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Western Australia - Glossary Term

Absconding (1844 - )

Term commonly found on child welfare records
Alternative Names
  • Absconded (also known as)

Absconding is a term used to describe the act of running away or escaping from an institution, foster home or other place of care. It was not uncommon for children in 'care' to run away from an institution. From about 1935 to around 1966, the numbers of children who absconded from institutions was reported in the Child Welfare Department's Annual Reports to Parliament.


The first piece of legislation to deal with running away was 'Aboriginal girls protection 1844'. This assumed that a girl would not run away from school or a service position unless she was persuaded or enticed. Thirty years later, the Industrial Schools Act 1874 (s.15) made escaping from an industrial school a criminal offence if the child who ran away was a youthful offender (someone who had been sent to the institution because they were found guilty of an offence against the law). The Industrial and Reformatory Schools Act 1893 extended this offence to include all children who ran away from an industrial or reformatory school, regardless of the circumstances that led to their placement. Children or young people who ran away could be whipped or have their terms extended. Penalties continued to be levied against adults who helped absconders.


Journal Articles

  • Ackland, John W, 'Institutional Reactions to Absconding', The British Journal of Social Work, vol. 11, no. 1, 1981, pp. 171-187. Details


  • Western Australia. Child Welfare Department, Annual Report of the Child Welfare Department, Child Welfare Department, Perth [W.A.], 1928-1972. Details

Online Resources


Industrial and Reformatory Schools Act 1893
Industrial and Reformatory Schools Act 1893
13 January 1893
State Law Publisher of Western Australia


Sources used to compile this entry: Industrial and Reformatory Schools Act 1893 [Document], Date: 13 January 1893.

Prepared by: Debra Rosser