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Our History

Silky Oaks was initially born in the heart of a retired missionary, Miss Betty Cornell, who was concerned for children in Queensland who didn’t have a supportive home environment. Her vision was put into action and the original Children’s Home was set up in the Brisbane suburb of Toowong in August 1940.

In January 1947, Silky Oaks moved to its current location in Manly. Since that time, Silky Oaks has extended its range of services to individuals and families within the local community and the greater Brisbane area.



Photo: Silky Oaks Manly Property circa 1940s.


Silky Oaks Children’s Haven wasn’t always at Manly, we started our story in the suburb of Toowong in August 1940. Miss Betty Cornell put her ideas into action and contacted three prominent businessmen Messrs: Westwood, Wylie and Lockhardt. It started off with an inaugural meeting and together discussed the possibility of obtaining a suitable site for a Children’s Home in Brisbane. 

This small committee considered purchasing a variety of properties however, “Silky Oaks” in Cross Street Toowong became available, the historical home owned by Sir Alfred Cowley, who was a cane-farmer, industrialist and parliamentarian. The committee purchased the property for £900 and on August 19 1940, less than four months after the inaugural meeting, the Children’s Haven opened. Miss Cornell with the support of her friend Miss Charles and her first staff member Miss Gibson welcomed a mother with three pre-school aged boys and a girl. Thus Silky Oaks Children’s Haven had begun. 




Photo: Silky Oaks Children’s Haven Toowong House August 1940


The name “Silky Oaks” originated from the property of the Toowong House. We have been lucky enough to find an article about this house, from The Queenslander in the Brisbane’ Historic Homes section written on 5th November 1931 by F. E. Lord. This article tells us a lot about the house and how the name of the property originated. The article states that “Its name given to it by Sir Alfred and Lady Cowley, was suggested to them from the fact of its original driveway being lined with these trees (silky oaks)… the drive is unused now, and although the silky oaks are more spares in their foliage than of yore, they will soon be in rich yellow blossom…” This allows us insight into why we are called Silky Oaks to this day. If you would like to read the full article please click here.


Please keep coming back to this page for more updates on our history!