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Legislation Children's Welfare Act 1954
State of Victoria
The Children's Welfare Act 1954 contained some significant changes to the Victorian system. It gave the government the power to establish its own institutions for the care of children and for the detention of young offenders. Non-government children's institutions were required to be registered with the Children's Welfare Department, and were subject to Departmental inspection. It also abolished the Department for Reformatory Schools, transferring responsibility for juvenile offenders and reformatory schools (from 1954 known as juvenile schools) to the Children's Welfare Department. The Children's Welfare Act 1954 replaced the term 'neglected child' by the term 'child in need of care and protection' - a term which was borrowed from the English Children and Young Persons Act 1933. In addition to this change in language, the Act widened the scope of children who could be judged as 'in need of care of protection'. After the new legislation came into operation in 1955, there were steep increases in the number of children coming into care in 1956 and 1957.
The Secretary of the Children's Welfare Department described the 1954 Act as a 'very notable milestone on the road of progress in the child welfare field of this state'. The legislation was prepared in close consultation between the government and the many 'voluntary organisations' involved in the care of children.
However, in 1963, Tierney, the Victorian child welfare academic disputed such a view that the 1954 Act was a significant reform. Tierney depicted the Act as more of the same, 'with the outdated and offensive terminology taken out'.
Section 16 of the Act ('Every child or young person who answers to any of the following descriptions shall be deemed to be a child or young person in need of care and protection …') set out the ways in which children could come into the care of the Department. The scope was made wider by the new legislation. For example, a description from the old legislation of children being in the circumstances of 'no visible means and no settled place of abode' was amended to 'no visible means or no settled place of abode'. The Secretary of the Department wrote in 1957 of this legislative amendment: 'This made it possible for more applications to be made to a Children's Court'.
Another new provision in the Act was Section 20(10) which enabled non-government institutions to apply for a child to become a ward of the state when the parent had defaulted in payments to the institution, for six months or more.
Non-offending children were now 'admitted', rather than 'committed' by the Children's Courts.
Part V of the Act relates to the Department's payment of maintenance to children's parents or carers. The 1954 Children's Welfare Act repealed the Children's Maintenance Act 1928. Part V of the 1954 legislation provided for the parents or carers of children in 'necessitous circumstances' to receive a weekly sum from the Department towards the child's maintenance. This provision assisted widows, deserted wives, and wives of prisoners to support their child/ren and keep them in the family home. Children receiving this assistance did not come under the legal guardianship of the Department.
1864 Neglected and Criminal Children's Act 1864
1887 Neglected Children's Act 1887
1890 Neglected Children's Act 1890
1915 Neglected Children's Act 1915
1890 Infant Life Protection Act 1890
1907 - 1915 Infant Life Protection Act 1907
1924 Children's Welfare Act 1924
1915 - 1928 Infant Life Protection Act 1915
1924 Children's Welfare Act 1924
1926 Children's Welfare Act 1926
1919 - 1928 Children's Maintenance Act 1919
1928 Children's Welfare Act 1928
1928 - 1957 Children's Maintenance Act 1928
1933 Children's Welfare Act 1933
1954 Children's Welfare Act 1954
1960 - 1970 Social Welfare Act 1960
1970 Social Welfare Act 1970
1978 Community Welfare Services Act 1978
1989 Children and Young Persons Act 1989
2005 Children Youth and Families Act 2005
- Tierney, Leonard, Children Who Need Help, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1963. Details
- 'Children's Welfare Act 1954', in Victorian Historical Acts, Australasian Legal Information Institute, http://corrigan.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/vic/hist_act/cwa1954167/. Details
- 'Victoria [excerpts from Victorian legislation]', in To remove and protect: laws that changed Aboriginal lives, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, 2008, http://www.aiatsis.gov.au/collections/exhibitions/remove/VIC/legislation.html. Details
- Victorian Government, 'Victorian Government Submission to the Senate Inquiry into Children in Institutional Care (Submission 173)', in Inquiry into Institutional Care: Submissions received as at 17/03/05, July 2003, http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate_Committees?url=clac_ctte/completed_inquiries/2004-07/inst_care/index.htm. Details
- The Children's Welfare Act 1954
Sources used to compile this entry: 'Victoria [excerpts from Victorian legislation]', in To remove and protect: laws that changed Aboriginal lives, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, 2008, http://www.aiatsis.gov.au/collections/exhibitions/remove/VIC/legislation.html; Tierney, Leonard, Children Who Need Help, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1963; Victorian Government, 'Victorian Government Submission to the Senate Inquiry into Children in Institutional Care (Submission 173)', in Inquiry into Institutional Care: Submissions received as at 17/03/05, July 2003, http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate_Committees?url=clac_ctte/completed_inquiries/2004-07/inst_care/index.htm.
Prepared by: Cate O'Neill
Created: 6 March 2009, Last modified: 3 April 2013