State of Western Australia
The Royal Commission appointed to Inquire into the Care and Reform of Youthful Delinquents was established in Western Australia on 11 May 1943 and reported on 10 August 1943. Key recommendations included establishing a cross-Departmental Children's Council, 'drastically' restricting the publication of Children's Court proceedings; improving remand facilities and constructing secure detention facilities for boys and girls; extending the probation system and Police Boys' Clubs; and raising the school-leaving age to at least 15 years.
The Royal Commission appointed to Inquire into the Care and Reform of Youthful Delinquents had begun as a Select Committee inquiry. A Select Committee had been appointed by the Legislative Council in March 1943. It had heard evidence but had not completed its report when Parliament rose. At the request of the Select Committee members, the Premier converted the Select Committee to an honorary Royal Commission so that the report could be acted on by the Government during the Parliamentary recess.
The terms of the Select Committee and, subsequently the Royal Commission, were to inquire and report upon:
Barton's Mill was established as a temporary prison so that Fremantle Gaol could be used by the military during World War II. In March 1943, there were 6 young offenders imprisoned there. According to parliamentary debates, no girls were sent to York and most of the women who had been sent there were returned to the women's section at Fremantle Gaol.
The Report (p.2) observes that the most important causal factor in juvenile delinquency was lack of parental control. Where parental control was adequate, delinquency was seen to be caused by 'some form of abnormality, either mental or physical'.
In a speech to Parliament in August 1943, the Chairman of the Royal Commission, the Hon. Sir Hal Colebatch MLC, said there was a 'unanimity' of opinion that the main cause of juvenile delinquency was 'parental neglect' which was caused in '90 per cent' of cases by 'broken homes'. World War II was seen as a key factor in family breakups, either through fathers being killed or 'through hasty marriages and numerous divorces' associated with the War. The Report concluded (p.6) that the welfare of juvenile delinquents was 'clearly an obligation of the State since their condition is the direct result of the war.' The Commissioners (p.2) also stated that they set a 'higher value on preventive rather than correctional methods' of dealing with young offenders.
The evidence heard is not included with the Report tabled in Parliament, apparently due to a wartime restriction on printing. The Hon. EHH Hall, MLC sought to shed some light on the evidence given and the quotes he selected are included in a debate in the Legislative Council on 25 August 1943 (pp. 112-116). There are many case examples of children's convictions cited. Excerpts from the evidence heard by the Commissioners also included:
The Report of the Royal Commission (pp.4-6) included the following recommendations:
In September 1943, the Chief Secretary, the Hon. WH Kitson MLC, outlined progress on the recommendations: The government was building a holding yard for young offenders at the Roe Street Lock-Up; there was no need for any further statutory intervention to limit publication of Children's Court cases; and Barton's Mill prison would continue to be used as a detention facility for young offenders.
On 8 October 1943 the Minister for Child Welfare was asked in Parliament how the Government intended to respond to the recommendations about establishing a Children's Council, a Home for 'delinquent girls', street trading and the restructure of the Children's Court. The Minister said that the recommendations were being considered by the Government and 'an announcement' would be made in 'the near future'. Hansard does not appear to contain any further information about the Government's actions on these recommendations.
Sources used to compile this entry: 'Address-in-reply [Royal Commission on Child Delinquency 3]', in Hansard Archive 1870 to 1995, Parliament of Western Australia, 25 August 1943, https://www.parliament.wa.gov.au/Hansard/hansard1870to1995.nsf/83cc4ce93b5d4e0b48257b33001cfef6/D8FBB3BC63B8B71D48257A4E00111E4C/$File/19430825_Council.pdf. pp.112-116.; 'Address-in-reply [Royal Commission on Child Delinquency 4]', in Hansard Archive 1870 to 1995, Parliament of Western Australia, 8 September 1943, https://www.parliament.wa.gov.au/Hansard/hansard1870to1995.nsf/83cc4ce93b5d4e0b48257b33001cfef6/10CB33AFE46F9CB548257A4E00112196/$File/19430908_Council.pdf; 'Address-in-reply [Royal Commission on Child Delinquency]', in Hansard Archive 1870 to 1995, Parliament of Western Australia, 10 August 1943, https://www.parliament.wa.gov.au/Hansard/hansard1870to1995.nsf/83cc4ce93b5d4e0b48257b33001cfef6/4CF4EACD9AF9844548257A4E00111D24/$File/19430805_Assembly.pdf. pp.10-11.; 'Child Welfare. As to Proposed Council, etc.', in Hansard Archive 1870 to 1995, Parliament of Western Australia, 8 October 1943, https://www.parliament.wa.gov.au/Hansard/hansard1870to1995.nsf/83cc4ce93b5d4e0b48257b33001cfef6/2A9810A84F4CA8B048257A4E00112635/$File/19431008_Assembly.pdf; 'Report of the Royal Commission appointed to Inquire into The Care and Reform of Youthful Delinquents', in Royal Commissions Held in Western Australia, Parliament of Western Australia, 10 August 1943, http://www.parliament.wa.gov.au/intranet/LibPages.nsf/589198976847966848256e5a0008666d/576f693668722e924825774300287922?OpenDocument.
Prepared by: Debra Rosser
Created: 14 December 2013, Last modified: 15 April 2014