. 
  6. ^ Barbeliuk, Mark (24 August 2009). "70 years of boys to men". theleader.com.au. Retrieved 17 April 2012. 
  7. ^ "Life never a picnic for the dirt-poor, troubled Milat clan". smh.com.au. 24 November 2010. Retrieved 17 April 2012. 

External links[edit]

Additional reading[edit]