|Description of this AgencyDescription of this Agency|
In 1887 the responsibilities of the Department of Industrial and Reformatory Schools (VA 1466) were statutorily separated with the passing of two Acts.The Neglected Children's Act 1887 (No.941) provided for the establishment of a Department for Neglected Children, while the Juvenile Offenders' Act 1887 (No.951) (subsequently repealed and replaced by sections 314 to 369 of the Crimes Act 1890) provided for the establishment of a Department for Reformatory Schools (VA 2963). Although responsibility was statutorily separated in this manner it is evident that the two departments continued to be administered jointly within the Chief Secretary's Department (VA 475).
Functions of the Department
The main responsibility of the Department for Neglected Children was the maintenance and management of neglected children including:
supervision of State wards in receiving houses and probationary schools
provision of trade apprenticeships programs
'boarding out' of children in the service of persons willing to take charge of their maintenance and education
provision of assistance to non-wards.
Under provisions of the Infant Life Protection Act 1907 (No.2102) the Department assumed responsibility in 1907 for the registration of homes providing non-parental care to infants from the Office of the Chief Commissioner of Police (VA 724). In addition, under the Children's Maintenance Act 1919, mothers without sufficient means of support could apply to the Department for financial assistance toward the maintenance of their children, rather than have the children committed to the Department's care.
Establishment of Children's Welfare Department
The Children's Welfare Act 1924 (No.3351), assented to on 1 October 1924, was enacted to rename the Department for Neglected Children as the Children's Welfare Department. The renaming of the Department signified the Government's awareness of the stigma which had become attached to the term 'neglected child', and did not reflect a change in functional responsibility or status. It is evident that the Department for Reformatory Schools continued to be administered jointly with the Children's Welfare Department.
Adoption, Child Migration and Juvenile Offenders
The Children's Welfare Department subsequently became responsible for the adoption of State wards when the Adoption Act 1928 (No.3605) introduced adoption as a legal transfer of parental rights, and became responsible for the regulation of the employment of children in street trading under the provisions of the Street Trading Act 1928.
By delegation from the Commonwealth Minister of Immigration and under the provisions of the Commonwealth Immigration (Guardianship of Children) Act 1946 to 1952, the Director of the Department assumed guardianship of migrants under twenty-one years of age who arrived in Victoria without parents or relatives.
The Children's Welfare Act 1954 (No.5817) provided for the abolition of the Department for Reformatory Schools (VA 2963). Thereafter, responsibility for juvenile offenders and reformatory schools (from 1954 known as juvenile schools) was assumed by the Children's Welfare Department. At this time the supervision of child employment was extended to cover employment of children in public entertainment and in 1956 family group homes were introduced to provide a new type of child care arrangement.
Establishment of the Social Welfare Branch
With the development of Government policy which began to emphasize an integrated approach to social welfare issues and the need for staff training and social research the Social Welfare Branch was established within the Chief Secretary's Department under the provisions of the Social Welfare Act 1960 (No.6651). The Act was proclaimed in stages and the sections concerned with family and child welfare did not become operative until June 1961.
The Social Welfare Branch (VA 2784) assumed responsibility for all functions previously administered by the Children's Welfare Department and the Penal and Gaols Branch (VA 1464).
For further information about institutions for juvenile offenders see VRG 9 Prisons and Youth Training Centres.
Location of Records
For records of the Children's Welfare Department see the List of Holdings 2nd edition 1985, section 3.5.1.. Researchers are also advised to consult 3.16.5 (Chief Secretary's Office), 3.5.5 (Department of Reformatory Schools) and 13.0.0 (Prisons and Youth Training Centres).