Ward was a term used from 1927, when the State Children Amendment Act 1927 replaced the term state child with ward. A ward was defined (s.3) as 'a child who is received into an institution or apprenticed, boarded out or placed out' under the Act. The definition was extended in 1952 to include children who were released from an institution on parole to parents before the end of their committal period. In 1962, the Director of the Child Welfare Department the guardian of all children who were wards and in 1965 the term ward included any child 'who is committed, under this or any other Act, to the care of the Department or the custody of the Director' of Child Welfare. The term applied to children under the age of 18 but could be applied to females (and, after 1958, males) up to 21 years of age. By 2004, ward was no longer a term used to define children in out of home care. Children who would previously have been known as wards became children in the CEO's care, referring to the head of the department responsible for child welfare.
Child welfare authorities had considerable power over the children who were made wards of the state. For example, the Child Welfare Act 1947 (s.10.1) gave the secretary of the Department of Child Welfare, 'subject to the regulations and directions of the Minister', the 'care management, and control of the persons and property of all wards'.
The definition was extended by the Child Welfare Act Amendment Act 1952 (s.2d) to include children who were released from an institution on parole to parents before the end of their committal period.
The Child Welfare Act Amendment Act 1962 (s.3) made the Director of the Child Welfare Department the guardian of all children who were wards.
The Child Welfare Act Amendment Act 1965 (s.3) changed the definition again to define a ward as any child 'who is committed, under this or any other Act, to the care of the Department or the custody of the Director' of Child Welfare.
The Child Welfare Act Amendment Act (No. 2) 1976 modernised a lot of the terminology in child welfare legislation, including the definition of the term, ward. Section 5 (v) deleted earlier definitions s.5(w) defined a ward as: (a) a child declared in need of care and protection; (b) a child who had not been declared as in need of care and protection but nonetheless should be treated as if that need had been declared; (c) a child who was already a ward as defined by previous legislation; (d) a child who was committed to the care or custody of the Minister or Director of the department responsible for child welfare. Children who were defined as wards were under the guardianship of the Director.
When the term ward was introduced, a child was made a ward until the age of 18 years, except for females, whose period of wardship could be extended to 21 years of age. This was consistent with the laws about state children, which had been included in the State Children Act 1907 (ss.31, 40). In 1958, this ability to prolong wardship was extended to males as well (Child Welfare Act Amendment Act 1958, s.5).
Although the term ward is used in some parts of the Children and Community Services Act 2004, the intent of earlier definitions is described by the general term, children in the CEO's care. In this Act, CEO means the Chief Executive Officer of the department responsible for child welfare. Part 4, Division 5 of this Act describes the rights of children, the responsibility of the department and others towards them, and the authority the department has over them. These powers, rights and responsibilities must be understood in relation to the general principles of the Act as a whole.
The system for monitoring children who were wards of the state during the 1980s was discussed during testimony to the the Special Inquiry into St Andrew's Hostel, Katanning by the former Director of the Department for Community Welfare, Mr Keith Maine. From the evidence given, it is clear that the system of regular visits and quarterly reports that were meant to have been conducted were not always undertaken.
Sources used to compile this entry: 'The laws - Western Australia', in Bringing Them Home: Human Rights Education Resources for Teachers, Australian Human Rights Commission, 2010, https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/8-laws-western-australia-bringing-then-home-1997; Information Services, Department for Community Development, 'Table 4: Young People at Bridgewater, 1969-1983', Signposts: A Guide for Children and Young People in Care in WA from 1920, Government of Western Australia, 2004, https://signposts.communities.wa.gov.au//pdf/pdf.aspx; Public Sector Commission, Western Australia, 'Inquiry - St Andrew's Hostel - Public Hearing Transcript - 19 March 2012 pp.1016-1018', Transcripts [St Andrew's Hostel Inquiry], Government of Western Australia, 19 September 2012, https://www.wa.gov.au/government/document-collections/st-andrews-hostel-inquiry.
Prepared by: Debra Rosser
Created: 26 October 2011, Last modified: 2 March 2015