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New South Wales - Concept

In Moral Danger

Term commonly found on child welfare records
Alternative Names
  • IMD (acronym)

In Moral Danger (sometimes abbreviated as IMD) was a term in common use in government departments and welfare agencies. It referred to one of the categories of a 'child in need of care and protection' under the New South Wales Child Welfare Act 1939. 'In moral danger' remained a reason for a child's admission into care under subsequent legislation. It was largely used for the committal of girls, although it did apply to some boys.


The exact meaning of the phrase 'in moral danger' varied, depending on who was accusing the child of being endangered. Sometimes it meant a girl was sexually active, at risk of sexual abuse or had been sexually assaulted. It could also mean a child was exposed to crime or prostitution. Sometimes it meant the family of a child was judged as being involved in illegal or immoral activity, living in a rough environment such as a miner's camp or associated with different racial groups, such as Aboriginal or Chinese people. Single mothers were also regularly accused of exposing their children to moral danger, simply because they were unmarried. Single fathers could be accused of exposing their children to moral danger simply because there were no women present in the home.

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Prepared by: Naomi Parry