The Neglected and Criminal Children's Act 1864 (No.216) was the first piece of Victorian legislation to define situations where children might be removed from their parents. The Act provided for the establishment of industrial schools for 'neglected' children and reformatory schools for convicted juveniles. Superintendents and matrons were to be appointed and provision was made for inspection and reporting.
Prior to 1864 convicted children could, under the Criminal Law (Infants) Act 13 Vic., No.21 1849, be assigned by the Supreme Court to persons willing to undertake their 'maintenance and education'. When the 1864 Act came into being, 463 children were transferred from the care of the Superintendent of the Immigrants' Aid Society to the newly-established government schools, reported the Secretary of the Department for Neglected Children and Reformatory Schools in 1891.
In his 1891 report, the Secretary, George Guillaume, described the implementation of the new legislation back in the mid-1860s:
Under the head of 'neglected' children were comprised children found begging, children destitute of any home or means of subsistence, or Juvenile Offenders, who, from consideration of age and other circumstances, were considered not proper subjects for reformatory treatment. Children found in brothels, or associating with any thief, prostitute, drunkard, or vagrant, were also deemed 'neglected'. 'Uncontrollable' children were similarly dealt with on the parent giving security for the payment of their maintenance in the schools, but in the more recent legislation of 1887 … the impropriety of bracketing these last with neglected children, pure and simple, has been recognised, and their commital has therein been separately provided for.
An amendment passed in 1874 (Neglected and Criminal Children Amendment Act 38 Vic., No.495 1874) contained the first provisions relating to boarding out, with s.16 providing that children in industrial schools may be boarded out. In practice, the government had been boarding out 'neglected' children for a number of years by the time the amendment was passed. The Act also gave recognition to the position of Inspector of Industrial and Reformatory Schools.
The 1874 amendment gave the courts power to transfer a 'neglected' child into the reformatory, when judges felt the child had been leading 'an immoral and depraved life'. Further amendments to the Act in 1878 made legal the transfer of a child from an industrial school to a reformatory (and vice versa) in any case where the Governor-in-Council deemed it appropriate. The 1881 amendment (No. 693) confirmed the payment of five shillings per week per child for their maintenance in such schools.
From 1887, there was separate legislation for 'neglected' children and 'offenders' in Victoria. The Neglected Children's Act no.941 and the Juvenile Offenders Act no.951 both came into operation on 1 January 1888.
The Amending Acts numbers were 495 1874, 626, 1878 and 693, 1881.
1864 - 1888 The Neglected and Criminal Children's Act 1864
1888 - 1890 The Neglected Children's Act 1887
1888 - 1890 The Juvenile Offenders' Act 1887
1890 - 1915 The Neglected Children's Act 1890
1890 - 1915 Crimes Act 1890
1915 - 1929 Neglected Children's Act 1915
1915 - 1958 Crimes Act 1915
1929 - 1955 Children's Welfare Act 1928
1955 - 1959 Children's Welfare Act 1954
1959 - 1971 Children's Welfare Act 1958
1971 - 1978 Social Welfare Act 1970
1979 - 1983 Community Welfare Services Act 1978
1987 - Community Services Act 1987
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; 'Victoria: Legislation', in To remove and protect: laws that changed Aboriginal lives, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, 2008, https://aiatsis.gov.au/collection/featured-collections/remove-and-protect; Guillaume, George; Connor, Edward C., The Development and Working of the Reformatory and Preventive Systems in the Colony of Victoria, Australia, 1864-1890, Government Printer, Melbourne, 1891. Also available at http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/243591; Jaggs, Donella, Neglected and criminal: foundations of child welfare legislation in Victoria, Centre for Youth and Community Studies, Phillip Institute of Technology, Melbourne, 1986; Law Research Service, Melbourne Law School, Law Library, The University of Melbourne. 'Find and Connect Project - Victoria Legislation', 13 December 2013, held in the project files at the University of Melbourne eScholarship Research Centre.
Prepared by: Cate O'Neill
Created: 6 March 2009, Last modified: 2 December 2015