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Child Welfare Timeline

Major events and legislation in the history of child welfare in Australia

1820s

The Colony of New South Wales passes its first child welfare legislation – Orphan Schools Estates Act 1826 (1826-1881)

1840s

The Colony of Western Australia passes legislation about juvenile immigrants – Guardians to Child Immigrants Act 1842 (1842-1964)

The Colony of South Australia passes its first legislation relating to Aboriginal children – Aboriginal Orphans Act 1844 (1844-1911)

1860s

The Colony of Tasmania passes legislation about industrial schools – Industrial Schools Act 1863 (1863-1867)

The Colony of Victoria passes its first child welfare legislation – The Neglected and Criminal Children’s Act 1864 (1864-1888)

The Colony of Queensland passes its first child welfare legislation – Industrial and Reformatory Schools Act 1865 (1865-1911)

1890s

The Northern Territory of South Australia passes its first child welfare legislation – The State Children Act 1895 (1895-1959)

The Colony of Western Australia passes Australia’s first adoption legislation – Adoption of Children Act 1896 (1896-1995)

1910s

Australia’s involvement in the First World War results in significant impacts on children, families and society – World War One (1914-1918)

1920s

The Great Depression, a period of high unemployment and poverty in Australia, affects many families – The Great Depression (c.1929-1932)

1930s

The Great Depression, a period of high unemployment and poverty in Australia, affects many families – The Great Depression (c.1929-1932)

The Australian Capital Territory passes its own law relating to the treatment of children – Deserted Wives and Children Ordinance Act 1932 (1932-1969)

Australia’s involvement in the Second World War results in significant impacts on children, families and society – World War Two (1939-1945)

1940s

Australia’s involvement in the Second World War results in significant impacts on children, families and society – World War Two (1939-1945)

The Commonwealth of Australia passes its first legislation about child endowment – Child Endowment Act, 1941 (1941-1942)

First post-war child migrants arrive in Australia on the Asturias in June, 1947.

1950s

The United Nations General Assembly adopts the Declaration on the Rights of the Child in 1959 – Declaration on the Rights of the Child (1959)

1960s

Concern about what was termed ‘child maltreatment’ in Victoria leads to the Committee of inquiry into allegations of neglect and maltreatment of young children (1966-1969)

1970s

The Commonwealth Government introduces a new allowance for single mothers, contributing to a rapid decline in adoptions – Supporting Mother’s Benefit (1973-1977)

1980s

The Senate embarks on the first national investigation into the treatment of children in ‘care’ – Inquiry into Children in Institutional and Other Forms of Care (1982-1985)

1990s

National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families (1995-1997) introduces the term ‘Stolen Generations’ to the Australian public.

The WA government issues an apology, in response to recommendations in the ‘Bringing Them Home’ report – Apology to Aboriginal Families by the Parliament of Western Australia (28 May 1997)

The NSW government apologises in response to recommendations in the ‘Bringing Them Home’ report – New South Wales Apology to the Aboriginal people of Australia for the separation of children from their families (18 June 1997)

The Parliament of the United Kingdom inquires into the experiences of child migrants sent to Australia – Inquiry into the Welfare of Former British Child Migrants (1997-1998)

The Tasmanian government apologises to Aboriginal people in response to recommendations in the ‘Bringing Them Home’ report – Apology to Aboriginal People (13 August 1997)

The Victorian government apologises to the Stolen Generations – Victorian Government Apology to Stolen Generations (17 September 1997)

Queensland’s ‘Forde Inquiry’ is Australia’s first State-based investigation into the abuse, mistreatment or neglect of children in institutions – Commission of Inquiry into Abuse of Children in Queensland Institutions (1998-1999)

The WA government issues an apology to Former Child Migrants in response to the UK Inquiry – Apology to Former Child Migrants by the Parliament of Western Australia (13 August 1998)

The Queensland government issues an apology in response to the ‘Forde Inquiry’ – Apology to those harmed in Queensland institutions during their childhood (August 1999)

2000s

This milestone inquiry by the Senate hands down the ‘Lost Innocents: Righting the Record’ report – Inquiry into Child Migration (2000-2001)

This significant Senate inquiry hands down the ‘Forgotten Australians’ and ‘Protecting vulnerable children’ reports – Inquiry into Children in Institutional Care (2003-2004)

Tasmania Ombudsman’s inquiry introduces ex gratia payments for people who were abused as children in state ‘care’ – Listen to the children: review of claims of abuse from adults in state care as children (2003-2006)

South Australia’s ‘Mullighan Inquiry’ investigates allegations of sexual abuse of children in state care – Children in State Care Commission of Inquiry (2004-2008)

The Tasmanian government issues an apology in response to the ‘Listen to the Children’ inquiry – State Government Apology to Former Wards of State Abused in Care (17 May 2005)

The Victorian government issues an apology in response to recommendations in the ‘Forgotten Australians’ report – Victorian Government Apology to Forgotten Australians (9 August 2006)

Western Australia establishes a redress scheme for people who were abused and/or neglected while in the ‘care’ of the state – Redress WA (2008-2011)

The Australian government issues an apology to the Stolen Generations, 11 years after the ‘Bringing Them Home’ report – Australian Parliament Apology to the Stolen Generations (13 February 2008)

The Senate reviews the response to previous inquiries – Inquiry into the Implementation of the Recommendations of the Lost Innocents and Forgotten Australians Reports (2008-2009)

The New South Wales government issues an apology in response to recommendations in the ‘Forgotten Australians’ report – Premier’s Apology to Forgotten Australians and Child Migrants (19 September 2009)

The Australian government apologises in response to recommendations in the ‘Forgotten Australians’ and ‘Lost Innocents’ reports – Australian Parliament Apology to Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants (16 November 2009)

2010s

The British government issues an apology to Former Child Migrants – British government apology to child migrants (24 February 2010)

The WA government issues an apology for former forced adoption practices – Removal of Children from Unmarried Mothers – Apology by the Parliament of Western Australia (19 October 2010)

The Senate launches an inquiry into former forced adoption practices – Commonwealth Contribution to Former Forced Adoption Practices (2011-2012)

Western Australia’s inquiry into sexual abuse at St Andrew’s Hostel, and related organisations – Special Inquiry into St Andrew’s Hostel [Katanning] (2011-2012)

The Victorian government inquires into the handling of child abuse by religious and other organisations – Inquiry into the handling of child abuse by religious and other organisations (2012-2013)

The WA government apologises in response to the Special Inquiry into St Andrew’s Hostel – Apology by the government of Western Australia to the victims of abuse at St Andrew’s Hostel, Katanning (19 September 2012)

The NSW government apologises in response to the Forced Adoption Policies and Practices inquiry – New South Wales Parliament Apology for Forced Adoption Practices (29 September 2012)

The Tasmanian government apologises in response to the Forced Adoption Policies and Practices inquiry – Apology to People Hurt by Past Forced Adoption Practices (18 October 2012)

The Victorian government apologises in response to the Forced Adoption Policies and Practices inquiry – Parliamentary Apology for Past Adoption Practices (25 October 2012)

The Queensland government apologises in response to the Forced Adoption Policies and Practices inquiry – Apology for past forced adoption practices (27 November 2012)

In 2012, the Australian government announces a Royal Commission – Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (2012-2017)

The Australian government apologises in response to findings of the Former Forced Adoption Policies and Practices inquiry – National Apology for Forced Adoptions (21 March 2013)