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New South Wales - Legislation

Neglected Children and Juvenile Offenders Act 1905 (1905 - 1923)

  • Neglected Children and Juvenile Offenders Act 1905

    Neglected Children and Juvenile Offenders Act 1905, courtesy of NSW legislation.

Principal Act

The Neglected Children and Juvenile Offenders Act 1905 16/1905) was a substantial law which applied in New South Wales, as well as in the Australian Capital Territory. Its full title was 'An Act to make better provision for the protection, control, education, maintenance, and reformation of neglected and uncontrollable children and juvenile offenders; to provide for the establishment and control of institutions and for contribution by near relatives towards support of children in institutions; to constitute children's courts and to provide for appeals from such courts; to provide for the licensing and regulation of children trading in streets and in certain places open to the public; to amend the State Children Relief Act, 1901, the Children's Protection Act, 1902, the Infant Protection Act, 1904, and the Crimes Act, 1900; to repeal the Reformatory and Industrial Schools Act, 1901; and for purposes consequent thereon or incidental thereto.' It was repealed by the Child Welfare Act 1923.


This Act was the creation of the president of the State Children's Relief Board, Dr Charles Mackellar and was a significant reform in child welfare. On the one hand, it softened some aspects of child welfare law. It created the sense that children required different legal processes than adults, and more sensitivity and consideration. On the other hand, it made it easier for children and their families to be subject to surveillance by the State Children's Relief Department.

This Act introduced new concepts in child welfare to New South Wales: the Children's Court and the probation system. Children's courts were designed to separate children from adult offenders, and were a place where all matters relevant to children could be heard. This included children's crime, as well as custody, allowances paid for their maintenance, child neglect and truancy. The probation system allowed a child convicted of an offence or of being 'neglected' to be returned to its family, under the supervision of Probation Officers. This was a significant advance in reducing the numbers of children entering institutions, although it did mean some families were scrutinised closely by welfare authorities.

This Act enabled a 'neglected' or 'uncontrollable' child to be brought before a Court, which could order the release of the child on probation, commit the child to an institution until the age of eighteen, or commit it to the care of a willing person (a guardian, foster parent or the State Children's Relief Board. It enabled a child in an institution to be apprenticed in accordance with the Apprentices Act 1901.


 1866 - 1901 Destitute Children Act 1866
 1869 - 1901 Reformatory Schools Act 1866
       1901 - 1905 Reformatory and Industrial Schools Act 1901
             1905 - 1923 Neglected Children and Juvenile Offenders Act 1905
                   1923 - 1939 Child Welfare Act 1923
                         1939 - 1987 Child Welfare Act 1939
                               1965 - 2003 Adoption of Children Act 1965
                               1987 - 2010 Children (Care and Protection) Act 1987
                                     1998 - Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998
                                     2000 - Adoption Act 2000

Related Glossary Terms

Related Organisations



  • Ludlow, Christa, 'For their own good' : a history of the Albion Street Children's Court and Boys' Shelter, Network of Community Activities, Surry Hills, 1994, 47 pp. Details
  • Weigall, Cecil Edward, Infants' custody, maintenance & protection acts, (N.S.W.) : being Deserted Wives & Children Act, 1901; Infant Protection Act, 1904; Infants' Custody and Settlements Act, 1899; Infant Convicts' Adoption Act, 1901; Destitute Children's Society Act, 1901; State Children Relief Act, 1901; Children's Protection Act, 1902; and Neglected Children and Juvenile Offenders' Act, 1905, and regulations thereunder, Law Book Co of Australiasia, Sydney, 1908, 270 pp. Details

Online Resources


Neglected Children and Juvenile Offenders Act 1905
Neglected Children and Juvenile Offenders Act 1905
NSW legislation


Sources used to compile this entry: Ludlow, Christa, 'For their own good' : a history of the Albion Street Children's Court and Boys' Shelter, Network of Community Activities, Surry Hills, 1994, 47 pp; Quinn, Peter E, Unenlightened efficiency: the administration of the juvenile correction system in New South Wales 1905-1988, University of Sydney, History, 27 March 2006,; Thinee, Kristy and Bradford, Tracy, Connecting Kin: Guide to Records, A guide to help people separated from their families search for their records [completed in 1998], New South Wales Department of Community Services, Sydney, New South Wales, 1998,

Prepared by: Naomi Parry