In the early twentieth century the notion of state children as a 'burden on the state', born of a liberal bourgeois philanthropic tradition, was gradually replaced in Tasmania by a modernising notion of intervention in the name of national efficiency. Eugenic principles can be shown to have influenced child welfare ideas and laws, notably the Tasmanian Mental Deficiency Act (1920). However, despite public debate and legislative changes, the bureaucrats in charge of state children maintained their liberal philanthropic practices. In many cases the Children of the State Department clashed with the Mental Deficiency Board. State direction of children was also frustrated by children's agency. Girls were the target of many eugenicist (and liberal evangelical) reforms, but they resisted attempts to control their sexuality and make them 'useful'. In Tasmania, the modernising impetus of progressive arguments was offset by bureaucratic stasis, and the agency of the subjects.