ABSTRACT

In November 1897, three members of the New South Wales Public Service Board began a Royal Commission to enquire into public charities in the colony. They were senior bureaucrats of influence and some refinement. They were led by Joseph Barling, the son of an ironmonger and grazier who had migrated to Sydney in 1856. A Congregationalist, he had worked his way up through the public service, previously as under-secretary of the Department of Public Works, and now as head of the Public Service Board.1 In the course of their inquiry, the commissioners took the trouble to visit the slums of Sydney, and in this they were replicating the visiting of the poor in their homes that was such a pervasive aspect of nineteenthcentury charitable practice. Each of them wrote down their impressions in a series of case studies appended to their report.