Under The Orphanages Act of 1879, orphanages were charged with the care, teaching and training of children whose circumstances included death of one or both parents, desertion by parents, or neglect. The Act also provided for the boarding-out, hiring-out and apprenticing of orphanage children
The Orphanages Act 1879 permitted destitute or deserted children under the age of 12 years to be sent to an orphanage and to remain there until they reached 12 years of age, unless boarded out with a 'trustworthy and respectable person' or hired out or apprenticed. A child could be hired out or become an apprentice at 10 years of age. At this time, the state subsidised orphanages in Brisbane, Rockhampton and Townsville, and an inspector of orphanages was appointed. Parents or relatives of children living in these institutions were expected to contribute to their support.