State Ward Case Files, all Wards (to June 1961); Family Welfare Division Ward Case Files (July 1961-1978), Single Number System
||By 1935 - 1978
||Series in Custody
||1920 - 1978
||1919 - ? 1987
|Format of Records:
|Agency which created this SeriesAgency which created this Series|
|1960 - 1971
||Social Welfare Branch, Chief Secretary's Department
|1971 - 1978
||Social Welfare Department
|By 1935 - 1960
||Children's Welfare Department 1924-1961 (previously known as Department for Neglected Children 1887-1924), Chief Secretary's Department
|Agency currently responsible for this SeriesAgency currently responsible for this Series|
|Description of this SeriesDescription of this Series|
- How to use the Records
Undertake a keyword search using potential surnames to determine whether this series contains the file for a person of interest.
Please note that public users cannot yet undertake this task because the entire series is subject to closure under the Public Records Act.
- Function / Content
This series consists of files about individuals who were brought under the care of the State either to ensure their protection, or to punish and rehabilitate them in response to crimes committed. These functions of Government date back to the proclamation of the Neglected and Criminal Children's Act 1864. At that time, the children requiring protective action were called neglected children and those requiring punishment were referred to as convicted children. The more general term, wards (as in the term "wards of the State"), to describe all of these children, was introduced in 1887.
A host of legislative changes over the 100 or so years after the 1864 Act impacted upon these functions. Broadly speaking, the key changes were;
For Neglected Children
- were deemed to be neglected by a justice until 1907 and the Children's Court thereafter.
- related to children under 15 years of age to 1887; under 17 years (1887-1915), and under 21 years from 1915.
- could be placed by the Department in Government Industrial Schools (until 1880 only), approved private institutions, boarded out or put at service with a suitable individual within the community, or apprenticed to a trade at land or at sea.
- became known as Children in need of care and protection in 1954.
For Convicted Children
- were those found guilty of any offence by a justice until 1907 and the Children's Court thereafter, and were aged under 15 years of age (1864 - 1887) and under 17 years from 1887.
- could be placed by the Department in Government Reformatory Schools (until the late 1890s only), private reformatories (from 1887 provided they were over 12 years of age), put at service with a suitable individual within the community, or apprenticed to a trade at land or at sea (from 1887), or placed in the custody of a person who has given a bond (also from 1887). There was also scope for a convicted children to be treated as a neglected child.
- became known as juvenile offenders (1954 - 1956) and offenders after that.
The files contain documentation relating to the commitment, placement, and management of the child by the Department. These can include original police reports, protection orders, social workers' case notes, reports of institutional staff, adoption documents and correspondence between the Department and the child's parents.
It should be noted that this series consists of the files that were created and maintained by the Department at its head office. This series does not contain the files that may have been created and maintained by any private institution or public correctional facility where some of these children may have been placed; papers sent from these institutions and facilities about individual children and received by the Head Office can be found in the files of this series but the extent to which these files duplicate each other is unknown.
Changes from 1 July 1961
On 1 July 1961 the Social Welfare Act 1960 was proclaimed. It created two new Divisions within the Social Welfare Branch to deal with wards based on the age of the children. Children who were over the age of 14 years became the responsibility of the Youth Welfare Division. The file for any child over 14 years who was under state care on 1 July 1961 was removed from this series and allocated a completely new file number from a new filing system established by the Youth Welfare Division - refer to VPRS 16747.
Children who were under the age of 14 on 1 July 1961 became the responsibility of the Family Welfare Division. Files for these children continued to be managed in this series (i.e VPRS 10071) until they reached the age of 14. At this point, responsibility passed to the Youth Welfare Division and the child's file was also removed from this series and allocated a completely new file number within VPRS 16747.
A subsequent amendment to the Act increased the age limit under which the child moved from the Family Welfare Division to the Youth Welfare Division from 14 years to 15 years during 1971.
Start of this series
It is unclear when this series of files commenced. A description of the recordkeeping systems of the Department of Neglected Children was included as an Appendix to the Final Report of the Royal Commission on the State Public Services in 1917 and stated that, at that time, a child's history was documented within up to 5 different files. The author of the report was critical of this and recommended that the Department combine these to create a single file per child.
The Department implemented this recommendation at some stage after the publication of this report, however, it cannot be ascertained with any clarity whether this occurred in 1917. There are no files in this series for any child who was admitted to care prior to the 1920s and only a relatively small amount of files exist for children admitted between then and the start of 1935. Moreover, no other files from this series are known to exist anywhere else for the pre 1935 period. It is probable that all other files from this series for this period and all of the departmental files that preceded the creation of the files in this series as described in the 1917 Final Report Appendix were destroyed by the Department as a result of general disposal recommendations made by the same Royal Commission in its 1916 Interim Report. The author of the Appendix to the 1917 Royal Commission Final Report stated that the Department had started to destroy records at that time.
End of this series
This series ended in 1978 when the Family Welfare Division was abolished. It and the Youth Welfare Division (which was also abolished at that time) were merged to form the Family and Adolescent Division of the Social Welfare Department. A new client numbering system was introduced in 1978 that replaced the filing systems of both the Family Welfare (i.e this series, VPRS 10071) and the Youth Welfare Division (i.e VPRS 16747) - refer to VPRS 16749. In other words, the file of any child in this series (i.e VPRS 10071) who was still in State care in 1978 was taken over by the Family and Adolescent Division and allocated a new file number from VPRS 16749.
Completeness of this series from 1935
It is thought that the only files that are missing from this series from 1935 onwards are those that were removed and given new file numbers in subsequent series brought about by the administrative changes introduced in 1961 and 1978 - refer to VPRS 16747 and VPRS 16749.
- Recordkeeping System
On admission into care, a child/ward received the next sequential registration number allocated from the Ward Register - refer to VPRS 4527. Each child's history was recorded in the Ward Registers for all children/wards received between 1864 to June 1961 and for all wards received by the Family Welfare Division only from June 1961 until June 1966 when the use of bound volumes was discontinued. The Family Welfare Division used index cards to perform this activity until it was abolished in 1978. These cards have since been intersorted, along with other cards from the 1961-1984 period, in a single alphabetical sequence of cards - refer to VPRS 16205.
Other indexes to these files (and the Ward Register) were also created although presently only VPRS 6757 is in PROV custody. Remaining indexes are still in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services Archives.
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