The first legislation affecting children in New South Wales targeted criminal behaviour and was introduced in 1866, with the development of reformatories and industrial schools. Until then, criminal children had been placed in adult jails. These institutions were intended to be reformative, and became part of the education system after the introduction of the Public Instruction Act 1881.
Children's Courts were introduced in 1905 to deal with crime by minors, as well as the welfare functions of protecting children from neglect and abuse and administering boarding out. Children's Courts also operated a probation system that meant large numbers of children remained at home, with their parents, although under supervision.
In 1923 the Child Welfare Act moved all welfare and justice programmes for children into the control of the Minister for Public Instruction. In the 1980s the control of matters involving juvenile offenders and Children's Courts passed to the Minister for Justice and a separate Department of Juvenile Justice was created. Juvenile Justice has since moved to the Attorney General's Department.