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Neglected Children's Department, Colony of Tasmania


The Neglected Children’s Department was established in March 1897. It was the first government department in Tasmania that specifically managed children who were considered to be offenders or neglected. In 1901, following Australian federation, Tasmania became a state and the state government took over the management of the Neglected Children’s Department.

The Youthful Offenders, Destitute and Neglected Children’s Act of 1896 created the Neglected Children’s Department. It was located within the Chief Secretary’s Department.

George Richardson was the first Secretary, appointed in 1896. When he became Commissioner of the newly created Police Department in 1898, Frederick Seager replaced him.

The Secretary of the Department was the guardian of all wards of state. He decided whether to place them in a receiving home, the boarding out system, in a training school, such as the Boys’ Training School, a voluntarily run children’s home, or in an foster care into placements with employers once they were too old to attend school.">apprenticeship in which boys usually learned farm labouring and girls domestic service. The work of the Department included correspondence with children, especially older ones, their parents, foster parents, and employers. The Department also carried out inspections of the homes where wards of state lived.

The Neglected Children’s Department was formed at the end of Tasmania’s colonial period so that most of its activities took place after Australian federation and the newly formed state government had taken it over. However, a couple of trends were set in the early years.

Firstly, one of Richardson’s first acts was to abolish the volunteer Central Boarding Out Committee, which had previously managed the boarding out system. In 1897, he took over some of their administrative responsibilities which led to a dispute. The Committee stopped holding monthly meetings until Richardson restored their powers. He did not and the Committee disappeared in 1898. After that, wards of state were managed by public servants and the role of volunteers continued to decline. One advantage of this arrangement was that the public servants knew the children personally.

Secondly, in 1898, the Premier, Edward Braddon, said that, to save money, the Youthful Offenders, Destitute and Neglected Children’s Act might have to be repealed. This led to cost cutting which undermined the ability of the employees of the Neglected Children’s Department to do their work, a situation that continued until at least 1911.

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