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New South Wales - Legislation

Child Welfare Act 1923 (1923 - 1939)

  • Child Welfare Act 1923

    Child Welfare Act 1923, courtesy of NSW legislation.

Principal Act

The Child Welfare Act 1923 was 'An Act to Amend and consolidate certain acts relating to children.' It abolished the State Children's Relief Board and created the Child Welfare Department. It also replaced a range of previous acts relating to children. These were the State Children Relief Act 1901, the Children's Protection Act 1902, the Infants' Protection Act 1904 and the Neglected Children's and Juvenile Offenders Act 1905. The Act introduced the first adoption legislation in New South Wales. The age of children in care, and those who could be considered juvenile criminals, was extended to 18 years, from 16 years. This Act was amended in 1924 and was repealed by the Child Welfare Act 1939.


The Child Welfare Act had similar powers to the 1905 Act to commit a 'neglected' or 'uncontrollable' child. Children who were committed to or already in institutions were placed under the control of the superintendent of the institution until the age of 18, or until they were discharged, removed, apprenticed or placed out. This Act provided the first adoption legislation, allowing adoptions if the child's parents or guardians consent, or if a court decided the child was deserted or abandoned.


 1866 - 1901 Destitute Children Act 1866
 1869 - 1901 Reformatory Schools Act 1866
       1881 - 1901 State Children Relief Act 1881
       1892 - 1902 Children's Protection Act 1892
       1901 - 1905 Reformatory and Industrial Schools Act 1901
             1901 - 1923 State Children Relief Act 1901
             1902 - 1923 Children's Protection Act 1902
             1904 - 1923 Infant Protection Act 1904
             1905 - 1923 Neglected Children and Juvenile Offenders Act 1905
                   1923 - 1939 Child Welfare Act 1923
                         1939 - 1987 Child Welfare Act 1939
                               1965 - 2003 Adoption of Children Act 1965
                               1987 - 2010 Children (Care and Protection) Act 1987
                                     1998 - Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998
                                     2000 - Adoption Act 2000

Related Concepts

Related Glossary Terms

Related Organisations


Newspaper Articles


  • Report of the Minister of Public Instruction on the work of the Child Welfare Department, Department of Education, Sydney, 1921-1931; 1935/36-1954/55. Details
  • Child Welfare Department, Annual Report: Child Welfare Department of New South Wales, New South Wales government, 1923-1970. Also available at Details
  • McCulloch, J.E., Child Welfare Department : report on the general organisation, control and administration of, with special reference to state welfare institutions, Alfred James Kent, Government Printer, Sydney, 1934, 142 pp. Details

Online Resources


Child Welfare Act 1923
Child Welfare Act 1923
NSW legislation


Sources used to compile this entry: Quinn, Peter E, Unenlightened efficiency: the administration of the juvenile correction system in New South Wales 1905-1988, University of Sydney, History, 27 March 2006,; Thinee, Kristy and Bradford, Tracy, Connecting Kin: Guide to Records, A guide to help people separated from their families search for their records [completed in 1998], New South Wales Department of Community Services, Sydney, New South Wales, 1998,

Prepared by: Naomi Parry