• Organisation

Social Services Department, State of Tasmania


The Social Services Department replaced the Charitable Grants Department in 1934. It managed outdoor and indoor relief, child welfare services and, between 1934 and 1946, the State Immigration Office. The Social Services Department became the Social Welfare Department in 1961.

The Social Services Department replaced the Charitable Grants Department following an amendment to the Public Service Regulation 4. The Children of the State Department, which had, since 1923 to 1924, been located within Charitable Grants, went with it. In 1935, the Infant Welfare Act made it clear that Children of the State was a part of the Social Services, rather than a Department in its own right. However, as a reflection of its former status, Annual Reports were issued by the Social Services and Children of the State Department until well into the 1940s.

The newly formed State Immigration Office was also located within the Social Services Department. This apparently led to the division, in 1936, of the Department into three branches: Social Services, Children of the State, and the State Immigration Office. In 1946, the Department lost the State Immigration Branch when the government established the Tasmanian Government Tourist and Immigration Department.

The first Director of the Social Services Department was Charles Frederick Seager, formerly the Secretary of the Children of the State Department and Administrator of Charitable Grants. Seager had a long association with welfare work, having been appointed a clerk to the Departments in 1901 when his father, FR Seager, was in charge of them. The younger Seager had lived on the grounds of the New Town Charitable Institution, where the Departments were located, with the rest of his family. In 1911, when the Under-Secretary took over direct management of the Departments and moved them into the Chief Secretary’s Offices in Hobart, Charles Seager went too, eventually becoming Chief Clerk. In 1923, Charitable Grants acquired full Departmental status and Seager became the Administrator. In addition, he was Secretary of the Children of the State Department.

The next two Directors stayed for much shorter periods of time. The first, HR Reid, who had also been a Chief Clerk in the Chief Secretary’s Department, replaced Seager in 1941. The second, William G Patterson, took over in 1951. His career in the Department had begun as an inspector in 1918. Patterson’s successor, in 1955, was Gordon Charles Smith, a New Zealander, whose original appointment was in the position of Superintendent of Child Welfare, which had been created in 1954. He remained Director when, in 1961, the Social Services Department became the Social Welfare Department.

The Department made financial and material assistance, or outdoor relief, available to widows, deserted wives, unemployed men (in exchange for work), and people who were elderly. It also provided indoor relief at the Invalids Home in Launceston, and for a short while, the New Town Rest Home.

It managed the boarding out system, that is, its bureaucrats recruited foster mothers, placed children, and arranged for inspecting nurses to visit foster homes. When children reached school leaving age, Departmental employees found them work, often as farm labourers, if boys, or domestic servants, if girls. Departmental inspectors visited these children. In the later years of the Department, state wards were able to undertake a wider range of work.

Inspecting nurses, employed by the Department, inspected the homes of foster mothers looking after babies under the infant life provisions of the Act. These babies had single mothers who placed them in temporary foster homes so that they could earn a living to support them.

The Department managed the already-existing Ashley Home for Boys and Omaru (in Launceston) and Hobart Receiving Homes. It established and managed the Cottage Home, Malmesbury Girls’ Home, Rochebank Hostel, Wybra Hall, and Weeroona Girls’ Training Centre as well as Kanangra and Gilburn Receiving Homes.

Between 1934 and 1946, another of the Department’s functions was to oversee the nominated passage scheme whereby a family member or friend paid the fare of a British immigrant. In the 1930s, to be eligible, the immigrants had to be farm boys or domestic servants. The scheme came to an end in June 1940 because of World War Two. Four years later, the Department was getting ready for a post war migration boom. In particular, it prepared to deal with the adoption of war orphans and youth migration for Fairbridge and Salvation Army Schools. Children did eventually come to Tasmania under the Fairbridge scheme but not with the Salvation Army.

Following the passage of the Domestic Assistance Service Act, the Social Services Department took over the Domestic Assistance Service in 1947. This service provided a housekeeper or temporary accommodation for children during a family emergency which meant that there was no one to look after them.

In 1954-5, the Social Services Department took over the Juvenile Probation Service from the Attorney-General’s Department.

In 2014, the correspondence created by the Department’s work, including the case files of state wards, is in the Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office.

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  • Alternative Names

    Social Services and Children of the State Department


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