A truant is a child who does not go to school. Habitual truants were children who were 'constantly and habitually absent from school'. Truancy was one way that a child could come under the notice of the Police and the child welfare authorities, and be committed to institutions.
The Public Education Act 1899 allowed officers to be appointed to pick school-age children who were absent from school and take them and their parents before the courts (s.9). As a penalty, the child could be sent to an industrial school until the age of 14 (s.13). The Public Education Amendment Act 1905 further defined penalities for habitual truants (s.18). The Act acknowledged the responsibility of parents to ensure their children went to school but could also punish children, who could be brought before the Children's Court and dealt with under child welfare legislation. The court could send habitual truants to an institution until they reached the school-leaving age of 14. This offence was carried through into child welfare legislation until s.42 Child Welfare Act 1947, which dealt with truancy, was repealed by the Child Welfare Act Amendment Act (No. 2) 1962 and included in the Education Act Amendment Act 1962. Eventually, the term habitual truant was removed from all child welfare legislation by the Child Welfare Amendment Act (No 2) 1976.
Sources used to compile this entry: Child Welfare Amendment Act (No 2) 1976 (WA) [Document], Date: 6 October 1976; Public Education Act 1899 [Document], Date: 5 October 1899; Public Education Amendment Act 1905 [Document], Date: 23 December 1905; Child Welfare Act Amendment (Act No 2) 1962, ss.2-3.
Prepared by: Debra Rosser
Created: 28 February 2013, Last modified: 2 March 2015