The Department of Industrial and Reformatory Schools came into being with the passage of the Neglected and Criminal Children's Act 1864. Children who were deemed to be 'neglected' were to be sent to industrial schools. Children convicted of any offence could be sent to a reformatory school but justices had the authority to take their age and circumstances into account and to send them instead to an industrial school.
"The Department of Industrial and Reformatory Schools came into being with the passage of the Neglected and Criminal Children's Act 1864. Children who were deemed to be 'neglected' were to be sent to industrial schools. Children could be deemed 'neglected' if they were found begging, without a home or means of support, residing with thieves, prostitutes or drunkards or declared to be uncontrollable by their parents. Children convicted of any offence could be sent to a reformatory school but justices had the authority to take their age and circumstances into account and to send them instead to an industrial school.
Children in both classes of institution were to be given access to general education and industrial training, and children as young as eight were expected to work for at least part of the day in activities such as domestic work, cooking, laundering, tailoring, baking, shoe making, dairying, gardening and farming. Boys on the training ship Nelson and the reformatory Sir Harry Smith were to be trained as sailors.
Following a Board of Inquiry into the industrial schools established since the passing of the 1864 Act, the government formed a separate Industrial Schools Department, under the Chief Secretary. On 19 February 1866 George W. Duncan, the Inspector-General of the Penal Department, was appointed Inspector of Industrial Schools.
(Duncan also held the position of Inspector-General of the Penal Department. According to Jaggs, Duncan collapsed from overwork in 1878.)
Duncan's annual reports beginning in 1867 (Parliamentary Papers 1867, Vol. 4, pp.941ff) describe the functioning of the schools and the establishment and operations of his Office which is first described as a department in the report of 23 June 1876.
Royal Commissions and Inspectors General often criticised the adequacy of the arrangements for 'neglected' children under the 1864 Act, and industrial schools were eventually abolished in the 1880s and replaced by a system of 'boarding out' of wards to foster homes. In 1879, management of the schools was separated from the position of Inspector and placed in the hands of local committees. In addition, two Visiting Committees, of identical composition but charged separately for each class of school, were appointed to inspect and report. In 1881, management of the department was vested in George Guillaume who was appointed Secretary of the Department on 4 August of that year. A separate position of Inspector continued to be filled.
As Secretary, George Guillaume administered both the boarding out system (which replaced industrial schools) and reformatories. (Guillaume was killed in a traffic accident in 1892.)
In 1887 following the proclamation of the Neglected Children's Act (No.941) and the Juvenile Offenders' Act (No.951) responsibility for 'neglected' children was assumed by a Department for Neglected Children and a Department for Reformatory Schools assumed responsibility for convicted juveniles." (PROV entry: Agency VA 1466 Department of Industrial and Reformatory Schools)
1864 - 1887 Department of Industrial and Reformatory Schools
1887 - 1900 Department for Neglected Children
1887 - 1900 Department for Reformatory Schools
1901 - 1924 Department for Neglected Children
1901 - 1954 Department for Reformatory Schools
1924 - 1960 Children's Welfare Department
1960 - 1970 Social Welfare Branch
1970 - 1978 Social Welfare Department
1978 - 1985 Department of Community Welfare Services
1985 - 1992 Community Services Victoria
1992 - 1995 Health and Community Services
1995 - 2014 Department of Human Services
2015 - Department of Health & Human Services
Sources used to compile this entry: 'Agency VA 1466 Department of Industrial and Reformatory Schools', in Public Record Office Victoria Online Catalogue, Agency details, catalogue entry, Public Record Office Victoria, 2005, http://www.prov.vic.gov.au; Jaggs, Donella, Neglected and criminal: foundations of child welfare legislation in Victoria, Centre for Youth and Community Studies, Phillip Institute of Technology, Melbourne, 1986.
Prepared by: Cate O'Neill
Created: 19 February 2009, Last modified: 28 February 2019